The future of fish and chip shops across the Harrogate district is in doubt as providers of one of Britain’s much-loved dishes face up to the double impacts of the cost of living crisis and the war in Ukraine.
Prices are already rising dramatically and some businesses have warned they may soon be forced to close their doors as the tough times bite hard into their takings.
The price of white fish, such as cod and haddock, has risen to record levels, energy prices have skyrocketed, while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is having an impact on cooking oil prices.
The VAT’s return to 20% in April will also hurt many shop owners up and down the country, with the National Federation of Fish Friers (NFFF) predicting that a third of the country’s 10,500 fish and chip shops could be forced out of business if they don’t hike up their prices.
The NFFF, based in Leeds, is the official body that represents the fish and chip industry, protects the interests of fish friers and their businesses, and promotes the fish and chip brand.
He said: “We are starting to see many businesses close.
“Most that have closed so far are the ones who have always been known for offering cheap prices and therefore struggle to increase them, and people coming towards the end of their careers and just closing their doors.
“I think the Government are willing to accept businesses closing as it will help to solve the labour shortage in the hospitality industry, but these are not just jobs to our members, you put your heart and soul into running a business and the strain on operators is going to be immense.
“We also provide a great role as the first experience of work for many young people and give them confidence and skills they take with them into their future careers.
“I think the biggest loss would be losing the independent operators who make the fish and chip industry so colourful and without the Government making changes, we are going to lose so many of our nation’s most loved and iconic fish and chip shops.”
Fish and chip shops across the Harrogate district admit they are feeling the pinch as they are forced to increase their prices to be able to afford to buy the ingredients needed to keep their doors open.
Coronation Fisheries in Harrogate have had to increase the prices of their fish and chips dishes by 90p over the last three months, due to the rise in cost of supplies.
Matthew Smith, of Coronation Fisheries, said: “We have noticed a big increase in the cost of our core ingredients.
“Fish prices are at an all-time high with no reduction for the foreseeable future, due mainly to the Russian invasion of Ukraine as Russia import 40% of fish into the United Kingdom.
"Other countries such as Iceland and Norway who also import fish into the country have also significantly increased their prices.
“Our beef dripping has also seen a big increase, as of last week, a 20kg box has gone up by more than £15 in the last three months.
"We as a business have had to increase the price of fish and chips to try and offset these huge increases.
"Our current price for fish and chips is £7.70 and over the last three months, they have increased by 90p.
“We could have reduced our fish size and used a lesser quality fish, the same with the potatoes that we choose to use, but we have decided to stick with using the same quality products.”
JR’S Yorkshire Fish and Chips, based on Boroughbridge Road in Knaresborough, was established in 1930 and is the oldest fish and chip shop serving the Knaresborough community.
Natia Ignatiou, Director of JRS Fisheries, said: “Unfortunately we are in an unprecedented time. Most of our suppliers have drastically increased their prices and we expect this to continue for some time.
“Energy and insurance costs are now more than double in addition to the increases in staff wages.
"We certainly feel the effect of these increases.
"Fish costs have increased by 81% in the last year, mushy peas by 120% and batter by 40%, not to mention increases in packaging and frying oils.
“As a result, we are forced to review our prices, but even then, the increases are that high that many business could be forced to close their doors permanently.”
Charatkorn Vollans, owner of Aragon Fisheries, added: “I took over the business in April 2021 and in the last 12 months, I have seen fat prices increase by 65%, which was £13 per block and is now £20, fish prices increase by 80% and packaging increase by 70%.
“Everything seems to have gone up in price by 15% recently, the second price increase in the last 12 months and there are more increases likely.
“Unfortunately sales are down, meaning that we have had to introduce new foods to engage interest, including the introduction of Thai dishes.”