Visiting shops, attending open days and taking trips have helped Gary grow his business and realise new opportunities
I opened Lighthouse Fisheries in June 2021 and was delighted to win Best Newcomer at The National Fish & Chip Awards this year. Having spent the first two years getting established, this year the focus has been on getting out into the industry and speaking with other operators to find out what they have done, and then looking at how other operators work differently from us and why they do.
We’ve been up to Scotland to see Tiffany Irvin at The Fish Works in Largs and Sarah Heward at The Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum, and we went to the Isle of Ely potato day to meet the growers down there. And, of course, Norway with the Norwegian Seafood Council in the summer, which was really enlightening to see how the industry over there works and its commitment to quality. That was immensely useful because my staff see our fish coming in in a slab, so to be able to explain the process of the line caught fish and how it’s deep frozen within five hours and always packed and checked, they start to understand the origin of the product and get a sense of pride about what we’re selling as well.
One of the interesting things I’ve picked up on my visits is regionality and how that affects different operators. In Scotland, for example, the menus are huge! It got us thinking about what we could do and now we’ve developed more things for ourselves focussed around regionality which gives our shop a little USP in our area. For example, we’ve created our Flamborough crab cakes which use shellfish from local fishermen in Bridlington. It means we are giving them another outlet rather than it all going abroad, and we’re also giving locals and visitors the chance to taste the region.
The support we’ve had since opening our business, whether it’s through the industry, The NFFF, Fry Magazine etc., has been immense. Everybody has their own little secrets that they’re not going to share, which I understand, but everywhere we’ve been to we’ve been welcomed with open arms and the sharing of information has been fantastic. I genuinely think that sharing of knowledge lifts the quality of the good operators throughout the UK and attracts new people into the industry too.
There’s no better resource than using the industry that you’re in and I would urge all shops to spend some time doing what we’ve done. When the help is there being offered, you should grasp it and listen. There are people who have been in the industry for 30 to 40 years who can save you 15 to 20 years of mistakes. Why wouldn’t you tap into that? We’ve learnt so much already but I know we are still nowhere near the finished article.