How to start a fish and chips shop

Fish and chips is an Australian food institution – no wonder, given ours is a land that is well and truly girt by sea. Legend has it that the very first fish and chips shop in Australia opened its doors way back in 1879 on Sydney’s Oxford Street.

Fast forward 144 years and in 2023 you can’t walk past a corner takeaway shop, a food court, or a pub without catching the mouth-watering fragrance of battered fish and chips, or crumbed fish (if that floats your boat). Indeed, a classic fish and chips may just be the quintessential Aussie meal.

For food entrepreneurs looking for a new venture, a fish and chips shop – also referred to as a ‘chipper shop’ – is just about a no-brainer. If that whets your entrepreneurial appetite, here are nine steps for starting a fish and chip shop.

1. Write a business plan

Even the smallest of hospitality businesses can benefit from a business plan. It helps you to communicate your vision to others and helps to persuade them to support your business goals, whether as an investor or as a loyal customer. An effective business plan includes market research, business strategies, target audiences, staffing, challenges, opportunities, and a clear direction.

2. Find dependable suppliers

Securing the right suppliers for your food business can be crucial for long-term fish and chips success for your business. Seek partnerships with quality food producers and distributors, as well as commercial kitchen equipment suppliers to give you access to the tools for succeeding with your food business.

3. Design and fit-out

The first step when designing your new takeaway food premises, or making changes to an existing premises, is to obtain existing plans, or develop new plans for your space. This helps local government authorities to assess your proposed premises before construction or fit-out commences.

Whether you call yours a fish and chip shop, or the more colloquial ‘chipper shop’, you will require a site plan for your business.
A site plan, floor plan, sectional elevation drawing showing all fittings and equipment, hydraulic plans for plumbing, and a mechanical exhaust ventilation drawing will likely be required here. Included on the plans needs to be specifications to allow appropriate assessment. This may include details such as, but not limited to:

  • finishes to floors, walls, and ceilings;
  • the layout of all equipment, benches, fixtures and fittings;
  • door and window openings;
  • customer seating;
  • floor space (in m2); and
  • customer and staff bathroom facilities

Remember that when you open a fish and chips shop, it is often the planning phase that can cause the most headaches for business owners..

4. Council approvals

Fish and chips success starts with gaining council approval to open your new food business. The plans required for design and fit-out are only one part of the overall council approval process. Each local council and state government may have a different set of approval guidelines. These might include specific requirements for:food business licenses;

  • food safety supervisor notification;
  • council inspection;
  • commercial character building;
  • planning approval;
  • building approval;
  • parking; and
  • advertising.

5. Choosing your commercial kitchen equipment

When planning your fish and chip shop, it’s important to take into account food health and safety. As such, it’s important that you invest in the correct equipment for what your store needs.

A typical fish and chip shop requires commercial kitchen equipment to safely store food products (such as fresh produce) and to prepare meals effectively. The key items for your new commercial kitchen will likely include a combination of the following:

  • Large fridges: For keeping fish and other seafood fresh.
  • Deep fryer: A staple in every fish and chip shop.
  • A grill or stove: For non-deep-fried items.
  • Chip scuttle: A hygienic unit for storing freshly made chips.
  • Potato peeling machine: For peeling the mass of potatoes for chips.
  • Batter mixer: To mix the large quantities of batter you’ll need.
  • Heated food display: To display freshly fried fish and other produce to customers.
  • Storage freezer: A large storage freezer is essential for all of the fresh fish and produce you’ll need to keep on site.
  • Utensils and smallwares: Consider scoops, tongs, knives, salt and vinegar bottles, sauce bottles and napkins, to name a few.
  • Scrap bin: To dispose of any unwanted or unsuitable scraps to help keep your workspace clean and tidy.
  • Food storage bins: It’s important that you date your food and ensure it stays at consistent safe temperatures.
  • Point of sale systems: So you can offer your customers convenient ways to pay for their order.
  • Storage shelving racks: To make it easier to organise your produce.

6. Food safety regulations

Well before you open a fish and chips shop, it’s important that you familiarise yourself with the laws and regulations placed upon your food business. When food is in question, industry regulators are known to be very strict in their efforts to ensure the safety of the public (i.e., your paying customers). Don’t let this intimidate you, as there are tools available from various government bodies to help make understanding food regulations easier.

7. Naming and branding your business

When it comes to hospitality and fish and chip shops, there’s plenty of fish in the sea – pun intended. How can you help your fish and chips store stand out from the ocean – pun most certainly intended – of other food businesses that claim to offer the best fish and chips in existence?

While cooking and selling fish and chips is certainly no party trick – after all, they practically sell themselves – growing a chips shop can take some initiative. And this is where branding and marketing for your fish and chip business can be the difference maker.

A catchy business name and a carefully considered marketing and branding strategy can help set your fish and chip shop apart from all the other fish and chip shops in your area. Have your business name and business branding emblazoned across your signage, menu boards, advertising material, and signage to grab your customers’ attention. If you do it right, it will help your customers remember your hospitality business when they’re craving fish and chips.

Recommended reading: How to Register Your Business Name in Australia

8. Hiring staff

If your fish and chip shop will have tables and seating, you’ll want to consider wait staff, along with counter assistants. While you will likely start small, once you grow your chips shop, you may consider adding the following staff members to your team: manager, fish fryer, food prep assistant, and chef. These are typical fish and chip shop positions that will help give your customers the best experience and keep them coming back.

Are you ready to open your fish and chips shop?

While selling delicious fish and chips to salivating customers can often feel like child’s play, the same may not always be true for running a small business long-term. There can be a slew of small business challenges and risks in the hospitality industry – but there are ways to reduce your exposure to risk with business insurance* for restaurants and cafes.

When you invest in business insurance products such as Public Liability insurance, Business Insurance, Management Liability insurance, and Cyber Liability insurance, you will be proactively reducing your businesses’ exposure to risk.

When you choose BizCover for your business insurance you will have the power to compare competitive business insurance quotes online from leading Australian insurers. Better yet, will be able get covered in 10 minutes while also saving on business insurance. It’s business insurance made easy!

*This information is general only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It should not be relied upon as advice. As with any insurance, cover will be subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions contained in the policy wording. © 2023 BizCover Pty Limited, all rights reserved. ABN 68 127 707 975; AFSL 501769.

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