With Donington Race Circuit having undergone a huge refurbishment, the newly renovated Engine Room provided the perfect venue for this year’s Fish Frying & Fast Food Show and the exhibition opened its doors to glorious sunshine and the roar of superbikes tearing round the tarmac.
With a steady flow of visitors throughout the day, the Fish Frying & Fast Food Show pulled in shop owners, managers and staff from both independent shops as well as chains across the UK, all looking for ways to improve their business and boost sales.
Whatever agenda visitors had before they walked through the doors, there were plenty of suppliers available to offer solutions, advice, samples and deals. One clear trend at the show was the desire to improve the image of fish and chips, starting with how it’s presented.
Nazim Maniar, director at Sweetheat
, was showcasing his heated delivery bags which can accommodate up to 10 large boxes of fish and chips and which keep food at a constant temperature of 90°C without any sweating. He comments: “We’re seeing more and more operators offering delivery who want to use a professional system. After all, if you’re going to spend all that money setting up a delivery service, you’ve got to ensure your fish and chips are delivered hot or it’s a waste of money.”
Visitor Fatmir Lekgegaj from Ze Fast Food
in Northampton currently uses Sweetheat bags and says turnover has doubled since launching a delivery service. He’s a firm believer that the heated bags have contributed to that success. “With these bags, customers open up their fish and chips and to them they look exactly as they did when they came out of the pan. We’ve not had a single complaint since using them.”
With a stack of The Q Partnership’s
two compartment fish and chip boxes under his wife’s arm, the pair were looking forward to testing them out back at the shop, adding: “We’re looking at ways to improve our presentation and the product, customers don’t want soggy chips that are stuck to the fish. We’re going to trial these boxes and, if they work, then it will be worth paying that little bit extra because if customers like our food, we’ll sell more. That’s how you increase sales.”
felt the same, with its range of paper bags and, in particular, its greaseproof paper catching visitors’ eyes. Catherine Morris, office manager, commented: “We’re definitely seeing the fish and chip industry wanting to raise its game and the way they present and package their food is one way to do that. Our greaseproof paper in particular has generated a lot of interest as customers can use it as a tray liner or to wrap their food. Although we offer it in a range of stock designs, we’re increasingly seeing customers want to brand their materials too as it adds value to the product and gets their name out for customers to see.”
Causing quite a commotion in the aisles was the Lite-Bite concept from The Q Partnership
. While many visitors were asking the question “You sell boxes, right?” Matthew Worsnop, business development & sales at Henry Colbeck, was quick to point out that Lite-Bite is more than a box, it’s a concept developed to appeal to customers that want a smaller portion and, ultimately, to boost lunchtime trade. He comments: “Times are changing, customers want more choice on the menu and they want more choice in terms of sizes. Our Lite-Bite box provides the perfect packaging to contain a lighter meal. With recent research showing that a third of people would actually eat fish and chips more often if they could buy a smaller portion, this is like gold dust to a fish and chip shop.”
As well as providing posters to help shops promote the Lite-Bite concept to customers, The Q Partnership also unveiled the findings of nutritional analysis, designed to help friers communicate the calorie content of the food within the boxes. Matthew adds: “A fish and chip shop using our boxes to serve a 5oz fish and 5oz chip cooked in vegetable oil, can tell their customers that portion has less than 700 calories. If they’re serving 5oz fish and 6oz chips in beef dripping, it’s 727 calories. We are literally giving shops everything they need to take this idea forward and turn it into something that will work for them.”
As always there was plenty of innovation to see at the show, with one of the biggest crowd-pleasers being Vito’s
XS mobile filter unit. Using vacuum-filtration technology, director Iain Addison was on hand to give a demonstration of the unit emptying a pan of 175°C oil in less than two minutes. Not only does it have speed on its side, but it does away with much of the mess as particles remain in the filter in a dry condition. And there are more benefits because the pads can be changed every few days, adding to the cost saving already being made by extending the oil life by 50%.
had an endless queue of chippies wanting to find out how its filtration system, the only one of its kind on the market, prevents waste, peel and starch from entering drains. Director Malcom Wood said: “If you think about it, there are 10,500 chippies in the UK. If they peel an average of 10 x 25kg bags a week, that’s around 420kg of waste being deposited into drains. With our filter unit, this can be collected for recycling, which keeps shops compliant with waste regulations while putting an end to smelly, blocked drains.”
