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Expert Eye: Jonathan France, The Fish Bank, Sherburn in Elmet, Leeds

Home » Interviews » Expert Eye: Jonathan France, The Fish Bank, Sherburn in Elmet, Leeds
The Fish Bank Fish & Chips

With record potato prices not seen since 1976, Jonathan explains how his shop survived the first half of the year

Wow what an incredibly tough spring and summer that was! As the days grew longer so did everybody’s potato bill. We were warned it was coming, but did we really think a sack of potatoes could be £25? 

How the hell did The Fish Bank get through that? We kept positive and remembered that we can only control what’s in our control. We kept a close eye on our GP; inevitably it’s going to go down but we made sure we reacted and put a price increase in place across the board. But the potatoes kept going up, so we spoke to key people in the growing sector to forecast where the prices were heading, bit our lips and did another price increase just on chips. We’d worked out that whilst margins were tighter, once the prices dropped we’d have a better GP for the future. 

We were super focussed on chip portion control. As owners, we have to set the portion size – not the staff. Chip portion training was again conducted. Our regular portion is 11oz, so we showed what 11oz is in each packaging and then onto a standard dinner plate to illustrate what it looks like at home; it’s a hearty portion. It really opens staff’s eyes, as portions can look ‘light’ in the packaging. Owners, managers and supervisors all need to maintain the focus on this as it’s very easy for staff to slip. 

Through our EPOS system we monitor weekly chip portions sales against bags used. This is important as you can’t always be supervising.

The Fish Bank weighing chips

Be like a squirrel

Another thing I did (which helped the mental blow of the big monthly potato bill) was to set a daily standing order to a separate online savings pot and called it ‘chips’. At the end of the month, the money was already sat there, which physiologically felt better than the account amount going down. 

I’ve maintained this, so when prices start going up in the new year we’re already in front. We can’t look at potatoes being £10 a bag if they are only that for seven months of the year, look at the average.

Summer physiques are made in winter

In autumn and the first part of winter, shops (inland) traditionally have the best sales and potato prices. So we have to use this to get us in good shape for the new year of slower sales then higher potato prices. Portion sizing and control can make the biggest difference to the shape of your accounts. Grab a portion that the staff was about to serve, or send a friend in to get a portion of chips and weigh them. There’s a good chance they could be much higher than you thought. If your portion is 16oz (hell of a lot of food) and you reduce it to 12oz, you’ll reduce your potato bill by a quarter (25%) – which is pure profit.  

In the fish and chip game, each new season brings both challenges and opportunities.

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