Britain's fish and chip shops -- a critical driver of seafood consumption across the country -- is welcoming a further easing of government restrictions on coronavirus measures, but owners fear trouble ahead with programs supporting furloughed workers slated to end in the autumn.
Owners of the shops, which are now mostly open on limited hours, are urging the government to take preemptive action before the program ends in October, fearing mass job losses and a fall in business just as business begins to get back on track.
Recent YouGov data cited 35 percent of business leaders saying a fifth or more of their staff could be cut after the program closes in October, while 21 percent said a third or more of their staff members could lose their jobs, which could spell bad news for takeaway food outlets.
Beyond some form of a stimulus package that the UK Treasury is expected to announce, shop owners also want reform on value-added taxes (VAT).
One idea that has been floated is to levy VAT on profits rather than individual menu items or ingredients. Businesses currently have to pay 20 percent VAT on top of standard business taxes to government and local authorities.
Shop owners who rent rather than own their properties may be in particular need of help.
While some fish and chip shop businesses have streamlined their menus, others have added species such as hake, monkfish and even lobster as part of efforts to help British fishermen whose orders from restaurants at home and European markets dried up amid the coronavirus crisis.
The UK's 10,500 fish and chip shops have staged a remarkable comeback after as many as 80 percent of shop owners turned their window signs around to "closed" as the country went into lockdown to avoid the spread of contagion in March.
"We are finding trade quite good. Even on limited hours it's quite busy. People have missed fish and chips," National Fish Fryers Federation (NFF) President Andrew Crook told IntraFish.
"Fish and potato-wise there is no issue with supplies."
Crook's own shop in Euxton Lancashire has been closed on Mondays and Tuesdays as part of measures to combat contagion, although he is now considering opening on Tuesdays.
Even so, he is advising members, whose businesses are all shapes and sizes, to take gradual steps before reopening in full to be able to cut risk, work safely and protect their customers.
Practices adopted by first by the fish and chip sector have been adopted in other types of businesses.
These include working back-to-back in kitchens, creating separate click-and-collect lines outside shops, and establishing click-and-collect collection points inside. Contactless payments and scheduled pick up times have helped to smooth operations.
"We have worked together, shared ideas and proved we can move more quickly than any of the big burger chains, a hell of a lot quicker than them," he said.
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