Meanwhile, helping to protect shops from range fires was the new pan fire detector/suppression system from Caledonian Control Technology
. Cleverly utilising an optical detection method that sees only flame and is not triggered by daylight or other extraneous light sources, it emits an audible alarm and triggers a clean and non-contaminating inert gas to quench pans fires.
As well as the obvious advantage of preventing a fire, what makes this unique is the inert gas which means there’s no messy clean up afterwards and the oil isn’t affected. Will Patrick, director, comments: “If you’ve just spent £100,000 fitting out your shop, you want to look after it and protect it from fire. Our suppression system is not range specific, so it can be fitted to any make of gas range, plus insurance companies should take note of it so friers will get a preferential rate.”
Over on the Florigo
stand, sales manager John Georgallis was giving visitors the inside story on its ranges, lifting out the bottoms of pans and pulling out drawers to reveal its triple filtration system, something Ries Goes, commercial director, said was generating most of the enquiries. “Friers want to firstly reduce their costs and secondly want to serve a healthier product, both of which can be achieved with our triple filtration system.”
And showing that some of the most welcome developments are often the simplest, Ries was quick to point out little additions Florigo had made to its ranges to make them more user-friendly. For example, a rack to hook the grid at the bottom of a pan to while cleaning the pan or dropping oil, lights under the extraction to make it easier to see when filtering oil from the pans, and a drainer which sits over a pan, giving friers somewhere to place the fish before going into the hot box, allowing any excess oil to drain off and back into the pan. “It’s not rocket science, but we like to listen to our customers and that’s how we make our ranges meet their needs,” added Ries.
Of course, you couldn’t walk around the hall without being tempted by the smells of food cooking, which was available in epic proportions. Triple Crown Food
had the perfect product for shops that don’t have the time or skill to make fish cakes themselves but want a product they can market as homemade - a frozen version without the coating which shops can simply batter or breadcrumb themselves.
, meanwhile, was serving up doner, chicken and tikka kebabs to shop owners keen to diversify. Natasha Camenon said a move towards more spicier meats was most definitely noticeable, adding: “The UK is finally beginning to understand flavour so we’re seeing sales of our spicier donors climbing. But it’s still very regional and we tend to see tastes up north are still a bit bland, but the further south you go, the more flavoursome it gets.”
Range manufacturer KFE
was also offering friers ideas to help diversify by demonstrating its new Adieu Grill. Chef Garry Rosser and KFE School of Frying Excellence trainer comments: “There were a number of people who were really serious about adding a grill and they wanted to know how to maximise their investment to get the most value. So I was showing them that, as well as grilling fish, they can use it to simmer a plate to finish a dish, and how meat and fish can be grilled at the same time as the oil won’t spread.
“I always say, if you’ve got 10 fish and chip shops around you, what are you doing that’s different. By grilling, you can diversify, which is important, and you can meet the trend for healthy eating. There are a lot of chefs entering our trade who are doing this, so you have to ask yourself are you going to offer what people want?”
This was a trend Kerry Foods
was also keen to help friers tap into with its Chicken Train marinades. Alan Pearce, field sales manager, commented: “We spoke to a lot of friers who had read the recent Seafish report and who were trying to embrace healthy eating and well-being.
“Our advice was that less is more and to offer more diversity in portion sizes. But also there’s a trend in foodservice QSR to provide healthier choices, so we were demonstrating the lemon and herb marinade with grilled fish. We were trying to get across to people that they shouldn’t look to just fry fish, look at grilling it or poaching it. It takes no more time but attracts those health conscious customers who care about what they are eating. People want to make good choices and we want to help give them those choices.”
new halloumi cheese bites, burgers and sticks also proved popular with visitors who were keen to extend their vegetarian offering. Gulseren Enver, marketing manager, comments: “The reaction has been so positive because the products are of a really high quality. Halloumi is really trendy at the moment so it’s a great way to extend the menu while also catering for vegetarians too. But they are so tasty that even meat eaters are choosing them.”
Catching the eye of Katie Davison, owner of Bizzie Lizzie’s
in Skipton, North Yorkshire, she’s already thinking about adding them to the menu in future. She commented: “Being in Yorkshire, we cook in beef dripping but we’re looking at introducing stand-alone fryers with vegetable oil so that we can cater for vegetarians. When we do, I think we’ll try the halloumi bites and sticks as they are really tasty.”
The Fish Frying & Fast Food Show will return once again next year with a new date and a new location to be revealed shortly.