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Chips @No8

After six years at the same location, Chips @No.8 in Prestwich, Manchester, has moved one door up to licensed premises offering more space and expanding the options available for customers

There has been a fish and chip shop on the corner of Clifton Road for over 50 years. However, that all changed last month with the closure of Chips @No.8 which had occupied the building for the past six years. Fortunately, it was not a victim of Covid or the current cost-of-living crisis, quite the opposite. Owner Dan Edwards pulled down the shutters to expand the business, moving one door up into larger, licensed premises. 

“When I started Chips @No.8, I had no idea what to expect,” says Dan, who left the hotel industry for his new career in fish and chips. So naive was Dan to the industry that he opened his shop with a small two-pan frying range cooking fish and chips in beef dripping when everyone around him was frying in vegetable oil. 

“I just didn’t understand the fish and chip market back then,” admits Dan. But, it turned out to be a favourable move and, with the addition of a vegetable oil pan, Chips @No.8 has been able to cater for both markets making it unique in the area. 

As a result, the small shop has got busier and busier. However, while adding a two-pan under-canopy range helped improve capacity, it didn’t solve the problem that had plagued Dan since he opened.

“Because there was only space for one person to fry, I could never take a day off if I was ill or wanted to go on holiday because I couldn’t train anyone else to fry the fish,” explains Dan. 

“The chips were mechanical and all time and temperature-based so I could teach that to anybody. But the fish was a little bit different and going at the speed in a small space, I couldn’t grow that business there anymore. We couldn’t cope, it was getting to the point where we were doing the most we could do in that shop. So the whole idea of moving next door was so that I could earn a bit more to pay somebody else to help out.”

Opportunities to grow

Taking the old range across and supplementing it with an additional three-pan island range, combined with the luxury of having more space gives Chips @No.8 new opportunities to grow. For instance, it now has a drinks license so customers can enjoy a beer or glass of wine with their fish and chips, and it also benefits from a smart 28-seater restaurant upstairs run by a restaurant manager, two bartenders and a fully trained chef. 

Dan comments: “We have two menus running. We have a “from the chippy” menu where you can order anything as if you’re ordering from the takeaway, and on the other side of the menu it is “from the kitchen”. 

“We have employed a chef who has created a menu that’s seafood-based so for people that don’t want to have fried food, they’ve got the option of having a fish pie or fish tacos, something slightly different. And with a glass of wine and a beer, so it just gives us more options. It gives us other revenue streams.”

While the chippy in its old location was only open evenings – condensing the hours meant the range was always busy – here the aim is to open during the day too.

“We feel that there is a midday onwards market round here, particularly with us having the restaurant so we want that to be busy,” says Dan. “Eventually, when we’ve managed to get somebody trained to do what I do, we will open Sunday hours as well.”

Dan has used the move to expand the menu, adding chicken wings with homemade sauces, increasing the gluten free range and boosting the vegan options now it has doubled its vegetable oil frying capacity. Dan has been mindful, however, to maintain the focus on fish dishes, adding: “85% of our sales are fish so we want to continue to be known as that.”

The expansion and investment have come at a time when stability is returning to the market, something Dan has been quick to pick up on. “I do feel like the market is starting to recover and that there is money to spend here,” he remarks. “We are extremely fortunate to be housed in a relatively affluent area and by chance our particular town has grown. It is up-and-coming and becoming a real foodie destination. And because we are still relatively new as a business, people are still discovering us. We know once we’ve got them through the door, the majority will come to us rather than go back to wherever they were going before.”

Maintaining practices

Despite all the new additions, Dan is adamant about maintaining a few key practices at the new location. First, he insists on using pre-prepared chips, appreciating the reduced need for storage and preparation. Additionally, he remains firm in his decision not to offer click-and-collect or delivery services.

Dan adds: “We don’t do delivery, I’m going to hold off doing it as long as possible. I think the world is going that way but as long as we can prosper without it then we will continue to prosper without it.” 

Overall, the move has been a bold one, especially since Dan exceeded his initial relocation budget by double. The costs escalated primarily because upgrading the gas supply took 28 weeks instead of the advised 10, delaying the opening. To avoid losing his staff, Dan continued paying wages, causing his payroll expenses to skyrocket. When the opening finally came last week, staff and locals were ready.

”We’ve had plenty of time to plan how everything was going to work so we’ve got all the systems in place for people to have a great experience,” says Dan. “Whether it be takeaway or dining in, I feel that we’ve got a great team to deliver that within a great building and great facilities.”

It was very nearly a different story for Dan who, two years in, was reconsidering whether running a chippy was the life for him. “I hadn’t paid myself for two years and I had a two-year break clause in my contract on the lease that I was seriously considering activating,” says Dan. Then he received the good news that Chips @No.8 had got into the Fry 50 Best Fish & Chip Takeaways.

“It changed our business completely,” says Dan. “And I’m so glad that it came when it did because otherwise, we might not be here. It gave us exposure that we hadn’t had before and some credibility to our product. And then we got noticed very very, very quickly.

“Without it, we might not be here. It was a fantastic opportunity and it saved us.”

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