Fish and Chips and Fast Food magazine was my first opportunity to express myself with words. It’s where I found my first audience and learned the hard way that once it’s in black and white, you really can’t take it back.
Ten years ago last month, my Brother and I were crowned “top chip champs” in the Seafish Industry Authority fish and chip shop of the year awards flagship category – Best Independent Takeaway. With batter in my veins and an industry to cha
mpion, I gave my opinion to anyone who would listen and sometimes to those not even interested. I launched an online community for fish friers in 2006 which attracted over 4000 members and more than a million posts. It was probably the reason I was voted by my peers to receive the Seafish outstanding achievement award in 2013.
I’m sharing this story because ten years on since I won the UK chippy award and things have changed massively. Fast Food Professional magazine is the new name that has replaced the old familiar FCFF blue cover and the audience has changed too – only some readers will know me or remember me and many more will have never even heard of me.
I’ve changed a lot since then and so have the Champions at the top of the fish and chip game. Craig Maw and Nikki Mutton are now pioneering the craft and showing fish friers exactly how to steer their businesses in the right direction for growth, sustainability and profitability. They’re aIso spreading the good word about fish and chips into the public domain and I congratulate them and all the other worthy winners and finalists for their passion and commitment to their industry.
30 years in the fast food business teaches you a lot. I’ve learned to never stop learning. I’ve learned that sitting down is something to really look forward to and that no matter how many pens you bring to work, they always disappear. I’ve learned that January is a great time to use an overdraft and clean tiles.
I’ve also learned to share what I’ve learned with others by becoming a teacher and a consultant with a team of award winning food service professionals for frying range supplier KFE – opening sites around the world for them and tailoring bespoke courses for clients with little or no experience right up to accomplished top ten finalists in their quest for that one pearl of wisdom that will advance them further still.
For my new audience and my old, I’d like to say how grateful I am for the opportunity to reach out to you all again and to be able to contribute to and also draw from the knowledge base.
I’ve developed both my own and a generic 500 page turn key operations manual that has detailed every aspect of running a fish and chip operation. It includes a full induction pack to integrate new staff quickly and safely, a company handbook and a management section as well as step by step photographic tutorials on how to perform all the everyday tasks.
At my most industrious time, I managed to grow my business to 6 shops and dealt with the logistical challenges this brings. For example, centralizing my prep to one site to ensure that I was able to control the quality and consistency of my chips everywhere instead of having 6 mini production lines to monitor, maintain and manage. Moving staff around frequently so that holidays, illness and skilled labour were deployed correctly to ensure continuity and consistency and quality of service across the board.
I’ve also learned that no one person is more intelligent than a group or team of people in the same field and that is why I like to network, share and listen more than I like to preach. When I am paid to teach, it’s usually best practice and the consensus of the knowledge base and rarely what I think which makes my job these days a real privilege.
If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, please seek me out on facebook, linkedin and join the online community and debate of loads of live topics relating to the Fast Food industry at www.fastfoodpromagazine.com/forum we have a section just for chip shops but also sections for pizza shops, kebab shops, coffee shops, sandwich shops, burger bars and Chinese or Indian cuisine. There a dedicated section on equipment and legal compliance too and it’s all completely free.
Next issue, I am going to write about chips.