King of kebabs

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Kebabs have been a firm favourite for chip shops looking to diversify, but trends have changed. Are you up to speed?

Kebabs first made their way into fish and chip shops in the mid-eighties with the introduction of the lamb doner. It’s what Socrates Camenon, managing director at Birmingham-based kebab manufacturer Golden Delight Foods, describes as a “desperate need at the time for something new”.

“As one fish shop took on adding doner to their menus and making a success, the local competition took hold of the movement of loss of footfall and, instead of accepting defeat, followed suit and a domino effect took place,” he adds. “It was a perfect marriage. The gross margin difference or profit was so much more than fish that operators saw the phenomenon and, of course, the call and need from the customer.”

As kebabs grew in popularity, operators and manufacturers looking for the upper-hand and ideas that could give them the edge on their competition adopted chicken kebabs in the ‘90s, mostly with a Mediterranean flavour, followed by tikka and tandoori. With lamb breast prices rising and shortages of the raw material, other red meats such as beef and chicken were introduced – in many cases mixing the three together for the sake of economies, giving rise to the mixed kebab. 

Since then the humble kebab has evolved to reflect the diverse tastes and preferences of different regions within the United Kingdom, and it’s a factor that needs to be considered when deciding which flavour options to stock. 

Gulseren Enver, marketing manager at Kismet Kebabs in Essex, explains: “The classic doner kebab can be seen in London and the surrounding areas. Then you have the spicy kebab which is mostly aimed for the northern regions. Here, you’re likely to find kebabs infused with chilli and jalapenos. Then you have the coastal regions which aim towards the Mediterranean-inspired flavours.”

One of the newest entries to the market has been plant-based and vegan options, which Kismet Kebabs added to its product range last year. Gul adds: “Plant-based and vegan food is becoming increasingly important as we are seeing an undeniable shift towards vegan, vegetarian, and flexitarian lifestyles. Consumers are choosing to cut back their meat consumption and are trying new meat-free alternatives.”

In today’s competitive market, operators both new to and who currently selling kebabs must prioritise quality to ensure sales success. This necessity is further emphasised with the emergence of brands like German Doner Kebab, setting higher standards. 

With quality paramount, it is important to scrutinise the ingredients label for crucial details such as meat content – ideally a minimum of 80% of a single species, says Golden Delight’s Socrates.

This same approach should also be applied to your other core ingredients: salad, sauces and breads. Golden Delight’s Socrates adds: “Use a high-quality bread. It’s just as important as the meat itself. I know endless operators who source excellent doner or chicken but fall foul on high-end bread. The salad should be freshly prepared and appetising and, finally, the sauce chilli sauce and so-called yogurt sauce are old hat, use healthier, more tasty options like tzatziki made from Greek yogurt. It’s zesty and adds to form a perfect doner.”

Before deciding to sell kebabs, operators should carefully consider several factors to determine if they align with their business goals and target market. 

“Evaluate the demand for kebabs in the local area,” says Kismet Kebab’s Gul. “Assess how kebabs will complement the existing menu and evaluate equipment requirements and space. Develop a marketing strategy with your supplier – Kismet Kebabs offers this service with promotional offers and marketing material.”

Making a success of kebabs today requires a very different approach to that of 20 or so years ago. Competition and dynamics have changed in all sectors, something new and old operators alike need to take into account. The use of social media in marketing is a must, while promotions are another. In addition, kebabs should be placed prominently on the menu and signage or promotional materials displayed to highlight their availability. 

Leverage social media platforms to promote kebabs, engage with customers and encourage customers to share their experiences and reviews on social media to generate word-of-mouth marketing. 

Kismet Kebab’s Gul adds: “By implementing these strategies and focusing on proactive promotion and sales growth initiatives, chip shops can successfully introduce kebabs to their menu, attract new customers and drive overall business growth.”

Golden Delight Foods 0121 327 8800

Kismet Kebabs 01621 744 055


Investing in the right equipment, especially kebab knives, will ensure consistent results. Fryersmate supplies a range of options from long, manual knives with blades from 12inch to 18inch long to electric kebab knives which speed up the process and are adjustable allowing for more control over the thickness of meat cuts. Mr Bolla, owner of Fryersmate, says whichever option an operator chooses, one factor is key, maintaining a sharp blade. “This will give a cleaner cut and with ease,” he says. 

Fryersmate 01522 542054


It’s not just tastes that are evolving but technology too with the launch of the Robot Kebab Machine from Cater-Bake UK.

Working seamlessly with both conical and cylindrical types of meat, the machine features a right or left-oriented cutting arm which automatically cuts kebab meat, eliminating the need to do it manually. The cutting thickness and speed are both adjustable while a multi-language interface makes it easily accessible to staff of all linguistic backgrounds.

All parts are easily removable for swift and thorough cleaning while a built-in knife sharpening feature ensures continuous precision. A bain-marie heating system is also available to keep cut meat hot and moist, ready to serve.

Steven Lilly, sales director at Cater-Bake UK, comments: “With its advanced features and unmatched efficiency, the Robot Kebab Machine redefines how our clients approach kebab making. It is poised to become an indispensable tool in the hands of chefs and restaurateurs.”

Cater-Bake 0151 548 5818

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