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FOCUS: "Catch-22"! Struggling fish and chip shops feeling the heat

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Friday 09 June 2023

FOCUS: "Catch-22"! Struggling fish and chip shops feeling the heat

Friday 09 June 2023


Jersey's fish and chip shops are just one of many small businesses bearing the brunt of rampant inflation – with one much-loved eastern venue reporting that it is struggling to keep going.

The Times recently reported that the average price of fish and chips had risen to £9 as a result of rising oil and fish prices.

They noted that, in the UK, about half of the oil used by fish and chip shops comes from Ukraine, meaning the ongoing war has hit the local chippy particularly hard. 

In Jersey, it is no different. 

"All the prices are crazy... everything is going through the roof"

Frank De Jesus, the owner of the Seafish Café, said that a drum of rapeseed oil has risen from around £22 to £50 in the last few years.

"We use about 12 drums of oil a week, so if we are paying £50 a drum then it very quickly adds up," he explained.

Mr De Jesus added: "We use lots of oil, lots of potatoes and lots of fish...all of which have gone up exponentially."

And it isn't just oil: "If you sell cod and haddock, that's where the issues are...since we opened in 2012 it's almost doubled in price." 

Monika_and_Jon_.jpeg

Pictured: Monika and Jon De Gruchy, the owners of Entwistles fish and chip shop. 

Jon De Gruchy is one of the owners of Entwistles chippy in Gorey Village, which has been running for the last 47 years.

He stated that since he and his wife Monika took over the business eight years ago, they have never been in a worse situation.

The constant price rises has led to daily battles with his suppliers. Mr De Gruchy noted that a year ago, the shop paid £157 for a box of fish. Now, they pay £303.

The challenge of sourcing fish locally has become so great, that Mr De Gruchy has begun to ship fish directly from the UK because he can make almost £50 of savings on each box. 

"We are all in the same boat, we all have rent to pay and I do understand that, bit some of our products have gone up 90%, 120%." 

Another local fish and chip shop owner, who preferred to stay anonymous, said: "It's fish, chicken, oil packaging, all the prices are crazy. Everything is going through the roof. Even the price of paper has more than doubled in price." 

He added: "The problem is you can't double the price on your products, people just won't have it." 

"We're all in a catch-22"

All testified to the inevitable problem of shifting the cost onto consumers. Mr De Gruchy said: "We're all in a catch-22...We used to pay about £1 or so for our burgers. Now it's £3.

"It's more than doubled...our prices can't go up double or people won't come. They just won't come! If I did double on a bag of chips we'd be at £4.50 and you can't do that!" 

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Pictured: Seafish Café in St Helier.

Mr De Jesus said: "All we can do is pass the costs onto the consumer. Our prices have risen, but not as they should have done. If we had done that, people would be paying £16 for fish and chips. At the moment, we're at about £12.50 and even that is quite a lot compared to other takeaway options."

"Who wants to work at a fish and chip shop?"

On top of having to deal with suppliers, chippy owners are also wrestling with staff. Mr De Jesus at Seafish Café said that, since Covid, staffing costs have gone up 30%. And that's even they can even find in the first place.

Mr De Gruchy at Entwistles said that he has to rent out flats for his staff.

"It's the only way we can get people to come and work for us," he explained.

The anonymous owner has gone a step further: "I've more of less given up on staff, I do what I can on my own....The thing is, who wants to work at a fish and chip shop? There's so many other options." 

Chippy.jpg

Pictured: "Who wants to work at a fish and chip shop?"

And then there's rent: "For a chip shop that is less than 7 or 8m long, and 5m wide, our rent is £50,000 a year...that's a lot of bags of chips." 

Mr De Jesus added: "When prices go up, people always assume it's the greedy restaurant owner or what have you, but it's a lot of things the customer doesn't realise...if all of them go up at the same time, you could be completely wiped out." 

"I don't know how long I can last"

The constant battle against rising prices and an increasingly hostile market has inevitably taken a toll on the owners.

Mr De Gruchy is a builder as his day job, but has started to take a greater share of the work at the shop when his wife was forced to step back due to the stress.

He explained: "She just felt alone, that no one was helping her...It really affects our mental health. 

"It's horrible, the atmosphere has changed. Everything is different, I don't understand. It just isn't worth doing anymore." 

Entwistles has 4 years left on its lease but Mr De Gruchy admitted that, if it was up this year, they would not be looking to renew it.

"I don't know how long I can last," he said.

Pictured top: Entwistles Fish and Chip shop in Gorey.

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