With a background in lean management, Serj Shergill is keen to help chippies diversify and increase profitability. He’s even formed a co-operative with local shops to buy better

Serj Shergill has bought and sold numerous fish and chip shops over the last 10-15 years. His aim is to go in, increase the profits and move on to the next one. The most recent takeaway to benefit from his expertise was a derelict pub in the West Midlands that was revamped and opened four years. Two years into the project, it was struggling to achieve its full potential so Serj was brought in as a last throw of the dice to apply his business know-how. With his changes, turnover increased four-fold. The biggest impact on the business was Serj’s insistence on adding delivery via platforms such as Just Eat, enabling the shop to vastly extend its catchment area. He comments: “A lot of shopkeepers tend to concentrate on their direct catchment area, which is usually between half a mile and a mile radius. The problem here is that you are restricted because in most areas people only eat fish and chips once a week. It’s not like a convenience store where people are popping in day in, day out multiple times a

you’re not losing anything, in fact, you’re gaining customers. Who cares what Just Eat is earning because you’re still earning as well. And you have to remember that a lot of the customers it brings, you wouldn’t be getting normally.” Alternatives Serj is a huge fan of diversifying and always looks for ways his shops can appeal to more customers. Recently this has involved adding basa fillets as an alternative to cod for cash- strapped customers that still want to enjoy fish and chips. While a box of cod costs Serj around £310, a box of basa comes in at just £60. Priced on the menu around 25% less than cod, Serj is making an 80% profit on each fillet sold. Working with basa is different to cod, admits Serj. It’s nowhere near as flaky and it retains a lot more moisture, making it “quite a mushy fish” he says. To counteract this, once defrosted it’s left to dry on towels for up five hours. And as well as battered, he offers basa in a southern fried

week. You’re dismissing all those customers further out, that’s a big open market that you can capitalise on with deliveries.” Online orders quickly racked up for the takeaway and now 60% of sales are delivered and 40% over the counter. “Some people say it’s quite a poor reflection on how a business should be going,” says Serj. “But my mindset is that because future sales are all becoming digital, there will come a time where the majority of our sales will become digital.” Serj doesn’t concern himself with the costs aggregators charge and believes if more operators thought like him and priced their product correctly, it wouldn’t cause such a sticking point. “Some operators see the customer paying two to three pounds more and it hurts them to see that money go to somebody else rather than into their own till. My mindset has always been that you’re associated with a big major brand here, that’s a royalty you are going to have to pay for, nobody’s going to give it to you for free. “As long as you price your product right,



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