The Elite Fish and Chip Company, a family-run chain of three restaurants and takeaways, is celebrating 30 years in business in Lincolnshire this year. Co-founders David and Freda Tweedale opened the first Elite in the village of Ruskington in September 1988, after moving to Lincolnshire from Huddersfield. As the company commemorates its pearl anniversary, granddaughter and third-generation fish frier Rachel Tweedale spills the beans on what it’s like working with her family…
The concept of a happy family is one that is often bandied about, but in our case it’s true. Working in a family business is always a bit of a juggling act; you have to balance the opinions of family members and staff against the success of the business, which can be difficult. The family remain the brain of the business, but our staff are our eyes and ears as well as the friendly faces that serve fish and chips to our customers every single day. As we’re a multi-location public-facing business, it’s especially important that our company ethos and values are consistent.
As every business owner knows, with the highs come the lows and for every success there is likely to be at least one challenge. Although the company was set up by my grandparents, it’s the continued hard work, drive and determination from everyone involved at the Elite which has got us to where we are today. As a family and as a business we try to overcome challenges by working together.
These are the key factors to which we can attribute our 30-year successful history in the fish and chip industry:
Having one common goal
The reason behind our company’s 30-year success could be attributed to various factors, but ultimately, we all have one thing in common: to see the family business grow and succeed. The fact that we all have the same business objectives is what has kept the Elite Fish and Chip Company going after all these years. I’ve seen at first hand just how much of a difference it makes when your staff have the same vision as you – if they’re involved in the business, are passionate and are clear about the business’ goals, they’re more likely to contribute which in turn can positively impact the business success.
Trusting in each other
I firmly believe that a business is only as strong as the staff it has on board. The old cliché goes that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link and at the Elite, that is absolutely the case. Trust is a big thing, particularly in business – without it the road to success is practically non-existent. As a family-run firm we’ve always had to work that bit harder to remain at the forefront of what we do. Customers, suppliers and members of the community regard us as faces of the Elite brand so we’ve always had to trust in each other to make sure that this is implemented within our objectives and is consistent. Three decades in business is a long time and a lot of that boils down to trusting in each other to make the right decisions that will improve the way we operate. It is important to remember that each family member brings something different to the company.
To ensure that any business is successful, clear communication is an essential element. We rely on communication to ensure that our stock arrives on time, staff know exactly what they are supposed to be doing and when, and customers know what they can expect from us. Three generations of our family are involved in the day-to-day running of the business across three different restaurants and takeaways. If the communication across our business were not consistent across all three locations, our business would not survive. To ensure that our customer service remains consistent, we’ve implemented a business WhatsApp group which includes all the managers across all three restaurants and takeaways. We also have a staff Facebook group to notify all colleagues about any changes or upcoming events and it enables them to share comments with us; we always encourage an open-door policy.
While working with your family can be great fun, it can also be a challenge, because:
You can end up taking work home
When you work in and manage a family business, you have to get used to the idea that work doesn’t necessarily start at 9am and finish at 5pm; often you can be the first one in the door and the last one out. When managing a business, you have a lot to think about as well as the added responsibility of managing staff and the daily operations. Working with your family means that the conversations you have with them outside of work are often about work, which makes it difficult to switch off.
You are responsible for all things good and bad
As with any business, no two days are the same at the Elite. Some days you will find yourself sailing through with no problems, and on other days you will face several obstacles. When working in a family business, you are ultimately responsible for dealing with both the good and the bad.
Despite facing some challenges along the way, our successes have helped us to build a relationship with our customers which in turn has helped us to better serve our community.
By Rachel Tweedale third-generation fish frier at the Elite Fish and Chip Company