It’s a brave move putting your name to your product, but after four years building up the business he took over, that’s exactly what Jason Fish has done with his takeaway in Rackheath, Norwich
Born with the surname Fish, it’s not surprising that Jason landed a job in a chippy! In fact, Jason’s name has become somewhat of a talking point across the counter of the fish and chip takeaway he took on four years ago and customers often ask to see his driving license as proof!
Jason took over the lease on The Fish & Chip Company - as it was known back then - six months after starting work there on a part-time basis. Although it’s his first chippy, it isn’t his first time cooking fish and chips because, as a head chef for nine years at Norwich Union Aviva, Jason would be serving up 250 portions of cod and chips every week on fish and chip Friday. With that in mind, Jason knew straight away what he wanted to change when he took the business over.
“I changed the dripping, the batter, the potatoes, basically everything because I wanted the customer to know there had been a change,” he comments. “I took everything to the next level. I tried not to concern myself too much about money and focused on the quality as I knew I had to make an impact from day one. And it’s made a difference, we’ve got customers coming in three times a week, spending £20 a time and telling me they love the food.”
With Jason developing a loyal customer base, he regularly takes on board their demands and tries to develop the business around them. For example, he’s introduced gluten free fish and chips, which he cooks in vegetable oil to give a vegetarian option also, and he’s added sweet potato fries, wraps and burgers to the menu, all things customers have asked for.
Not everything, he admits, has worked however and there are times he’s had to say enough is enough, for example, when it came to delivery. With orders taking priority over customers coming into the shop and the distance travelled becoming an issue, Jason quickly pulled the plug. He comments: “I know that’s the way food ordering is going but we found with fish and chips it’s not the ideal thing to hold as the quality suffers. We’d much prefer to say ‘come in and join the queue and we’ll serve you a freshly cooked to order piece of fish’ rather than give them something that’s been sat around for ten minutes wrapped up.”
With business growing, the shop developing a good reputation and customers now considered friends, last year Jason felt it was the right time to rebrand the shop and put his name to it. A new, fresh and modern Jason’s opened which had been completely redecorated inside with TV menus and a high bar with seating for three installed. Jason adds: “A lot of people did think the shop had been taken over again so I had to reassure people it was still us, the same product, the same great quality, just a new name.”
As part of the rebrand Jason also switched from plastic to branded paper bags and biodegradable packaging - a cost he has absorbed himself rather than pass on - and he’s replaced all the lighting in the shop with LED so as to be more energy efficient.
“I think all businesses need to be rebrand every so often,” says Jason. “I always wanted to put my stamp on the business and my mother always wanted my name in lights, so I did it. Because the shop had developed such a good reputation for quality, I felt the time was right to put my name to it and get the brand out there as I would like to build the Jason’s business up.”
With takings up £1,500 a week since he took over, Jason is now looking at other areas he can make improvements with the aim of reaching a weekly turnover of double figures - and it’s breakfasts, good quality coffee and smoothies he thinks might get him there.
“Breakfast is something we’re going to offer because I’m in in the morning prepping at 6.30 anyway. All the time the doors are shut we’re not taking money, so we may as well be open,” remarks Jason. “There’s a massive housing estate going up here with 40,000 houses being built. I know we’re going to get bigger, so we’re going to offer an easy grab and go breakfast.”
Plans are also in place to buy a new range, taking the shop from three to four pans. “It’s a massive cost to us but it’s the next thing for our chip shop,” explains Jason. “We need that fourth pan to keep up with demand on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. We can be queueing out the door sometimes and we need to be more efficient and keep up with demand.”
Jason is still learning and he’s big enough to admit when he gets it wrong. For example, he’s had Saturdays where he’s run out of fish because he’s misjudged demand. “It’s challenging to know what to do sometimes because we close on a Saturday evening and don’t open again until Tuesday, so we can’t afford to have waste. But I’ve also learned I can’t afford to have the customers not turn up because we’ve run out fish.”
With the reward now there and Jason seeing customers coming back time and time again, he’s slowly believing in himself and the changes he’s made, concluding: “I never used to be proud of what I did as a chef, but it’s slowly coming to me now. I still don’t believe how good we are, although I’ve felt more proud of my business in the last four to five months. I couldn’t have done this without the staff, and also the customers, they’ve given me this opportunity. If they didn’t come in, I wouldn’t have a business.”