Coronavirus restrictions were once again tightened at the beginning of January 2021. The NFFF produced a New Years’ coronavirus survey so we could further learn about the situation that shops are in. The more information we have the better, as it gives us a broader view of what is going on across the country.
 
We will be pushing for an extension to VAT reduction for the rest of 2021 and for eventual reform as we feel this is the best support from Government to allow the sector to recover.

Some businesses will be facing rent arrears and having to make deferred tax repayments, others may be more affected by restrictions than others.

Let us take a look at some of the results which we have gathered:

Furlough Scheme

The furlough scheme has been crucial in aiding many businesses and the fish and chip sector is no different. Overall, just under 80% of all fish and chip shops who completed our survey had used the furlough scheme.

Breaking down the research further based on the location of the fish and chip business, again we can see that fish and chip shops in town locations no longer have staff on the furlough scheme whereas city centre and tourist areas are still quite reliant on the furlough scheme.

NFFF President Andrew Crook comments: This is highlighting the issue that not all locations are affected in the same way.  I think we can all say Covid has had an impact on each of our businesses, either increasing costs due to equipment, apps or just generally affecting trde, especially with restaurants mostly offering takeaway services, but some businesses have been really severely affected.  The furlough scheme has proved useful to so many businesses to reduce costs.

Members of staff on furlough and the location

Opening hours

As shops have looked to adapt during the coronavirus, a number of shops have altered the hours shops operate. Over 86% of shops have changed their hours.

Over 50% of businesses who have changed their hours are now operating less hours per day. Only 4% of businesses have increased the hours they were open before the coronavirus started.

NFFF President Andrew Crook comments: I think Covid has given most of us the chance to look at our operations and drop the hours that were maybe a little less busy. I also think customers habits have changed a little with them working from home. Time will tell if they return to normality once things improve.

Coronavirus business levels compared to pre-covid levels

Over 69% of businesses have been affected in a negative manner by the coronavirus with 10% seeing no change and 21% of fish and chip shops seeing an improvement on trade since the coronavirus started.

Breaking this data down further into locations we can see;

City Centre Fish and Chip Shops – Over 80% have seen turnover affected in a negative way, with 40% of that trade down by more than 50%.

Town Fish and Chip Shops and Village Fish and Chip Shops – Roughly around 65% of fish and chip shops have seen turnover affected negatively however, 50% of the shops in question have only seen turnover slightly affected to 50% down.

Tourist Area Fish and Chip Shops – Over 70% of shops in tourist locations have seen business turnover affected with 40% only being 20-5% down.

NFFF President Andrew Crook comments: This again shows that city centres and tourist areas are the most badly hit in out trade.  These businesses should be able to apply for discretionary grants to help out as then can prove that the pandemic has severely impacted on their trade.

Expectations over the next few months

Lockdown has been announced and is ongoing in all devolved nations.

65% of businesses expect business to decrease however 80% of businesses have confidence that their businesses will survive over the next 6 months.

NFFF President Andrew Crook comments: I think although we are expecting a downturn we also stand a good chance of getting through this, especially as we see the vaccine roll out.  Domestic tourism is likely to be strong when things are relaxed so the coastal shops and tourist shops should get their bite of the cherry at that point.

Do you feel there is anything the NFFF could improve on?

We thank you for all your kind words from the fish and chip shops who have completed the survey.  Some of the responses to the above question can be seen below:

“In the circumstances I think Andrew, the board and especially the staff are doing a magnificent job in these uncertain circumstances.”

“No. Your advice and help has been invaluable, and any question/query has been answered immediately.”

“I think support has been excellent, guidance has been very quickly available. Vital in such fluid circumstances.”

“The support received from The NFFF has been excellent clear & concise.”

“I believe the NFFF is very effective!”

“No, they have done a fantastic job over covid.

“I think the NFFF have really spoken for the industry.”

As a Federation are always open to the thoughts of our members on areas where we can improve and help.

“More support for restaurants. It’s almost as though we are irrelevant.”

Andew Crook “I think we are still in the survival phase of this crisis and most of our restaurants have busy takeaways attached and the ability to furlough staff so I think it could be argued by Government that we have enough support for the time being to survive. We have to be realistic and avoid being seen as demanding.  Whilst we know this is not ideal and if your business can be proved to be severely affected then contact your local council, we can try to support you with a discretionary grant application.”

