If you’re going to extend your menu, choose products that match the quality of your fish and chips and promote them well
Not only do consumers have more choice than ever before when it comes to where to eat out, but they are also eating out more frequently, whether it’s grabbing a quick bite on the way to the office in the morning, or treating the family to a meal at the weekend.
With that in mind, extending your non-fish offering could be a lucrative way to encourage customers to visit more often. Whilst fish and chips will always be the mainstay of the business, introducing even just one extra non-fish line to the menu could make quite a difference, especially if it’s as good as the fish and chips you are known for.
At Athena’s in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, owner Nick Damurakis spent months developing a line of four burgers - traditional beef, buttermilk fried chicken, pulled pork, and halloumi. Using high quality ingredients, a burger bun he sourced from America and a sous vide method of cooking, Athena’s can have premium burgers ready to serve in minutes from ordering.
Nick comments: “I’ve already broken away from the norm, everyone in this town serves frozen patties fried in oil, so a very basic burger. While there’s nothing wrong with that - some people will only buy that - I want to do everything a little bit better.”
Offering customers the ability to customise their burgers with different toppings, as well as giving the option of a gluten free bun, has not only made burgers a popular addition to the menu but it’s also helped the takeaway grow its delivery sales.
Nick adds: “We do sell a fair few in store but, because the people that come in are generally of an older generation, we’ve found it is mainly a delivery option, so it’s helped us reach a younger demographic and those that want food taken to them.
“I know it says fish above the door but no one is just a fish and chip shop really, everyone does pies and sausages, so why not offer something else and bring that up to match the quality of your fish and chips?”
For the Cod’s Scallops in Nottingham, where around 90% of the menu is fish-based - the only items that aren’t are pies, sausages and black pudding fritters - owner John Molnar has recently added deep fried halloumi to the menu.
John comments: “Sometimes we might griddle it, so do grilled halloumi and serve it with a lentil and beetroot salad and that might be quite a healthy starter or main meal for a vegetarian or someone that doesn’t fancy fish or fried food. Sometimes we deep fry it and serve it with a chilli and lime salsa and a rocket salad. People can either have it as a small main course with some chips, or as a starter. Either way, it extends our reach. You’ve really got to try and evolve what people want and what people are eating and adapt you’re offering. It doesn’t have to go permanently on the menu, the beauty is that we put halloumi on as a special on the blackboard and when it’s gone it’s gone.”
An easy product to handle, John says it’s ideal for a fish and chip shop, adding: “The date is phenomenal, it has like nine months’ shelf life and it’s a very easy product to batter, it cooks quickly and it doesn’t ooze out the batter.
“It’s just something a bit different, it’s salty which reminds people of their holidays. It’s another box that we can tick. Whenever we’ve had it on we always sell out.”
Two years ago, Mario Campanil, who runs four fish and chip takeaways in Edinburgh, the Lothians, and Fife with his cousins, decided to revise the menu for various reasons. He comments: “Fish is the dearest thing on the menu, so from a cost point of view we knew we could make a better margin from other items. Plus, people get a bit bored of the same items, so we decided to innovate, nothing too out there, just something that would nudge customers in the right direction.”
Noticing that sales of haggis were not what they used to be, the team decided to put a twist on an old favourite by rolling haggis into balls, deep frying them and serving them as a side dish. Then, following a trip to Canada, came poutine – skin-on, skinny fries with gravy and cheese. “It’s moreish, it’s dead easy to do and we had all the same ingredients already,” says Mario. “Plus there are lots of variations you can do. We’ve added a veggie topping as well as chilli beef, and double cheese.”
Across all four shops, Mario installed six pot bain maries and set about sourcing leak-proof packaging and the right potato before trialling different sauces, portion sizes and cooking times. Mario adds: “You can have poutine as a meal or as a side dish, and that’s what we’re always looking to get, that bolt on and up sell. It gives us another couple of pounds in our pocket.”
Mario adds: “Don’t think of yourself as just a fish and chip shop. You have the audience already, so make more of it. And remember, if you’re doing something that no one else is doing, you have no competition. We do keep reminding people we do the best fish and chips though!”
For Rob Moretti, owner of Seaways in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, it wasn’t so much about introducing a new item but rather changing the way he was selling it. When he took over the business six years ago, it already had southern fried chicken on the menu. However, when he refurbished the shop and repositioned the hot display within the range, that’s when sales really took off. Rob comments: “It’s probably doubled the amount of southern fried chicken we sell and it’s definitely our biggest seller after fish now.”
It’s also lead to Rob selling roasted peri peri, lemon and herb and BBQ chicken. Rob adds: “You have to keep moving and introducing new stuff all the time. We’ve got customers that come in for the chicken once or twice a week who don’t eat fish at all. Plus the roasted peri peri chicken is a really healthy product so, again, that catches a market that perhaps wouldn’t come in to us to buy fish.”
The meat master
Celebrating its 65th anniversary this year, Blakemans knows a thing or two about producing a quality sausage. In fact, it manufactures 400 tons of the meaty snacks every week. Here, the company passes on some of that expertise to help friers serve a sizzling sausage every time
1. Always store sausages at the correct temperature as stated on the packaging and ensure the entire product is covered.
2. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions for cooking temperature and time guidelines.
3. For the best results deep fry from frozen.
4. If defrosting first works for your shop, then ensure this is done over a minimum of 12 hours in a refrigerator. Always ensure the product is fully dry using paper towel to remove any excess moisture prior to adding to the oil. Adjust cooking time accordingly for this.
5. Always ensure the product is cooked to a minimum temperature of 72°C prior to serving or storing in the hot cabinet.
1. Don’t store naked product in the freezer, this will cause freezer burn and weaken the sausage casing. This will also cause the product to cook dark.
2. Never add sausages to the fryer if they have ice crystals on the outside, are semi-defrosted or still wet to the touch. This will not only promote splitting and end extrusion but also cause the oil to spit.
3. Always ensure sausages are placed into the oil individually. This ensures the casing has had a full covering of oil and will prevent splitting. Adding them together in one go may cause the product to stick together and split once separated.
4. Do not add too many to the pan at one time. This will have an initial impact on the temperature of the oil and cause an inconsistent cook.
5. Don’t forget that Blakemans only ever uses the finest ingredients to produce its sausages!
Blakemans 01782 569610 www.blakemans.co.uk
More from Mud
Full of free range chicken in a mild madras and coconut milk curry sauce, Mud’s Chip Shop Chicken Curry Pie took Gold at this year’s British Pie Awards. Also available from Mud is a steak and ale pie stuffed full of organically reared steak, slow cooked in a rich gravy and made with lashings of real porter ale. For something different, why not try Mud’s Luxury Chunky Pork Sausage Rolls, its Dinosaur Pasty or ‘Squiches’ (that’s square quiches to the uninitiated).
Mud Foods 01730 815435 www.mudfoods.com