Who doesn’t love fish and chips? Whether it’s eating them straight from the wrapping or devouring them from a warm plate, this mouth-watering dish has been enjoyed for 100 years and shows no signs of losing its appeal.
“Still the nation’s favourite takeaway, fish and chips can be regarded as an iconic part of British tradition, history and culture,” said Andy Gray, trade marketing manager, Seafish. “Indeed, it could be said that fish and chips are hardwired into the DNA of the people of the UK!”
Why the love?
Fish and chips is a meal that cuts across all socio-demographic divides, enjoyed by everyone from royalty to the man in the street. “Fish and chips can be eaten in so many different ways and places but it is always a dish that consumers are familiar with and which provides great comfort and enjoyment,” said Andy Gray. “Widely available and a great value meal option – freshly cooked fish and chips is a simple, wholesome meal using natural ingredients with little or no adulteration. Heaven on a plate, or in a takeaway box – what could be better?” And although fish and chips are perfect any day of the week, Fish Friday still remains the traditional day to eat them. “Friday is still the busiest time of the week,” said Sean Bentley, manager of the Empire Fish and Chip restaurant, takeaway and drive through in Wakefield. “It’s never changed since the day we opened – and continues to get busier every year!”
Popularity keeps growing
The ultimate comfort food has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity over the past few years. “Our turnover has increased to more than five times what it was when we opened six years ago,” said James Ritchie, co-founder of Simpsons Fish & Chips, in Cheltenham and 2016 winner of the UK’s Independent Takeaway Fish and Chip Shop of the Year at the National Fish & Chip Awards. “This is surprising considering the hugely diverse variety of food that has become available in recent years but just shows that people will always remain true to what is nostalgic and British, hence fish and chips continues to hold the top spot.”
“We have kept the cooking traditional and cook in beef dripping – we believe it adds to the taste,” said Sean Bentley, whose best-selling dish is the Empire’s Famous Haddock Fillet; regular haddock fillet cooked in a light crispy batter. “Hands down this is our best seller,” adds Sean. “The appeal is the lighter batter – our customers like the fact that it isn’t heavy and have even said it doesn’t give them heartburn or indigestion.” Simpsons Fish & Chips recommend a thin crispy batter with no additives. “Temperature is also paramount,” adds Jamie Ritchie. “The oil has to be so hot that minimal oil is absorbed, but not too hot so that the food burns.”
What to drink?
At the Empire Fish and Chip restaurant, takeaway and drive through, tea attracts the most custom. “On an afternoon we sell a lot of bitter – especially among the older customers – and wine, but in the evening it tends to be soft drinks; coke and the traditional Dandelion and Burdock. But overall tea is the biggest seller – it’s drunk all the time!” said Sean Bentley. A pub or restaurant can make their fish and chips premium by serving them with some fizz. Cold crisp wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, Mateus Rosé or, if you’re feeling indulgent, Champagne works brilliantly with fish and chips, as well as British style bitter, pilsners and wheat beers. And a medium sweet or medium dry cider works a treat too!
Tips for trade
Offers on fish and chips are gaining momentum among takeaways and pubs to boost slower trading days and times. “We have been running a Wednesday fish and chip supper for years,” explains Martin Wilson, landlord and owner of The Plough Inn, Leicestershire. Available from 6-8.30pm, it costs £5.50 for fish, chips and mushy (or garden) peas to eat in or take away. “It varies from week to week but the takeaway service is always the most popular choice.” Whistler’s Fish and Chips has daily and weekly offers that include Monday Madness, Whipper Snapper Wednesday and Thirsty Thursdays, but it is Tenner Tuesday that is the busiest. “It’s definitely our best deal,” said Emma Jane Dorey. “They get two medium cod, two regular chips and two cans of pop for £10!”
A healthy dish?
Fish and chips may not be the ideal ‘diet’ meal but if you promote it appropriately, you can still attract the health-conscious customer. Make customers aware that a single serving of fish and chips provides a third of the recommended daily allowance of vitamins for a man and nearly half for a woman. Research from Seafish and AHDB Potatoes has revealed that consumers would be inclined to eat fish and chips more often if there was a bigger range of portion sizes and fish species to choose from on the menu, so that way they could build their own ideal meal. Offering a smaller portion of chips as part of your menu is recommended, and a smaller piece of fish too if you can. “While still remaining true to the great British dish, we make fish and chips as healthy as we possibly can by using the best ingredients and correct cooking methods,” said James Ritchie. “Nutritional testing highlights that a regular portion of cod, chips and mushy peas contains just 7.3% fat and 2.6% saturated. This is dramatically lower than many other more indulgent takeaways options available.”
Gluten-free options are being made more readily available in takeaways and pubs. Simpsons Fish & Chips has a monthly gluten-free Monday. “They are enormously popular and it is so rewarding to hear that customers that have, in the past, had to miss out can now tuck into fish and chips. Gluten-free products have greatly improved in quality in recent years, meaning coeliac customers can enjoy the same authentic taste we all know and love,” said James Ritchie.
It is estimated that 80% of the UK population visit fish and chip shops at least once a year, while 22% of people visit a fish and chip shop every week
What do customers want?
• Alternative portion sizes
• Nutritional information
• Fish & chips lower in