Eastbourne fish and chip shops facing tough times after surge in costs: “Can you imagine a British seaside without a fish and chip shop?”

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Fish and chips shops are facing the biggest crisis in their 160-year-old history, according to a warning issued by the trade organisation representing the industry.

The president of the National Federation of Fish Friers (NFFF), Andrew Crook, revealed his fears that rising costs will lead to thousands of fish and chip restaurants going under.

Mr Crook said, “It’s a terrifying situation we’re facing, I’ve never had as much fear for the industry as I’m having now.

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“The high prices at the moment come down to a bit of a hangover after covid. Energy and shipping costs have gone up, and wages have gone up. It’s forcing the price of everything to increase.


“The fish and chips industry has always had quite a tight margin. Fish is a premium protein, it’s as expensive as steak in the supermarkets, but our prices have always been low.

“We are in a position where we need to have a huge jump in prices. Everyone’s really worried.”

Hannah Tutt, who is the manager at Qualisea Fish Restaurant on Terminus Road, said, “We have had a large increase in costs. With the price of fish continuing to increase very dramatically, as well as the cost increases that everyone else in the UK is feeling now, prices have inevitably increased on our menu.

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“We always try our utmost to be as competitive in pricing as possible, but we have had no choice but to put prices up to reflect our increase in costs.”

The NFFF is lobbying the government to reconsider its policy to increase VAT for the hospitality sector back to the standard 20 per cent in April to help curb the difficulties faced by the industry.

VAT was dropped to five per cent for the sector in July 2020, and has been at 12.5 per cent since October 2021.  

Mr Crook said, “The VAT rise is going to put so many businesses under. It’s not much of an existence when you’re worried about bills all the time and it’s the businesses that are doing everything right that are suffering.

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“We’re hoping the Government will listen to us but at the moment it’s falling on deaf ears. I don’t know if the chancellor has a rabbit in his hat he’s going to pull out in the budget. We used to be a nation of shopkeepers but it seems like we don’t really count. Twenty per cent VAT will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

Miss Tutt added, “I think overall, from help with grants, bounce back loans and a reduction in VAT, the government has been very helpful to small businesses and the hospitality sector.

“But I would like to see an extension in the reduced VAT, so that businesses really have a chance to repair, and recoup lost earnings in order to survive.

“Small businesses really are such a large part of the British economy and are imperative to local areas to provide employment. So, I really hope the government continues to do everything they can to help, so that all businesses can survive and in turn thrive.  

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“Specifically, to the Fish and Chip industry, I hope the government and Rishi Sunak will take Andrew Crooks’ words very seriously when returning VAT to 20 per cent and consider all the various other challenges that our industry is facing, specifically for the small, independent fish restaurants.”

Combined with all of this, the decision to impose economic sanctions on Russia will hit the fish and chip industry especially hard according to the NFFF president.

Mr Crook said, “If we get a sanction on Russian fish we can expect costs to triple. 40 to 60 per cent of white fish comes from Russian sources. It’s a massive amount.

“We have got to do the right thing for Ukraine and let Russia know it isn’t acceptable, but it will come at a heavy cost to the industry. It’s a very scary prospect.

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“It’s already terrifying. I’ve spent 22 years in the industry and I’ve been through a lot of scares, but we’ve got a crisis on a crisis.

“I’ve never seen anything like it, it’s everything all at once. It’s the most dangerous threat to the industry in 160 years.”

Miss Tutt added, “Sanctions against Russia would cause absolute mayhem within the fish and chip industry; costs would soar and I’m not sure if many businesses could survive that on top of the challenging previous years. It’s a worry but like in all businesses you have to take each challenge as it arises.

The NFFF’s warning paints a bleak picture of the future of the classic fish and chip shop, but Miss Tutt has a more optimistic view.

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She said, “I don’t think the demand for fish and chips would ever go, it’s a British tradition and something that is so embedded in national identity – the Queen herself is known to enjoy a fish and chips takeaway!

“So, I can’t see the industry being threatened in the immediate future. Not only do tourists love coming to enjoy our national dish, but locals also love a good fish and chip dinner on a Friday!

“Of course, there are many factors beyond our control, but we have and always will try and adapt to any change in circumstances as best as we can. We hope to be trading for many years to come.

“Being a massive part of British culture and history, it would be such a shame if it were to diminish. Can you imagine a British seaside without a fish and chip shop?”

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