'Still great value,' say Skegness area shops as UK fish and chips industry prepares for battering
The Skegness area has a long history of having great fish and chip shops - with the Marina at Chapel St Leonards still flying the flag after receiving a prestigious National Top 50 award.
However, with rising costs and fears growing over stock levels due to the conflict with Russia, where the icy cold seas are fished for haddock, the industry is set to have its worst battering in years.
Local shops are hoping loyal customers facing a slight hike in their Friday night treat will understand that with prices remaining less than most other takeaways, fish and chips are still great value.
In spite of being "undervalued" for years ,as one local chippy owner has described the meal, the president of the National Federation of Fish Friers Andrew Crook predicts the fish and chip industry is facing its biggest battering in 160 years.
He said: "It's a terrifying situation we're facing at the moment. The high prices at the moment come down to a bit of a hang over after Covid. Energy and shipping costs have gone up. Wages have gone up. It's forcing the price of everything up.
"The fish and chip industry has always had quite a tight margin. Fish is a premium protein, it's as expensive as steak in the supermarkets, but our prices have always been low.
"I've never had as much fear for the industry as I'm having now. If we get a sanction on Russian fish we can expect costs to triple.
"We're hoping the Government will listen to us [about VAT] but at the moment it's falling on deaf ears. I don't know if the Chancellor has a rabbit in his hat he's going to pull out in the budget. We used to be a nation of shopkeepers but it seems like we don't really count. 20 per cent VAT will be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
"It's going to happen very, very quickly. It's not a bright future."
Vic Fox of Harry Ramsbottoms on the seafront says he fears many small fish and chip shops will go bust.
Mr Fox, who supported the community during the pandemic with a special discounts run through our newspaper and gave free meals to frontline workers, is expecting to take a massive hit on his profits this year.
He predicts people could see fish and chips go up to £10 but says he is working hard to keep his prices low.
"I can see fish and chips rising to £10," he said. "Fish and chips are a nutricious meal but have been undervalued for years.
"You get a Chinese takeaway with rice and people happily pay £10 for that.
"At my shop you could buy haddock, chips and peas for £5.50 and I will be putting them up to £5.95, but my margins will be tighter than ever and I'll take a massive hit on profits this year.
"The price should be more because not only are we facing rising prices and a threat to supply of haddock, power bills have doubled, the minimum wage has risen and VAT, which was reduced to 5% to help businesses, is going back up to 20% at the end of the month.
"It's just gone mad but in my case I am able to keep prices low without sourcing cheaper fish as I saw costs going up coming months ago .
"In my case I have stocks of over seven tonnes of cod and haddock which I paid premium for which hopefully will see this year OK.
"I am able to pass those savings on to the customer but where there are rises they will only be on fish dishes.
"We will continue to support our loyal customers."
Lyndsay Ramsay, manager of Seaview Fisheries in Seaview Road, is also trying hard to keep prices low for customers.
"Our fish suppliers have already explained that they will be a price increase and there are worries over the shortage of haddock in the forthcoming months.
"We literally are having to sit back and wait on news. It isn't just our fish suppliers - it's every fish business going.
"We put our prices up just before the pandemic and they haven't risen since because of the loyalty of customers the tough time they are going through financially.
"However, with wages, stock and certainly fish going up, we are unfortunately having to change prices, but we are talking 30p tops on some meals."
Amidst the gloomy predictions, staff at the Marina Fish and Chips at Chapel St Leonards are concentrating on the positives and being listed in the Top 50 fish and chips shops in the UK by The Fryer Magazine.
Danielle License commented: "After two thorough secret shops, we have been awarded the prestigious National Top 50 Award, which enters us into the bracket of Top 50 Takeaways in the UK, judged nd awarded by The Fry Magazine.
"It's something we have been working towards and to finally achieve this is a fantastic milestone, especially being the first in the local area to achieve this.
"We are truly over the moon but we couldn't have done it without our fantastic team."