New claims that one of the UK’s favourite dishes is in decline will be tomorrow’s fish and chip wrappings, according to those in the know in Yorkshire. Chris Burn reports.
A new study has claimed that Britain’s fish and chip shops are facing an uncertain future with growing competition and declining profit margins to blame. But those in the industry insist the family favourite won’t be disappearing any time soon.
Research from global information company The NPD Group says visits to fish and chip shops have fallen by 4.4 per cent over the past eight years, with operating costs rising and young people increasingly opting for rival takeaways offering things like burgers and fried chicken.
Cyril Lavenant, Food Service Director UK at NPD, says: “How often can you sit down to eat your fish and chips in a pleasant environment and order a drink or dessert? Eating out is a crowded marketplace with exciting new approaches to food. But the fish and chips world just doesn’t seem to get it.
“Millennials are certainly unimpressed and probably see fish and chips as old fashioned. How long can this decline last? Our traditional fish and chip shops are in real danger of one day disappearing from the British high street.”
But while the research has attracted plenty of column inches, those in the industry believe it does not paint an entirely accurate picture of where things are headed, with more than 10,000 fish and chip shops operating across Britain.
Gregg Howard, president of the National Federation of Fish Friers, says: “Year after year, fish and chips are voted Britain’s number one takeaway. If you think about things that are quintessentially British, after the Queen, fish and chips probably comes second. I think it is still the nation’s favourite.”
He says while footfall may have decreased in some shops, that is likely to be down in part to the growth of online ordering and delivery services over the past eight years.
He says the report does make a fair point about the cost pressures facing shop owners.
“We all know how much gas and electricity has gone up in recent years, putting pressure on everybody. Now with the minimum wage, living wage and offering pensions, it all contributes and comes out of the profits of the business owner. The profit margins are getting narrower.”
But Mr Howard says he is convinced there is a bright future. “Fish and chips has been around for 155 years and I think it be around for another 155, especially as it is the healthiest takeaway. We fought two World Wars on the back of fish and chips, they were the only thing that wasn’t rationed. Fish and chips is here to stay.”
Yorkshire has a special connection with fish and chips, with the appropriately-named Oldest Fish & Chip Shop in the World - first opened in 1865 - operating in Yeadon near Leeds and Whitby having the highest amount of fish and chip shops in any one area in the country.
Nick Miller, from the award-winning Miller’s Fish and Chips in Haxby, North Yorkshire, says he believes the industry is in rude health.
“We are busier than ever before. I think the industry is booming right now. We have been going about 75 years and it was started by my great-grandfather in World War Two.
“It is quality first and being able to supply that to our customers who have been loyal to us for 70 years. We still have people who come in who remember my great-granddad.
“I think the future is strong, there is more buzz about fish and chips than ever before. It still remains a great British dish. I feel very passionate about that and really proud. We do constantly update our menu to reflect people’s different dietary requirements. We even have vegans coming in and cater for halal. The more things you can do like that, the more you give it a lease of life.”