Expert Eye: Ryan Hughes, Ship Deck, Caerphilly, Wales

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Ship Deck

Winning Fish & Chip Takeaway of the Year is already living up to its expectations of being life-changing, says Ryan

Speaking to previous Fish & Chip Takeaway of the Year winners, they do say it’s a life-changing experience, and you think, is it really? but for us, everything has changed. It’s basically like we’ve picked our team up and put them in a completely new shop; the volume of people we are seeing and the volume of stock we are going through is just mind-blowing.

We’ve more than doubled what we were doing previously although I appreciate it’s early days, so it’s still new and exciting, and people still want to try us. I don’t know how it’s going to pan out so we are taking each week as it comes. Again, speaking to previous winners, some said you’ll see an increase in 10 days, and some said five days, but for us, it was the night of the awards. Kim and I literally just got changed, we sat down in the bar and when we spoke to the team we knew trade had increased literally straightaway.

I’m so proud of the team, they’ve managed so well and now we need to really look after them, not only financially but to make sure they are coping and managing because it is a massive increase. It is extremely busy and we are putting pressure on them so we want to make sure they are supported.

Fortunately, we had already put amendments in place to make the shop run more smoothly, not because we were expecting to win but because trade had been increasing over the last few years because of us being in the awards anyway. So in December, we had all new counter surfaces put in with built-in rice cone trays and built-in sinks by the fryers. We changed our wet room structure too, making the counters narrower and we put extra trays in the floors, and a new sink. We also had new till systems put in along with kitchen screens and extra serving stations, so we changed a lot and I’m really glad we did because we’d never have managed with the increased trade had we not.

We’ve had some great press opportunities since winning. We were on GB News the morning after the awards, which was great, and then we had ITV News come to film at the shop. They came down at six o’clock on a Friday which wasn’t ideal for us because the queue was up the street! We did have to stop the queue just for two minutes to do the live bit and then start the queue again, but it was fine. 

Winning for us was partly about proving a point, which was that small shops can win this award. You don’t have to be a seasonal shop and you haven’t got to throw money at it, which I’ve seen some people do over the years. We haven’t changed anything that we wouldn’t have changed anyway and we haven’t put extra pressure on our team, our work-life balance or our finances to win. We’ve just been open and transparent and if it was good enough, it was good enough and if it wasn’t, it wasn’t. Thankfully it was and we’ve been able to show what we can do in a small shop with small equipment.

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