International Women's Day, equality, gender, KFE

In celebration of International Women’s Day, KFE sales and marketing manager Tanya Henderson talks about equality, juggling work and parenthood, and her goals for the business her dad, Paul, started in 1996.

What does your role entail?

I manage all sales from the initial quote and drawing through to placing the detailed order and purchase order to our manufacturers at QBTEC. This involves liaising with our service department in organising site surveys, installations and training. I’m also responsible for the School of Frying Excellence, compiling an annual program of different courses and selling them, as well as managing our marketing and advertising. I’m not quite sure how I ended up with marketing, but I did!

What pathway got you to where you are today?

I was a manager at Thomas Cook and then went to an estate agents as branch manager, but when I had my first child, Callum, the hours didn’t suit me. I was offered part-time maternity cover in our accounts department and it just worked: the hours, the days, the fact the office is two minutes from home. From accounts, I moved into service and then into sales. It was good because I spent time in every department of KFE so if there are any issues I can see it from all angles and I like to think I have a better understanding of our customers because of that varied experience.

Were you expected to join the family business?

No, although my mum and dad owned fish and chip shops before starting KFE and I worked in those as a counter assistant when I was younger. I remember going out on a Friday night and my hair smelling of fish and chips! But then I went and did my own thing. I wanted to prove that I could progress without it being because I was family. The level I’m at now, I’ve had jobs at before. It’s become an industry that I love and I’ve never looked back.

International Women's Day, KFE, equality

What are your earliest memories of fish and chips?

I remember my mum, dad, grandma and grandad having fish and chip shops from a young age, but my clearest memory was probably when I was about six. We had our first shop in Market Deeping, The Deeping Fry (now Linfords), and I used to stand on an empty crate serving the customers and thinking what a joyful thing it was taking their money and seeing how happy they were.

What are your goals for the company?

I’d like to continue to reassure customers that KFE is a family business, that there is a second-generation in the company giving KFE longevity. So for customers who are buying a new range, they know they have the peace of mind with myself, my husband Matt and my brother Nikki all family members. Also, the expansion of the sales department, the grilling area, the training school, they’ve all been dad’s ideas so I hope in the next 10 years people will see us come up with similar great ideas that not only benefit KFE but the industry too. 

Who has inspired you?

My dad because of how much he’s done since starting KFE. He’s never had any training in marketing and although I can’t say all his ideas are great, most of the time they are. And he’s so passionate about giving back to the industry – the two KFE on a Mission events have raised over £30,000 for the Fishermen’s Mission while the Open Days are a great opportunity for operators to come and learn something new.

Briar Wilkinson, Drywite, Young Friers DYFFY

Who in your opinion has had the biggest impact on the industry?

There are lots and we’re really lucky to call many of them not just our customers but also our friends. The one person I would single out, however, is Briar Wilkinson of Drywite. What she did and how she developed the relationship with the young friers was something special. They are the next generation and that’s why we do something with them every year because we share the same passion. She was just a one-off, so it’s definitely Briar.

World Economic Forum published the Global Gender Gap Report, which revealed 36% of senior roles in business are held by women. How do you feel about that figure?

I think that’s a good number, which I’m positive is a substantial increase from 10 years ago. It’s not 50% but you always hope that the best qualified person gets the job and a decision is not gender based.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is Each for Equal, do you see our industry as gender equal? 

I wouldn’t say it’s equal but it’s not far off. If you look at the Fish and Chip Shop of the Year winners, there’s a woman in each of the stories. The Cod’s Scallops, John’s wife Helen runs the marketing, there’s Kelly beside Tim, Nikki next to Craig – they are all successful partnerships and there are endless examples before them.

How do you ensure a work-life balance?

I make sure I have time for both. It helps that Matt works here and the office and schools are close by. Our children come into work quite often so, equally, they are quite proud to be part of it, although I’m not sure Eva understands what we do! Being a working mum and and trying to balance everything is hard for anyone.

What do you see are the key challenges and opportunities in our industry? 

Delivery and healthy options are definitely challenges, but I think our industry is coming round to those ideas and turning them into opportunities. More people are realising they have to offer deliveries to keep up with other takeaways and that’s why we’ve launched the Future Proofing your Business course and have Tim and Kelly from Krispies involved because they’ve opened the first click and collect and delivery only shop. Healthier options and gluten free are becoming more important too. Fish and chips is constantly shouting to the media about its nutritional benefits but as an industry we need more shops to be promoting this at every opportunity.

Can you see yourself ever doing anything else?

No. Although I would love to go out on the road and see more customers, but I hate driving. Maybe when dad retires, and after Colin Cromar has finished teaching him how to fry, he can be my chauffeur!