Stratis Michael, a third-generation fish and chip owner, stands with his son, wife, and staff in front of their Leeds-based shop.
- Stratis Michael, 48, grew up in an apartment above his father’s fish and chip restaurant in the UK.
- Now battling rising costs in his own fish and chip shop, Michael worries for local shops like his.
- Michael shares how inflation’s impacted this iconic British industry, as told to Matthew Jenkin.
This is an as-told-to essay based on a conversation with Stratis Michael, an award-winning fish and chip shop owner about how inflation is impacting his business. It’s been edited for length and clarity.
I was born and bred in a fish and chip shop.
My grandad opened our family’s first chippy – British slang for a classic fish and chip restaurant – in Bradford, West Yorkshire, in the mid-1960s.
My dad started his fish and chip shop in Leeds in the mid-70s.
I was born in 1974 and we lived in a flat above the shop. Growing up, I helped out at the restaurant every weekend and school vacation peeling the potatoes and prepping the fish.
In those days, food was, literally, cheap as chips
You could buy a portion of fish and chips for just 25 pence. People would queue down the street to get served on a Friday night – it was a very different world.
Now, you’d be lucky to be that busy.
We’ve seen ups and downs, bad economies, and recessions, but the current hit to businesses is off the scale. No one in the fish and chip shop industry has ever seen it this bad.
I opened my own fish and chip shop, Fryday’s, with my wife in Leeds in 2010. Within the last 12 months, prices have skyrocketed.
The cost of our haddock has gone up by 100%
It’s not just the fish. Packaging has increased by 65%, frying oil and other ingredients have doubled in price, and energy bills are soaring. On top of that, you’ve got to keep paying your staff – we have 17 people working for us.
The price of standard fish and chips at our shop is £9.99. We raised our prices £2 from £7.99 in April because of the pressure of rising costs.
Once you take away sales tax, cost of ingredients, and wages, there is very little profit left
The problem is customers are already complaining it is too expensive. For small, affordable fish and chip shops like ours, it’s a struggle to make ends meet.
I am lucky because I am a landlord and make a profit from several properties I own in the city – I can weather this storm better than most. The profit from the rent helps support my salary.
But for chippies that are trying to price their food cheaper, I can’t see how they will survive.
I predict that, if nothing changes, they will be gone within the next 12 months because of shrinking profit margins.
We need help from the government, similar to the tax breaks offered during COVID-19.
In England, VAT – a sales tax companies have to pay to the government – fell to 5%.
It was fantastic because, even though prices were already rising, we can absorb those extra costs within our profit margins and it was still worthwhile to keep the business going.
It’s now back at 20% – that’s a big whack out of our profit margins.
It’s not just about losing an iconic part of British food culture, fish and chips shops are not just about the food
The disappearance of fish and chip shops would be a major hit to the social life of many Brits. It’s one of the few takeaways that people go into the shop to pick up rather than get delivered. Buying fish and chips is a social activity at heart.
People come to the shop to talk. They come for a bit of friendly chat on a Friday night. But it’s predicted one in three chippies will close in the future if this crisis continues.
We are being squeezed and if the government want us to survive they need to show some compassion. The current operating costs are temporary and will blow over in a couple of years, but without help, there might not be many fish and chip shops on the other side.
I don’t want to have to increase prices again – if I do, I will lose even more customers
At that point, I’ll have no choice but to close the shop doors and put the shutters down.
It’s really a fight to survive now.