How do you modernise a Grade II listed fish and chip shop with over 110 years of history? George Morey, manager and fifth-generation family member at Knight’s Fish & Chips in Glastonbury, Somerset, explains
We had a specific future goal before Covid to modernise all aspects of our business, but we knew we had to be sympathetic because there’s a lot of heritage wrapped up in Knight’s.
We’re in a 15th-century building although we’ve been here since 1895 as a business identified on a census record as a fried fish dealer. My mum and my stepdad are the fourth generation and I’m the fifth generation. My nieces have worked in the shop, they’re the sixth generation. It’s that history that is our USP and during our tourism season it’s the biggest thing that draws customers to us. We didn’t want to strip the place out and have a whole new look but we did want to modernise.
When Covid hit, we adapted all our systems and we found that after the lockdowns our business had completely flipped. Whereas before the pandemic somewhere in the region of 75% of our trade during our peak season was through the restaurant, now it was quite the opposite. Although our restaurant trade eventually came back to us, we were then overwhelmed because we weren’t used to having both barrels and we couldn’t manage.
Despite making several changes, employing extra staff, for example, it was the frying range that was ultimately holding us back. It was only a three pan range and, although it’s done three decades of trade without letting us down, it couldn’t keep up with the demand, we needed more output. So that’s really what lead to the changes – partitions have come down and we’ve had a new floorplan designed. It’s not been easy because, as a historic Grade II listed building, we have very quirky, non-straight walls.
The biggest dilemma for us was the counter because we have a very low entrance door and customers step down into our business. We approached a local carpenter who is very sympathetic with old things and who has made us an L-shaped counter where we can serve our click and collect – and hopefully one day possibly deliveries – straight out the door.
Most of the work we have done ourselves and I would definitely say to other businesses don’t be afraid to take on a project like this. It is do-able.
We’re now just a few weeks away from reopening and although there is some trepidation – we are a small business and it’s a lot of money to invest – we are all also so very excited. Excited for the new world we’re entering – the ability to cater for several diets for example, because there’s nothing more heartbreaking for us at the moment than turning away a customer that wanted a gluten free item on a Wednesday because our gluten free day is Thursday. We want to cater for everyone, that’s essentially what Knight’s has been about for 114 years and I believe this new business will be able to do that.
And whereas before we would hit a limit on our Friday night takings and no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t break the ceiling of that figure, this is ultimately what is going to reveal itself.