How to start a fish & chip shop

Setting up a fish and chip shop or looking to buy an existing business, if this is on your mind, read on…

For someone who has never owned a business before, setting up a new restaurant or buying into an existing fish and chip shop can be a daunting concept. It may be that you have worked in a fish and chip shop, have seen and smelt the feeling of success and want to go it alone. Maybe, you have visited a chippy over the years and learnt that the owners are looking to retire and are thinking this is your calling. Hopefully, we can help out with some advice.

Our business has been trading for nearly 30 years. In that time, we have set up numerous companies and have acquired over ten companies and sold others, hence, we do understand a bit about what you are going through. If you are looking to buy into an existing fish and chip shop restaurant, please read our blog on how to do this, “How to buy a fish and chip shop.” In this article, we will focus just on buying into an existing fish and chip shop.

Location, location, location.

You have probably heard that expression before. It is the most important part to opening a fish and chip shop.

  • Is the shop on a main road?
  • What is the local area like, is there going to be the demand for fish and chips?
  • Who will be your competition, not just from an existing fish and chip shop, but from other outlets like kebab shops or even McDonalds?
  • What is the local parking like?
  • What is the security like?

A wrong location will often result in either poor sales or outright failure.

The Premises

  • Does the premises you are looking at have the correct planning rights?
  • Is it large enough to house your operation?
  • Will you get issues with neighbours about the smell or noise?
  • Who is the landlord? – are they a large pension company or an individual / small company that is looking to rent the shop? A large pension company may take a more aggressive view if the rent was not paid on time compared to an individual who owns the property. We have leased many buildings in the past, we would always look to meet the landlord and see first-hand what sort of person they are. Sometimes we have walked away because we feel they would charge us a lot for dilapidations when we move out.
  • Term of the shop lease? Make sure you read the lease and understand what you are signing up to. Is there to be a rent increase, is there break clause?
  • Longer term plans for the shop / area. Say you set up your fish and chip shop, you have a five-year lease, the business is a success and then the landlord decides not to renew the lease. All this hard work could be down the drain if you have to relocate
  • What are the rates? This will be a big cost to the business, you need to know clearly what the cost of the rates will be and is there any chance of this cost going up a lot over the next few years?
  • Security. Will there be a potential problem for vandalism or broken windows? If you are on a main street this may be better than being on a side street.
  • Fire regulations and the local council inspections. Will the premises be OK for the cooking you are looking to undertake?
  • Heat and ventilation. Fryers and fish shops by default are hot environments to work in. Does the premises provide good heat extraction?

A Limited company, sole trader or partnership?

This choice is down to you and we would always recommend that you speak to an accountant. Clearly the benefit of being a limited company is that if the business did not work out, you are not personally liable (unless you sign personal guarantees which will often be the case.)

For sole traders and partnerships, the rules on filing accounting information are a lot less stringent and there may be tax benefits as well.

Buying chip shop equipment and choosing a chip shop supplier 

There are numerous suppliers in the UK that sell and install the fryers and other equipment needed for fish and chip shops. Always look to get a couple of quotes and ask for references. It may be that you have experience of certain type of equipment that is always helpful.

You then need to decide whether to buy new or reconditioned ranges of fish and chip shop equipment and counters? There are benefits to both options.

There is a list of suppliers on the National Federation of Fish Friers website. We are also more than happy to recommend companies to you.

It is important to choose the correct company. You will need to think about maintenance, installation, training and ongoing support. If the supplier charges a lot for ongoing maintenance, they may not be the best solution even though their upfront costs are cheaper.

Please read our blog on “Choosing the best supplier of fish and chip shop equipment” for more information.

Training

Many suppliers offer training as does the National Federation of Fish Friers. However, do not just think about training on how to fry fish. Training and advice in customer service is highly important. All too often, a shop will recruit a young 18 year old and not give them proper training on how to deal with customers. You might produce the best fish and chips in the world, but if the person serving is not polite, keen and efficient, then you will lose customers quicker than you find them.

Read more information in our guide “Providing the Best customer service in a fish and chip shop.”

Health and Safety

There are strict laws here. You will need to have a trained Fire Warden and must be legal with regards to fire extinguishers, fire alarms etc. Without this, you will be shut down by the local Council and potentially personally liable. To give you an idea, we trained five fire wardens for £150.00, the company even came to our office to do the training.

The same applies for trained first aiders. There are many organisations like St Johns Ambulance that undertake first aid courses. This is another legal requirement. It will take between ½ a day and a day to complete and will often cost less than £150.00 per person. Time and money well spent

Take a look at our other guides that will make a difference between success and failure of your fish and chip shop.

Your first day as fish and chip shop owners

Selling more fish and chips through great marketing

What’s in the name of a fish and chip shop?, the importance of branding

Shall I join the National Federation of Fish Friers?

Will I get credit for a new fish and chip shop?

How to retain customers and build loyalty in your fish and chip shop

The history of fish and chip shops in the UK

How does leasing work for a fish and chip shop?

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