Every business is unique and while the way each business runs is dependent on several factors, growth and expansion are key goals for most business owners and entrepreneurs.
Rachel Tweedale, co-director at the Elite Fish and Chip Company, explains the challenges she has faced while growing Elite’s third-generation family business – and reveals some of the factors that she thinks business owners should consider when expanding.
As every business owner will know, expanding your business is no mean feat but it’s often one of the key objectives. Whether it be through purchasing additional premises, hiring more staff or branching out into a new market, expansion is one of the signs of growth. However, managing business growth can be tricky – especially in today’s day and age, as the goals of many business owners are dependent on the state of the economic and political landscape. Uncertainty in either of these areas can impact the way a business can reach its goals.
Each business is unique but there are several different strategies that business owners can deploy to take their business to the next level:
Try new things
As clichéd as it sounds, change is the only constant in life. Some people don’t like change because of the uncertainty and fear that it will cause. However, in business, change should be embraced; it’s the only way that you’ll be able to keep up with emerging trends and your competitors. The change that you make doesn’t need to be drastic; investigate ways of increasing your sales to both existing and new customers. Doing so might require you to improve your products and services by researching and testing changes with your customers, but the feedback will at least be reliable and accurate, having been tested on your target market.
Increase your product range
While this strategy might sound relatively simple, executing it well can be a real challenge. A lot of thought must go into which additional products and services your customers want and how much they’ll be willing to pay for them. During the years that I have worked behind the takeaway counter at the Elite, I’ve seen just how much customer trends have evolved, particularly in recent years with the rise in the number of people requiring gluten-free meals and healthier choices. Taking that into consideration, we are currently in the process of offering up a gluten-free alternative at our restaurants and takeaways. Recently, our Sleaford restaurant also became recognised as one of the first in Lincolnshire to be presented with the Healthier Options Award.
Find what works and stick to it
Most company directors will agree with me when I say that in business it’s difficult to find and retain two things: good staff and good suppliers. Once your business is established and profitable, the next logical step is to start thinking about how to grow. Many businesses think of growth in terms of increased sales, but it’s also important to focus on how to maintain or improve your profitability. Over the years the demand for fish and chips has remained unchanged, but the number of outlets offering similar wares has skyrocketed. As we’ve expanded our family business further afield, we’ve had to ensure that the high quality of our food and our customer service has remained at the exceptional level that our customers have grown to know and love.
Expand into new territories
The focus here should be to market and sell your existing products and services to new customers. Your new customers are likely to be of a different age group or in different locations from where you currently operate – and expanding in this way will likely involve opening new locations in different geographic areas.
This type of expansion is one that I’m particularly experienced in as it is the way that my family business has naturally expanded throughout its 30-year history. Our founding restaurant and takeaway opened in 1988 in the small village of Ruskington – before long we opened a second restaurant and takeaway in the cathedral city of Lincoln, and subsequently opened a third in the market town of Sleaford. We recently revealed our exciting new business venture to open a second restaurant and takeaway in Lincoln, in the city’s historic Bailgate. As well as offering traditional fish and chips, this new space will also offer a high-quality varied seafood menu on certain days of the week. If you are looking to expand in this way, whether it’s geographically or increasing your products, make sure you do some thorough market research first to ensure there is enough customer demand in the new territory to justify expansion.
In our 30-year history we’ve rapidly expanded our business which has grown from a small village restaurant and takeaway into a national award-winning fish and chip establishment. In our experience, investing in staff, marketing and acquiring new premises has proven to be the key to our success. As a result of our business growth, we’ve benefitted from local and national media interest, secured new business, won several awards and attracted new employees.
Businesses are often faced with a dilemma when it comes to growing; expanding too quickly can lead to resources failing to meet demand and harming your reputation. However, if you don’t grow, you run the risk of missing out to your competitors which could also weaken your position.
If you do decide to expand your business, ensure that you have a passionate team on board to help you; many hands make light work and your staff need to be inspired by the opportunity of a growing business. Ensure you do thorough research and most importantly make sure that your finances scale up with your proposed plans. Sometimes you do just have to take a leap of faith and commit to making sure your vision becomes a reality.
By Rachel Tweedale, third-generation family member and co-director of the Elite Fish & Chip Company