The takeaway sector being busy was great, but with the Chancellor announcing government-backed loans making borrowing money cheaper than it ever had been, plus the temporary reduction in VAT across hospitality to 5%, it was the nudge shops needed to have the confidence to invest. In fact, the first three ranges KFE sold when its order books reopened in May were all with Bounce Back loans.
“At the beginning, I did wonder whether people would just save their money, but shops are definitely reinvesting,” says Paul. “Shops are busier, people are needing bigger ranges and they are now thinking if this situation continues for another 6-12 months they won’t be able to cope with the additional demand, so are upgrading their ranges now.”
It has certainly not all been replacement ranges with new sites opening in Lincoln, Newcastle Racecourse, South Wales, Edinburgh, Torquay, Westbury, London and the award-winning GlassBoat in Bristol.
“Delivery and click and collect is seen now as an integral part of most fish and chip businesses and I think the next project on the horizon is the evolution of the dark kitchen model. It certainly highlights the fantastic foresight of Tim and Kelly Barnes at Krispies who opened a click and collect and delivery only site last year.”
With shops evolving, Paul has seen this translate through into range designs and shop refits too. He adds: “This isn’t just for coronavirus, this is now the long term business model. Shops are changing the counter layout to include specific areas for click and collect and walks-ins. We’re seeing orders for ranges that include a section where the food is held or passed through for collection. It’s bringing about some significant changes and I think it’s moved the industry on a lot in a very short space of time.”
With KFE now back to pre-covid sales levels, it would be very easy to put this recovery purely down to shops experiencing an upturn in trade, but Paul believes it’s more than that, adding: “You can’t predict things like this, but you can prepare for them. And one of the things we’ve always done – and we’ve been operating for 25 years next year – is to ensure the company is financially rock-solid. That doesn’t mean just retaining money in the company but also investing in the fantastic long term relationships we have with our customers.
“We’ve continued to help and support our customers during this time, giving them advice and connecting people together who have been going through similar experiences. Equally, when they’ve needed to buy a range, they’ve come straight to us.”
Just as shops have had to find new ways to operate so has KFE. With restrictions on visiting people, the sales team can no longer cold call several shops in one day but must now preschedule their appointments. And while group training courses at its KFE School of Frying Excellence have been put on hold, one-to-one training with individual shops is taking place instead.
“It’s not normal, but it’s the new normal” adds Paul.