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Websters

While many chippies are streamlining their menus, Websters in Baildon, West Yorkshire, has boosted its offering in the last eight months from 80 items to a huge 365

Websters in Baildon, once one of four shops in the Websters chain, was taken over by a new owner in August 2020 who has since expanded the menu more than fourfold with burgers, chicken, milkshakes and ice creams just a handful of the new items added to the offering.

The additions are partly down to the new owner’s desire to use his convenience retail background to drive impulse purchases and partly fuelled by the huge growth in delivery – introduced during Covid to cover some of the lost revenue caused by the sporadic closure of the 100-seater restaurant. 

With delivery now making up a third of the shop’s sales, it led manager Steven Ponsford, who has been with the business for 16 years, to take the decision not to re-open the restaurant. 

Steven comments: “Since I’ve been here, the restaurant trade has declined because we’ve been inclined towards the older clientele and the people that were in their 50s and 60s back then are in their 70s and 80s now. 

“You need to be doing a more modern take on fish and chips to attract that younger clientele and we weren’t, ours was still very traditional. On Valentine’s Day, you’d expect a restaurant to be full whereas here you could get a seat anywhere. I felt we weren’t losing anything by not opening it back up because we were gaining on delivery.”

Launching with all the delivery aggregators initially, Websters has stuck with Just Eat and Uber and they’ve used these platforms to roll out the new items before adding them to the shop’s menu. 

Steven, who spent 12 years working for Harry Ramsden’s, explains: “We’ve found the new items sell really well online, about 90% of the sales online are the newer products. It means we don’t have to get posters up, we don’t have to do much to promote it and if it kicks off, if it is a success and it works then we’ll incorporate it into the shop and publicise it.”

For things that don’t work – and fruit and veg options on the kids’ meals were one of them – there’s a specials section online that includes anything the shop plans to delist where they sell them cheap. This frees up the freezer space enabling Webster’s to get a new line in pronto.  

As well as adding a stand-alone veggie pan to supplement beef dripping – which on its own has added between 10-15% to its sales – Websters has also added fried chicken. 

“The boss’s idea initially was to do pizzas and hotdogs, but there can be a lot of wastage when dealing with fresh ingredients,” says Steven. “Instead I advised chicken on the basis it’s popular and I had quick look on Just Eat and other platforms and it showed there was no other chippy selling chicken in this area.”

Websters now sells spicy chicken, hot wings, southern fried chicken on the bone and popcorn chicken all in branded boxes to replicate the experience of the major chicken chains. “Chicken has taken off,” says Steven. “Some days on Just Eat, all the orders can be for chicken.”

The hot drinks offering has also been upscaled with tea, coffee and hot chocolate previously made using a hot water boiler replaced with a self-service Nescafe To Go machine. Sitting on the customer side of the counter, which means staff aren’t taken away from serving, it offers black and white coffee, tea, latte and hot chocolate for £1.80.

“We had a few requests for lattes recently so we looked at leasing a coffee machine but the prices were in the thousands whereas this was £250. Within five days, we sold out of tea, latte and cappuccino. 

“Although we sold tea and coffee before, you didn’t know it. It was on the board, whereas because it’s there in front of the customer, people see it and they buy it.”

Websters has also gone large on its range of soft drinks, adding energy drinks and smoothies to the mix but by far and away the biggest success has been its American-style candy milkshakes using soft serve ice cream. 

Steven comments: “Again, it’s something that we always did but they weren’t the best and they weren’t that popular. I noticed one day that half of my staff were going across the road and buying these big milkshakes so we looked at the different sweets available and decided to introduce six chocolate bar flavours in 12oz and 16oz cups online.”

The milkshakes have been so popular that Websters is now up to 18 flavours and the small is no more, making way for an even larger 20oz cup. 

Priced between £4 and £6, its milkshakes cost less than 70p to produce, making them one of the shop’s highest profit earners. Not surprisingly Steven has added these in-store too.

“It’s important to keep innovating,” he says. “Fish and chips, especially with the prices going up, is not a cheap meal anymore. We’re getting people that were coming two to three times a week, coming just once a week now. All these extras help us bring in more customers.” 

With all the new additions, customers are spending more with the average spend up from £14-15 to about £22-23.

Steven comments: “It’s one thing having the things on a menu board, but people don’t always pay attention or read the board, you have to display them. We have all this stuff available but it’s hidden in freezers or in the storeroom out the back. By putting ice creams, for example, in front of the customers they see it, kids pester their parents and while they might not have come in for ice cream, they leave with one and that’s £1 extra in the till.”

The shop is also attracting larger online orders that hit the £40-£50 mark more often. And it means the revenue it is now making from delivery – which can be over £5,000 on a good week – and increased walk-in sales more than make up for the restaurant which, although in its hey-day was taking anywhere up to £7,000 a week, was pulling in around half this by the time it closed.

“When we started with delivery last year we didn’t know what to expect,” says Steven. “Our initial goal was to hit £1,000, we’re now on £4,000-£5,000 and even with commission taken off, we’re still taking more.

“If it means adding a few more lines and buying a few more products, so be it. 

“I think it works at the seaside for outlets to sell three or four things on the menu. Inland, as we are, there is so much competition from different places. If you’ve got the facilities to do it, you need to offer as much as you can because you don’t want people coming in and thinking, I’ll get fish and chips but I’ll go down the road to get pizza for the kids. You want everything in one shop. Your bread and butter is always going to be fish and chips – 75% of our sales are still fish and chips – but you need people coming in and spending money.”

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