A fish and chips owner in Lancashire has warned that hospitality is under threat following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with fish and chip shops across the UK affected.
John Wild, 66, has run Tarnbrook Chippy in Heysham for 11 years. The Tarnbrook Road fish and chip shop has been on the market for five years and still hasn’t sold, despite John’s desire to retire.
Now John warns that hospitality is under threat. With the four main fish and chip ingredients affected by the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The UK government’s decision to raise the standard rate of VAT to 20% from April 1 is “the straw that will break the camel’s back”, John said.
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John pointed out that around 40% of fillets come from Russian sources, 50% of sunflower oil comes from Ukraine and Russia, flour prices will increase due to the volume of imports from Ukraine and potatoes will be affected because the price of fertilizer has tripled.
John was born in Morecambe and started in the hotel business 20 years ago in Bolton-le-Sands and opened Tarnbrook Chippy in 2011. John was also one of the directors of the National Federation of Fish Fryers.
Tarnbrook Chippy has been on sale for five years. John said he is still for sale, but thinks the offers he has received so far are too low. He added: “I want to retire now, I’m 66, I just want to call it a day, obviously I want to get the best possible price because it has to last me until retirement.”
The National Fish Fryers Federation, which said at least half of the UK’s 10,500 fish and chip shops could be closed due to continuing supply problems and rising prices.
Due to rising prices for hospitality venues across the UK, John has had to raise the price of his fish and chips from £7.20 to £7.90.
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“It was all before Putin, so the war in Ukraine doesn’t help, but the thing is, it was all before anyway. The prices are going up, I think that’s what everyone was fed up with. Fuel is going up, oils are going up, those are all our materials, so it really annoys everyone, but the war and the cost of fish, that’s really the icing on the cake,” John said.
With 40% of whitefish coming from Russian sources, according to John, the US ban on Russian seafood imports only puts pressure on other sources. He believes it has become a question of “who is going to pay the best price?” between commercial organizations.
It’s about supporting your local chippy, but John said it’s mostly about supporting Ukraine. “I think as a nation we have to support Ukraine against Russia because what is happening is terrible, we have to show solidarity and ban Putin from entering fish and chips in Britain “, he joked.
“I think everyone knows it’s just going to go up, and all this publicity, people are preparing for the fact that fish and chips is going to go up. Fish and chips, I think they’re still good value I don’t know I think fish and chips will go up to £10 here, they won’t go anywhere near £10. The point is you can’t charge too much otherwise it will put people off.
Although John doesn’t need to change what he’s using, he’s started to notice people ordering burgers instead of fish.
With VAT back to 20% from April 1, John said: “Indeed the customer pays VAT, so when we charge VAT, although it’s a bit different in catering and there is no VAT on food, even if we are not claiming it, we still have to put it (to order).
“It’s a double whammy,” John continued, “the point is I don’t think it had anything to do with Putin, I think it was happening anyway, the increase in whatever that is.”
John pointed out that fish and chips is more competitive than ever with the rise of takeaway culture in the UK. Now, take-out apps give customers more choice on what to have for dinner, rather than just jumping on the chippy.
“Before Covid, my little fish and chip shop, people would just come and buy fish and chips and that was it. I was quite advanced because I had a card machine, but once Covid started, we had to start doing click and collect. We haven’t started deliveries yet because I thought I was retiring, but delivery seems to be the most important thing now.”
Tarnbrook Chippy is open Wednesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner. For lunch, it is open from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. For dinner, it is open from 4:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.