Hard graft ahead

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Dan Harding Cumbria

Dan Harding, owner of Angel Lane Chippie and Sandgate Chippie in Penrith, Cumbria, is adding alternative white fish to the menu while keeping an eye on cod prices

Cod is already over the £200 a box mark and I think it’s going to continue to rise, it might even hit £400, so shops need to be open to trying different species of fish, whether it’s coley, pollock or hake. 

What this entails is educating our staff to know a bit more about these products so they can then talk to customers about them. Once the customer is on board with the taste and everything, they can then start spreading the word a little bit and then you’ve got a few more options available to you. 

I’ve just put hake back on; we were selling it before Covid but I took it off to simplify the menu. Now it’s back on and I have put it at the top of the menu both online and in the shop – a bit like supermarkets do where they place the products they want you to buy on the shelf at eye level – and sales are slowly growing. It’s slightly cheaper than cod so I’ve priced it accordingly. Whereas my cod is on the menu at £6.60 for a 7oz fillet, for the same size my hake is £4.80.

I generally have a margin I work towards for my fish of between 50-55%, everything else I aim for 60% plus, so I’m still getting my margin at that price. 

I always base my costings on my fish in its defrosted state. A lot of people make the mistake of doing the calculations on fish in its frozen state but you lose probably 15-20% as a weight in defrosting meltwater, so it’s something to be aware of. 

I’ve also just put coley and pollock on the menu. Coley is fantastic right now as it’s being offered at about a third of the price of cod and, yes, that will rise a little bit because of supply and demand and it will be affected by the tariffs as well, but it’s still very good value and very similar to cod, just a little more grey. I’ve gone down the line of IQF just so I can get small quantities out for now and I’ll watch how that sells.

The other thing I suggest shops start thinking about adding are vegan products. The vegan market is growing at a massive rate, whether that’s a fad or not I don’t know, but I think potentially it might stay around because it’s part of this greener push that we are seeing a lot more of at the moment. It certainly adds another string to your bow.

We started offering a southern-fried vegan version of a chicken goujon a few months ago and I was pleasantly surprised, they were nice. We can’t get hold of them at the moment yet we are still getting customers asking for them, so we know there is a small demand there.

We’re in talks with the company that supplied Wagamama with their fish alternative for Veganuary. I’ve had some samples and it’s surprisingly good in both texture and flavour. It’s so similar to fish I don’t quite know how they’ve done it. The other great thing is that it’s a frozen, pre-battered product so all we have to do is fry it up. It’s not cheap but hopefully, if we can get it listed with a wholesaler, the price will come down the more people that start using it.

There are certainly opportunities out there, shops just have to be flexible and accept that they are going to have to put in some hard graft to find the right products, work out the margins correctly and, ultimately, sell them to the customer!

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