St John’s Fish Bar shares the secrets of its takeaway success

COD SQUAD: Sam Barton and Jamie Collins

With half of the UK’s fish and chip shops predicted to close within the next three years, the Times spoke to St John’s Fish Bar friers Jamie Collins and Sam Barton about what makes the takeaway a continuing success.

The shop, which has been open for 30 years, prides itself on using fresh ingredients and delivering the best service possible.

“You have to buy the top-quality ingredients, otherwise you won’t have the top-quality product, simple as that,” Sam said.

St John’s has used the same potato supplier since opening, sourcing its spuds from Paul Bryan in Lewes.

“You get to know the wholesalers that you’re working with really well. I remember once our supplier’s truck broke down and he delivered everything to us in his car. Seeing other people work hard like that, it makes you want to do the same with your own business,” Jamie explained.

But the pair, who’ve both worked at the shop for a number of years, acknowledged that top-quality loyalty comes with an added price tag, with sacks of potatoes that were £5 three years ago now costing the business over £20 each.

Fish prices have also risen, with some deliveries coming in at over £200, where previously they would have been less than £100.

The shop’s fresh fish comes from Sankey’s in Tunbridge Wells and La Mer in Faversham, with St John’s working closely with many other local businesses.

Despite its commitment to high-quality produce, Jamie and Sam explained that the shop also felt a responsibility to keep prices down
to ensure local families could continue to enjoy their food. The shop introduced a £4.99 saver menu as part of its relaunch last summer, offering the choice of a burger, halloumi bites, cod goujons and other mains with a scoop of chips.

“I think we’re the cheapest place to get a hot meal around here, even McDonald’s is more expensive than we are. With us, you get the quality and a decent portion of food – that’s really important,” Jamie explained.

“That’s also the reason we’re so busy. We make great food but we also try and keep things affordable so families can enjoy eating here.

“We want to make people smile if we can, because we understand that takeaways are at most a once-a-week thing for most, so we want to give people a good experience when they come in,” Sam said.

For now, the shop is focused on delivering the best service it can, even if ‘cheap as chips’ doesn’t ring quite as true as it used to.

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