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boxman
3rd December 2003, 10:56
Hi

Anyone know what the pros and cons of running an upmarket fish and chip shop are in rural Dorset?

I've been an IT contractor for 7 years and took a permie position in 2001 after IR35 and seeing the market nose-diving. Good move as it turns out as I'm just about to be made redundant and I'm looking to invest the money in a new business.

I'm seriously torn between starting up my own IT business again (never that successful but OK), going contracting (time away from young family is a big negative) or doing something completely different - like running a fish and chip shop.

Most recent posts on this BBS are pretty negative towards the state of the market but I already get client support calls 24x7 wanting the earth but then complaining when I bill them. I've come to the conclusion that SME's don't see any real value in IT support and just expect everything to work all the time. If something goes wrong they're straight on the phone to complain that it's your fault as you were the last person who "did" something on their PC/Network - even if this was 3 months ago (yeah right).

Suddenly the offline world seems more attractive... Can anyone persuade me one way or the other as I have an option for a suitable retail premises to convert in a local villeage without any competition within a 10 mile radius?

Key skills are web development (inc .NET), network infrastructure support (all MS) but I'm also a fair cook so can probably grasp the ins and outs of a deep fat fryer fairly quickly!

thanks

Boxman

zeitghost
3rd December 2003, 12:50
Don't know what Dorset is like, but the chippy up the end of the road has recently transmogrified into a Chinese takeaway...

EddieC
3rd December 2003, 14:41
After a bit of quick lunch-time Googling, I found thisfor you:

National Federation Of Fish Friers (http://www.federationoffishfriers.co.uk/)

The British Potato Council (featuring The British Quality Chip Charter) (http://www.britishpotatocouncil.co.uk/)

One site claims that there are 8500 Fish & Chip shops in the UK with total annual sales of £700million. That works out as about £82,000 per shop.

partimer
4th December 2003, 12:39
Boxman,
You have my sympathies when it comes to starting a Support Business. I use to get phone calls from users asking about the photocopier which was nothing to do with my support business. Even worse were the users that knew enough to be dangerous but not enough
to be useful. (Tom next to me said I could recover deleted files by running this command ...)
Once it started effecting my day job, I knew it was time to jack that in.

On to your other idea.
All I can say is that any cash business seems to have a difference between declared earnings and received cash. Just ask any builder, plumber, etc. (nudge, nudge). That's how they become very rich. (So I've been told).

The problem you have with your F+C shop is location and competition. If you start up in a retirement area, I can't imagine many OAPs wanting your type of food.
If you moved to a tourist area where there would be more people wanting F+C then I imagine there will be well established fast food businesses already there.

As always, you'll have to plan this as part of your business plan.

EddieC,
Have a look at people who have a forecourt selling fuel. IMO they earn shed loads for doing very little. After all, it's all now self service. You need one body to press the
buttons and take the money (so I've been told - okay maybe a bit more to it than that).

Look into Franchising (the Daily Mail on a Thursday). They have shows in London now and again and it really is an eye opener !!

Debt collecting is probably the next growth industry :)

zeitghost
4th December 2003, 12:56
"Debt collecting is probably the next growth industry"

And so cheap.

A pair of pliers for the teeth and a pair of boltcutters for the toes.

Sorted.

boxman
4th December 2003, 12:59
Thanks for all the replies - much appreciated!

I agree with pretty much all that's been said and it seems that anecdotally at least other support professionals seem to be suffering the same fate.

I've acutally been running my ltd co for contracting plus some "private" client work (always on a totally legit basis) for 7 years now but things seem to be getting worse. Most SME's seem to be very hand-to-mouth these days and if they spend any money on IT at all it seems to be replacing kit whn it's died - there is no pro-active forethought as to what ongoing support their PC/network requires - even if their business relies solely on the Internet as it's sales channel!!

As for the F+C business - well there is no competition of any sort (of take away) within an 8 mile radius but local businesses are well supported in the area. The biggest issue is likely to be finding a suitable premises and/or getting planning permission. I have close links with two or three influential business people in the area (I live just outside the area myself) and I hope that they may support my enterprise with the local community.

