Gills has grown to encompass seven fish and chip shops across Tyne & Wear since it opened its first site in Wallsend in 1971. All have the same branding and almost identical menus, which now extend to include pizzas, kebabs and burgers, although the front runner in terms of what is sold in store, across its app and partner channels such as Just Eat and Uber Eats remains fish and chips.
In 2021, Gills launched a site in Heaton Road, Newcastle, but with many quirky independent restaurants and takeaways servicing the mix of students and long-term residential customers, it looked as though a traditional fish and chip shop might not do the numbers needed. Looking for something that would bring in a different audience, the team came across Meadow Vale Foods and its extensive line-up of chicken products.
After a taste testing session at Heaton Road where the Meadow Vale team rustled up samples of its chicken strips, shredded chicken, barbecue wings and chicken burgers, the feedback was so positive that they were added to the menu almost immediately.
Marketing manager Steve Imray comments: “Chicken has made an ideal addition to the menu. First of all, it is very popular at the moment, but also it helps take the pressure off fish prices, which means we still make margins and protect the business as a whole.”
With sales high, Gills is currently extending the menu further, experimenting with fries loaded with Meadow Vale’s shredded chicken and different sauces, as well as chicken parmas using Meadow Vale’s chicken steaks smothered with pizza toppings and served in a 10-inch pizza box.
“The Meadow Vale products are so versatile,” adds Steve, “so much so that the chicken offering has a section of its own on the menu now.”
This is supported by framed posters on the wall marketing the chicken options as well as digital menus promoting meal deals while plans are also underway to create a dark kitchen with Just Eat.
Steve adds: “We’re going to wrap up the entire chicken section and sell it as its own brand. As well as Gills customers being able to walk in and buy it over the counter, through the app and on Just Eat, we’ll also have a sub-brand with the same address, so that people looking for just chicken are not getting distracted by all the other things on the menu. It’s literally if you want chicken, we sell chicken.”
Grateful for the support from Meadow Vale in getting the menu off the ground, Steve maintains regular contact with the team, adding: “The guys have been so supportive, we’re always chatting to them, asking what they have got, whether we are missing a trick or should be trying different products, and sending samples up.”
Meadow Vale Foods 01978 666 100 www.meadowvalefoods.co.uk
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