BIG INTERVIEW: Paying the Living Wage

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Newington Fish Bar Living Wage Employer

Newington Fish Bar in Ramsgate, Kent, is one of 650 hospitality businesses to be accredited by the Living Wage Foundation to pay the real Living Wage and one of only six fish and chip shops to do so. Owner Nigel Derrett talks about the benefits and challenges of implementing the pay increase in a small business

How long have you been a Living Wage Employer?

Just over eight months now, we were accredited by the Living Wage Foundation back in September last year. I was talking about it to Sarah Heward, owner of The Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum, and when I looked into it I thought paying my staff the real Living Wage was a good idea because I want my staff to feel appreciated for their work. I want them to be happy at work so when customers come in they are smiling and ready to serve them. I was in a shop last year and there were three ladies behind the counter all too busy talking amongst themselves to notice me so I decided to go elsewhere. I didn’t want my customers to have that opinion. In addition, living costs were going up for my staff, so I looked at it from their point of view too – they still need to live and buy food. 

What pay increase did you have to implement to meet the Living Wage?

The current rate is £12 an hour. At the time, the National Minimum Wage was £10.50 an hour and I was already paying my staff £11 an hour so it only meant a £1 increase. It was a bit more for the supervisors and the managers, but it wasn’t too much more. 

How do you accommodate the higher rate of pay as a business?

Wages are a high percentage of our takings, it’s getting to around 30%. It should be nearer to 25%, but it’s crept up. I’ve incorporated it into my costings so we are fairly expensive compared with other fish and chip shops locally, but I look upon it as it is helping the business improve – customers are happier, more customers come to us, which brings us more business. It helps differentiate ourselves from other chip shops too. So it’s a spiral going upwards. I want to spiral upwards all the time. Paying a Living Wage which keeps staff appreciated and happy at work is a positive thing for customers to see.

Newington Fish Bar QA

Do you feel paying more helps with staff retention? 

It definitely helps with retention. If you show your appreciation by paying staff well they will stay longer. I’ve got 11 staff and most of them have been here quite a few years. It just tends to be the younger staff that come and go now. And the staff are happy as a team, which means they all work well together. They often pool their tips from the restaurant and have days out. Last year, they went axe throwing, they’ve been out for pizza and drinks, they’ve done escape rooms. It’s great for team bonding which, again, reflects well in the shop. If you look at our Google reviews, they are all about how pleasant staff are and the good service customers get. That forms a major part of our reviews.

Do you promote the fact you are a Living Wage Employer?

Yes, we promote it on Facebook and we have a pack in the shop saying we’re a Living Wage Employer. I think when people see that they know they are going to get paid well if they apply so it definitely helps when we are recruiting. Also, because I’ve got such a good team – they are a hard-working and loyal team – I can rely on them so that I can leave the shop in their hands when I need to pop out to do the shopping, for example.

How do you advertise for staff?

Luckily I don’t have to advertise too often. We advertise on Facebook and I do like them to come in so we can see them face-to-face. A lot of people like to do interviews via the internet now but I prefer to see people for that firsthand impression.

How does your interview process work?

It starts with a brief interview, just getting a CV from them and asking for a few details. If we like them then we’ll bring them in for what we call a working interview. It’s usually about two hours and we get them serving with a supervisor alongside, and we take it from there.

Newington Fish Bar

What do you look for in a new staff member?

There are not many that come to us fully trained so I like somebody capable of going forward to the customer rather than someone that stands back. Someone who is attentive, money sensible, who isn’t shy, and who is pleasant, clean and tidy. Everything else we can teach them but that’s a good basis to start from.

Would you recommend the Living Wage to other shops?

Definitely, when you’ve got staff that are reliable, coming in every day when they’re supposed to, you can trust them and they are honest, you want to keep them. So paying them well and looking after them does help to retain them. Although I would say the Living Wage is just one part of it. The Quality Accreditation, the National Fish & Chip Awards, and the Fry Awards are all important in making your business better. And if we’re all doing well, the whole industry does well. We’ve come away from the idea that we are a greasy chip shop, a proper catering establishment, professionally-run is the way we look at it. Whatever you do, whether it’s paying the Living Wage or any of the other things, it’s about being upbeat, positive and spiralling upwards. 

What is the Real Living Wage?

Living Wage logo

The Real Living wage is calculated annually based on the cost of living – what employees and their families need to live. This includes household goods and services, such as food, childcare and even a new school uniform. 

It is voluntary and rates are set annually. The UK Living Wage is currently £12 per hour outside London and £13.15 per hour in Greater London. For more details, visit:

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