Demographics are promising with a mixture of ages but mainly 40+ through to retirement. A car is mandatory to get around and unlike when I worked in London where no-one would go more than 100yds for anything, people are prepared and willing to travel 3 or 4 miles to get to the Post Office as it saves a round trip of 15 miles into the nearest town. Also some of the local businesses pull in trade from well outside the area (local butcher for example) as they offer superb quality. I think this is a winning formula and would certainly look to work with local farmers and producers to supply the shop where practicable.

Any further comments most welcome!

regards

Boxman

zeitghost
4th December 2003, 14:07
As you mention, Boxman, Quality is everything.

The ex-chippie up the end of the road was pretty dire with a poor reputation for quality.

Like everything else, there are skills to learned in such enterprises if you want success.

And there are training courses in how to make good quality fish & chips.

Not to mention food hygiene.

Praps I've watched too much of the "Life of Grime".

dazza12
4th December 2003, 14:53
It depends where you are Boxman. Are you targetting East, West or South Dorset?

I live just over the border in Yeovil, and I find most people in the area travel either here, Sherborne or Dorset. On the southern coast you can't walk more than 100 yds without seeing one. Central Dorset is pretty well covered. So I can only assume that it's the North Eastern area.

However beware, as much of Dorset, being rural, tends to have a more aged, but slightly more affluent population. Therefore expectations of quality tend to be higher, in other words, restaurants tend to be more suitable to the area. You may want to see if there are premises that allow seating, or perhaps expand your menu to account for the diverse tastes.

boxman
4th December 2003, 15:22
Thanks Guys

dazza12 you are quite right. I've done some broad-brush demographic research and I would agree with your comments.

I've never been one to skimp on anything and quality is all important to me - and I'm anticipating the same for my prospective customers.

In order to enhance the appeal of the establishment I would look to add some "healthier" menu options (jacket potatoes from a traditional potato baking oven with a choice of fresh fillings etc).

I'm actually anticipating a far harder time finding the right size, location and price of premises and any associated planning issues raised by people living nearby/adjacent due to a change of use. There are no existing catering premises available so I will probably need to apply for a change of use to an existing property.

The only other option I can think of is to approach a couple of my friends who own small farms (/ community. The attitude is deeply NIMBY so I probably have my work cut out - but then I thrive on a challenge!

Thanks again for your thoughts!

Boxman

bbcdancer
4th December 2003, 18:24
Fish and Chips Shop..

You need A3 planning permission consent to convert premises a hot food takeaway or restaurant. Local people might protest on the oil fumes you produce from cooking the food....

The geographics and competiton does play a big role in how much profits you make.

Your cooking abilities is the next issue. Batter mixed, type of potato used and the oil used to fry it. A balance of ensuring you have enough hot cooked food to sell to customers, whilst not allowing the food to be kept warm in the heaters for too long.

Quality F&C is a nice concept, but if its not a resturant you are setting up, where people can sit and eat, then I'ii think ppl will not pay a preminum for a meal that is expected to be cheap...

Board Game Geek
4th December 2003, 19:02
Whatever you do, please don't add the remains of the fryer (you know, the scabby little bits) to a customer's portion...I hate that.

How about a fish tank, where you can select your fish, see it whipped out, watch it's head cut being cut off, filleted then fried ? Sort of an interactive dining experience. I don't know about anyone else, but if I'm paying for it, I would like to see it living then butchered before I eat it. You develop a much closer affinity to the animal and respect the food more. Lions get to see what they eat, having normally been involved in its demise. You don't see Lions queuing up outside a restaurant ordering food do you ?

Oh, and big, fat chunky chips. Or how about 2 different types of chips ? I've lost count of the chippies I won't use because their chips are naff. At least with two different sorts, I stand a better chance of liking the chippie (and you have a better chance of keeping customers.) Chip Choice...a novel idea ?

Home delivery ? Everything else is home delivered, why not F&C ?