Inside out

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Dolphin Fish & Chips in Macduff, Banffshire, has finished the final stage of a three-phase refurbishment and the result is not only instant street appeal on the outside but a more efficient workspace for staff on the inside too

When David and Susan Wiseman took over Dolphin Fish & Chips in November 2016 they recognised that bringing the tired takeaway up-to-date would be a project that would take several years to complete. After five years of pouring their life and soul into the business, they can finally stand back and say it was worth it. 

“For us, it was all about investing back into the business to give it curb-side attraction to get the customers in the door and creating a better environment long-term for our staff,” says Susan. “Customers walk past now and can see that it’s nice and clean and then when they walk in it looks just as good on the inside. It’s like a whole new shop. We felt if we didn’t invest now, we would regret it.”

Unable to afford to do everything in one go, the duo gave the front-of-house a quick facelift and then focused on the essential parts first, renovating the upstairs prep kitchen and relocating the adjoining tattie store to downstairs. Here a purpose-built thermostatically controlled room has been created to ensure the potatoes are stored at their optimum temperature. A brand new prep area also now means the dirty side of the preparation process is all downstairs and away from the main kitchen, which has been completely kitted out with everything from new fridges, freezers and a boiler, to sinks, worktops and shelving. There’s even a separate chiller for the batter, ensuring it is kept cool in the summer.

“Our kitchen upstairs is beautiful,” says manager Katie Gatt. “It’s a lot more presentable, there’s a lot more space to work with and it’s so easy to keep on top of the cleaning now. It’s money well spent because we are seeing the results and it’s so much easier for us to run.”

With the takeaway fortunate enough to continue trading during lockdown thanks to a click and collect system that delivered food directly to customers’ cars, Susan and David wanted to plough some of that profit back into the business and finally refurbish the front-of-house. With the fryer they inherited coming up for ten years old, they decided to replace everything in one go, putting in new flooring, digital menu boards and a four pan high efficiency frying range through to tills and printers, an alarm system and CCTV.

“The frying range is amazing because it has triple filtration which means the use of fat has gone down drastically,” says Susan. “We’re hardly using any fat at all now as it’s being kept in such good condition for longer. We’ve gone from using 15 blocks a week down to four. And we’ve got a meter-wide pan which has given us more frying capacity.”

In putting in a new frying range, Susan and David changed the layout of the workspace for the staff behind the range, creating separate areas for the ready to eat areas and raw areas. 

“The flow of the shop is just so much better now,” explains Susan. “Our manager, Katie, said the other night we’re almost at the point of being able to reduce some staff because the new layout is so much better. Staff can do multiple jobs at once because everything is within reach now and organised so much better.”

The shop has also introduced branded uniforms, including hats, aprons and t-shirts, to ensure staff look the part in their new surroundings.

Trawler to trader

Before buying Dolphin, David worked on Icelandic trawlers and fresh UK water trawlers and both he and Susan come from fishing villages so understand only too well the processes that are involved in getting quality fish to their shop. Serving fresh haddock landed at Fraserburgh near Aberdeen, it’s by far the shop’s biggest seller, followed closely by chicken, which is also sourced locally and offered battered or with panko breadcrumbs. There’s also locally bought pies and Amity Scampi, landed at Peterhead just 30 miles away. 

“We try and source all our food locally where possible because then we are helping other businesses in the area,” explains Susan.

More recently, Dolphin has started catering for the growing range of dietary requirements, with sales of Quorn burgers and nuggets picking up substantially and its gluten free smoked haddock and mozzarella fishcakes and its smoked sausages proving popular too. 

Katie adds: “Offering more gluten free options is something we want to do more of as we do get customers coming in and asking what we offer. While they are usually more than happy to take a fishcake or a sausage it would be good to give them a bit more choice.”

Community support

As well as having that much-desired curb appeal, Dolphin also stands out in the community for its work supporting local causes. For example, during the pandemic, staff pooled the tips they made for taking food out to customers’ cars and this was matched by Susan and David, allowing £400 worth of groceries to be bought and donated to the local food bank.

The last two years it’s also taken part in Fiver Fest, a campaign to encourage customers to shop locally by putting on deals that cost just £5. Its pudding, chips and sauce were a hit, boosting trade and raising their profile. 

The shop regularly uses social media to engage with customers and promotes specials in the early part of the week rather than running discounts on fish and chips. Katie says: “We have two chicken fillets for £10 on a Tuesday that we promote on Facebook and we’ve seen a big increase in customers coming in on a Tuesday for that deal.”

Dolphin has a close-knit team of 11 staff and Susan believes the refurbishment has brought that team closer.

 “We’re so positive about the future,” she says. “The business is better, we’re getting busier and the staff are always saying now what a great atmosphere it is in the shop.

“The refurbishment was a big investment but it’s paying off in so many ways. We couldn’t be more pleased with how the shop looks and how it works now.”

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