Fish and chips has been a part of British tradition for as long as I can remember; it was one of the only foods not subject to rationing during the Second World War so it should come as no surprise that it was once regarded as the nation’s favourite takeaway.
Fish and chips is a very simple, traditional dish enjoyed by many on a Friday. My Friday nights were spent behind the takeaway counters of my grandparent’s founding restaurant and takeaway in Ruskington – allowing me the valuable experience I needed to get to know our customers, listen to their feedback and establish what was important in the customer experience.
As we’ve evolved into a multi-location business, innovation remains at the forefront of our family business; we’ve continually tried to be creative and maximise opportunities where possible – particularly at seasonal times like Christmas and Easter. The fish and chip industry has become incredibly competitive in recent years and everyone is constantly raising their game. If you don’t keep up with your competitors, you run the risk of falling behind – and we’ve always kept that in mind when considering new ideas.
During our 30-year history we’ve always prioritised supporting the local community – and this includes listening to the needs of our customers and adapting our menu to suit. For example, we quickly identified that our older generation of customers tend to visit midweek and prefer a lighter alternative, leading us to introduce a new option which features a lighter batter.
When it comes to changing trends, our customer experience is so important to us and we recognise that eating habits are important now more than ever. All the fish we serve is sustainably sourced, our suppliers are local where possible and we have expanded our menu to include healthy alternatives and seasonal produce.
In recent years, eating habits have changed massively as people have become more knowledgeable about their own dietary requirements. Nowadays there is a greater awareness of food intolerances and an increasing number of food establishments are catering to suit, meaning that food options like dairy and gluten-free are more readily available.
We’re always looking for ways to develop as a company and, after receiving many requests from customers to offer gluten-free options, we recently introduced our brand new gluten-free menu. This is the next step for us to develop as a company.
Our brand new gluten-free menu includes starters, mains, desserts and sides; in addition to traditional fish and chips, the menu offers smoked haddock and mozzarella fishcakes, mini filled potato skins and chocolate brownies as well as gluten-free alcoholic drinks. For the time being, our gluten-free options are only available at our Sleaford location because it is the only outlet with the space to accommodate the stand-alone fryer needed to safely prepare gluten-free food. We’ve got brand new equipment ready and all our staff have undertaken the Coeliac UK online training course.
Earlier this year our Sleaford branch became one of only two restaurants in Lincolnshire to also be presented with the Healthier Options award by Lincolnshire County Council. We’re constantly trying new things here at the Elite – and we’re so pleased that our efforts in striving to be more than a traditional fish and chip establishment have been recognised.
The award is part of a wider scheme which was launched by Lincolnshire County Council, Public Health England and district councils. It’s been created to help small and medium-sized food outlets and businesses across Lincolnshire make healthier changes to their food menu and preparation. We hope that in time we’ll be able to offer our gluten-free menu across all our outlets.