Yesterday, I went to visit the lovely team at Auckley Friery. I had several cups of coffee and a good natter with David Nicolaou about how he finds the new range, how business is, the fish and chip industry and so much more!
The shop itself was spacious, bright and clear. Then the more you look around, the more you notice the little quirks David and the team have created, which really set them apart from the norm! For instance, all their sauces are home-made and simply delicious. Their sauces come in little pots with the ingredients listed, for instance, the home-made sweet chilli jam has a simple recipe; red peppers, red chilli peppers, sugar, tomatoes, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and tender love.
David works hard to ensure he is choosing the best eco-friendly options for his shop, as he made an important point about how he wants to make sure the world his children grow up in is a better one! David has strong ambitions for the future and puts an incredible amount of thought into everything he does with the business.
My chat with David was so interesting as he has been in the industry a very long time, really knows his stuff and has a passion for what he does. I asked him some questions which you can read below to find out more.
What inspired you to open a Fish and Chip Shop?
My father opened his first shop in 1975 so I grew up around the business. I was a software engineer after university for around 10 years and grew tired of that industry, it just didn’t interest me anymore. We had Auckley Friery since 1996 but it was rented out. The tenant was leaving, and I saw an opportunity to do something different for a few years. That was 2003 and I’m still there and still loving what I do, which is nice!
Describe your shop in 3 words.
Obsessively Pursuing Quality.
What made you choose Florigo?
We started looking around 3 years prior to installation. I had never bought a range before so I had a look at everyone on the market, British and Dutch manufacturers. We settled on a Dutch range and after seeing the fit and finish of Florigo we were leaning towards that. The deal was sealed after meeting John Georgallis, he was so passionate about the product and was very helpful and approachable. It was a very good decision.
Your Florigo is now nearly 10 months old, how are you finding it compared to life before the Florigo?
We use a lot less oil and gas for a start, which is money in the bank. The product is hugely consistent, is cooked very quickly and perfectly every time. This has allowed us to cook our product to order and the response from the customers has been phenomenal. Our trade has risen conservatively by 25 percent (even taking out price rises) and is still growing.
Can you tell us a bit more about you and your day to day life?
I’m very fortunate to have a great team around me, my father still helps out, so I work day on day off but are in most mornings cutting fish and prepping. I have a 3-year-old boy and another on the way so that keeps me busy when I am not at work. I try to spend at least a couple of hours a week experimenting with new things, vegan food seems to have caught my attention at the moment, so we are playing with some new ideas.
How do you feel about the current issues in the fish and chip industry?
The current potato prices are as a result of freak weather and I am sure price will come down at some point in 2019. Fish prices seem to be rising and not really coming off which is a longer-term concern. The reality for the industry is that I don’t personally feel we charge enough for what we do. Fish is the last real hunted species on the menu and people risk their lives to get it. I don’t think customers really appreciate this and we certainly as an industry don’t price accordingly. I also feel that portion control is going to be widely adopted across the industry as it’s the only way to offset some of the increases we are experiencing.
Shops need to reinvest to make their premises attractive for customers to visit. I think the customers are expecting higher quality food from the industry and shops that don’t modernise their frying equipment and premises are going to lose trade to the shops that do. We have certainly seen an increase in footfall since our refit and those customers presumably were shopping elsewhere prior to this?
Lastly, I think more owners should be members of the NFFF and support the trade body, as they genuinely seem to be working very hard on our behalf. Imagine what they could achieve if they were properly funded?
What’s your favourite part of the job?
Talking to customers and getting their feedback on what we do.
What’s your least favourite part of the job?
Paperwork! Hours spent in the office keep me out of the shop and I do resent the administration side of the business, but it is unfortunately a necessary aspect.
What’s your favourite chippy dish?
Must be cod, chips and peas, I tend to go for the smaller portions these days. However, our Halloumi Chips with Chilli Jam are currently running a close second.
What does it mean to you to contribute to the local community?
It’s so important for us to give something back. We sponsor the annual village show and support local charities with raffle prizes and we have also given local church groups discounts on catering we provide for them. We also support local business where possible from sourcing our ingredients for the local area. The potatoes come from a farm about 3 miles away, our bread is from a local bakery two villages away. It also cuts down the food miles which helps our carbon footprint. We also use biodegradable and recyclable packing to lower our impact on the environment. In the larger community that is Yorkshire, we are a fundraiser for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance which we are so proud to be a small part of.
Do you have anything extra special on the menu?
The Halloumi Chips and Homemade Chilli Jam are quite special. We also make our own Homemade Tartare Sauce and are just introducing Garlic Mayo. We confit the garlic in a sous vide machine so it’s super tasty and the first reactions are really good.
What do you see for the future of Auckley Friery?
Finally finishing off the application for the Q award and MSC certification. We are cautiously optimistic about getting into the top 50 shops this year and missed it by the smallest of margins in 2018. Hopefully we can also make headway into the Seafish competition over the next couple of years. We are currently working on our own online ordering app and ordering website. This is actually nearly complete.