Up to a third of the country’s nearly 10,000 fish and chip restaurants could close in the next nine months, said Andrew Crook, president of the National Federation of Fish Fryers. The crisis is the worst he has seen, he told CNN Business.
The trade group represents 1,200 fish and chip companies and has been around for over a century.
“Overall, everything went up,” Crook said.
Businesses across all sectors are grappling with soaring prices as supply chain issues have been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. But British fish and chip shops, which traditionally operate on very tight margins, are feeling particular pressure due to the industry’s reliance on Russian imports.
Up to 40% of the industry’s cod and haddock come from Russian waters, and about half of its sunflower oil is imported from Ukraine, Crook said.
Fish and chips is one of the unofficial national dishes of the United Kingdom. The first stores opened in the 1860s and spread rapidly as the country industrialized, helping to feed factory workers, according to the trade group. During World War II, when the government rationed other staple foods such as tea, butter, meat, fish and chips, the dish was so important to the working classes.
Customers expect their fish and chips to be cheap, Crook said. A year ago the average price for a regular cod and chips was around £7, Crook said. Now he reckons it’s around £8.50, an increase of 21%.
“We run the risk of foreclosing ourselves from the market…we try to keep increases as low as possible,” Crook said. Some have already turned away.
“I lost regular customers who came every Friday,” he added.
The price of a case of Icelandic cod is now £270 ($331), down from £140 ($176) this time last year, Crook said.
Over half a million small businesses in the UK – that’s about one in 10 – are considering closing, downsizing or selling in the next year as many struggle to secure financing, according to a survey by the Federation of Small Businesses.
For Crook, the fate of his shop is personal.
“It’s more than just a job. For many of us, we’ve taken over family businesses,” he said. “I’m second generation in the business – and you don’t want it breaking on your watch.”