“I feel that the information relayed to us should be more fluid. I don’t mean information that the government have given us I mean information about what the NFFF do as a whole. There is a lot of stuff ‘in the pipeline’. I would like to know esp this year (2020) what the NFFF has done.”

Andrew Crook – “We have recently released the FishFriersReview.co.uk to help improve communication with members. It makes it easier to write any public blogs on the go and when things get back to normal, we can give better feedback from meetings. It was one of our priorities in 2020 but obviously Covid overtook everything else and we had to focus on the survival of the industry, the NFFF and not to forget our own businesses.  There is also an element of sensitivity with some of the work we do, and why we are doing it, that could be commercially damaging to the NFFF if it gets out early or can undermine a lot of the lobbying work that we are involved in.  Rest assured we are working on all the key issues for the industry that are pressing and many that are likely to be important in the future. We will be doing our best to get that information out to members as often as we are able.”

“The biggest threat to the industry as I see it is the price of fish and the calorie count which the government want to put on our meals. as a member of NFFF I urge you to be as strong at lobbying the government as at all possible. and ask all members to lobby their MPs regarding fish stock and pricing”

Andrew Crook – “Fish pricing is beyond anybody’s control as it is controlled by market forces but if we were not as over-burdened by VAT we may not be as sensitive to it.  Also, if we did not have operators undercutting and devaluing fish and chips, we would be able to charge a fair sale price to cover the cost of price fluctuations.   If we have a quality product, nice premises, well trained staff, and lots of accreditation I think we should stand tall on pricing and I think the sooner the shops that serve massive portions and undercut on price, and maybe don’t have staff on the books and don’t declare their VAT are removed from our industry the better we will all be.”

“I think the NFFF should be lobbying the Government to extend both the business rates relief scheme for hospitality as well as VAT reduction beyond 31st March”

Andrew Crook – “These are two of the main priorities we are focusing on through our involvement with the British Takeaway Campaign as we have a top London Communications firm and a strength of 50,000 businesses to fight the corner for the takeaway sector. I have been banging the drum about VAT in that forum for three years and it is now a priority.”

“At the moment the single most important thing for me that needs sorting as i have just started doing deliveries is for the NFFF to arrange a scheme for takeaway insurance, a great company that charges by the hour is Zego but they will not work with independent chip shops only with people like just eat, a company the size of NFFF could contact them and arrange this, this must be effecting many members who have set up a delivery service.”

Andrew Crook – “Delivery insurance is a nightmare. I have been speaking to the Association of British Insurers most of the year to get clarification, but it is still as clear as mud.  In the eyes of insurance companies there is a huge amount of difference in cover such as to deliver to an office, to operating a delivery service with multiple drops an hour and racing against the clock.  I know of members that have been sold policies and when they have looked further, they have found they don’t actually cover you.  As I type this I am still awaiting clarification from the ABI.”

“Get an accredited lender to offer bbl to members who have not had the opportunity to get a bbl.”

Andrew Crook – “There are lenders out there that will open accounts for you to get a BBL, if members want any help we can point them in the right direction.”

“No, NFFF recommending all fish shops to close at the beginning when the risk of catching covid was unbelievably low, was the best thing they could of done. I was the only chippy to use my initiative, and stay open in the area and its made my business grow enormously. So a huge thank you!!”

Andrew Crook – “That’s the spirit. Back in March the hospitals in Italy were overrun, the virus was spreading like wildfire and we had no idea if it would ever stop. There was lots of talk about protecting customers and that they should socially distance, there was no talk from government about protecting our teams. It was also not right to encourage people to leave their homes at that time and what would have happened if they had all turned up at 6pm on Friday! We needed the time to get organised and find solutions to these problems.  I saw some shops work through and offer deliveries, but I imagine they didn’t have adequate insurance cover so we could not recommend anyone doing that.”

“Consulting members more rather than thinking they know best!”

Andrew Crook – “Very difficult to answer this as not enough detail but to what level would you want us to consult members. Things can run slow enough at times operating in a board structure, if all the members needed consulting then that would not be workable. We are now going to continue to do these surveys and we do hold Zoom round tables which gives membership the opportunity to air concerns or issues. I also make myself very available on social media and over the phone, so I do think we are more accessible than ever.”

“They have worked increasingly hard and the support has been invaluable just would like them to have a bit more success with delivery insurance I know how hard they have tried it’s just very frustrating but not their fault.”

Andrew Crook – “It is frustrating for us and we will have a solution, but we have got to make sure it’s right as we would not want to get operators in trouble so we need to ensure our advice is checked and double checked.”