The Secret to Award-Winning Fish and Chips: National Fish & Chip Awards

It’s been just over a week since the annual National Fish & Chip Awards, hosted by the NFFF, took place in London and what an evening it was.

At Florigo Foodservice Equipment, we saw three of the top winners all frying on Florigo Frying ranges.

Our very own, Carol-Ann, will be touching base with some of the awards winners over the coming weeks to find out what winning 1st & 2nd place has meant to them and their businesses.

It’s Whitehead’s Fish & Chips turn, and Geoff has taken the time to talk to us and tell us about the business, what changes he will be making and advice he will share with the industry.

Have there been any new areas that the 2023 Awards have brought to the table – and areas that you will take with you over the coming months and years?

Firstly, I must state that I am a ‘dinosaur’ when it comes to social media. I’ve never had to video myself before because I do not do social media, but I had to learn because you get asked to make a video for the presentation for the awards. It is very daunting at first. I learnt an awful lot about how to present myself on video.  I am fortunate; my nephew used to work with me and now runs his own Media Company, so between him and my website company, they deal with all my social media. I have learned, though, that social media is very important, so the industry will definitely be seeing my face more often on our platforms. I will be more proactive in the future when it comes to the face of the business. I will take what I learned about social media with me for months and years to come.

The second, on a personal level, is that I am only human. I have always been very confident, and I was taught a very valuable lesson: I was so susceptible to pressure – I was so nervous!  I have learned so much about myself; I wasn’t handling the pressure as well as I thought I would; I could not talk at one point.  Getting the award was momentous but so emotional. Participating and winning this award has built another layer of confidence that I will never forget, and I will take it with me wherever it is needed within the industry and in my personal life.

Finally, we were thinking of my Mum a lot, who recently, very sadly, passed away.  I kept thinking about what she was missing. When we received the award, I had a mic thrust into my hand, tried to reel off a speech I had prepared, and we dedicated the Top UK Takeaway of the Year to my Mum; then, I couldn’t carry on, so my sister took over. My Mum was my best friend and business partner – we did it together.  We could not have done this without her.  She was a huge part of our lives in business and personally.

An image of the National Fish and Chip awards showing the winners being interviewed with their award.

Can you explain what this Award means to you and your team, how you have all reacted, and what you have learnt going through the awards process and coming out Winners?

When we started applying for the awards in 1999, we only had the business for two years; I look back and remember how poor the shop was aesthetically, the quality of food wasn’t great either, and it was stuck in the 50s.  That first shop set the benchmark, and our standards had to be raised. This was our 6th attempt at winning the Fish and Chip Awards. I never gave up hope and knew I had to raise the bar, so I kept trying. Although Mum wasn’t an advocate for the awards, I was – I believe it helps set standards within the industry, and they are high standards of how we want all fish and chip shops and restaurants to operate. If you enter the awards and don’t get through, keep trying; you will keep pushing and pushing to be better than the last time you entered. The bar keeps going higher and higher. We had never been in the top 10 EVER, and it was always disappointing not coming through – but I am not a quitter.

I want this to be a valuable message to the industry. DO NOT GIVE UP ON BEING BETTER. I don’t rest on my laurels and always want to be the best. I will always keep on trying to be the best.

The staff are still floating on cloud 9, and the majority of guys that came with us have worked for me for ten years – they can’t believe it. We know how each other works and want to strive to move forward and raise the bar. I have a fantastic team; without them, I would not have a business. They work so hard for one common goal.  We have one young lady who has worked for me for two years, and she can’t believe the standard of the competition, and she realises how good we are. I love to help people in the industry; I have tried to give advice, raise standards, advise on personal hygiene with uniforms etc. I love being dictated to by the NFFF; they motivate me to keep pushing myself and other shops.

Finally, what is the most exciting thing that has come out of the Awards? How do you think the Awards will help the business progress?

The Awards have taken care of the progress of the business; it has catapulted us.

I am more focused than ever before and want to get other shops to where I am. For anyone out there who wants me to point them in the right direction, I will.  It’s my passion that standards are raised throughout the industry to get our shops to the highest standard possible and keep raising the bar. I am full of zest!

The most exciting thing to take away from the Awards and the greatest pleasure of all is that no matter how old or young we are, it’s just wonderful for your peers to acknowledge your hard work. It’s now been acknowledged. After 26 years of being in business, a lot of people have supported me over the years, and their advice has always been adhered to; I have listened to all of it.

“Everyone who has been a part of my life, advised, guided and supported me, you know who you are – I want to say a great, big, huge thank you” commented Geoff. 

From everyone at Florigo, we’d like to congratulate Whitehead’s Fish & Chips on winning 1st Place and being crowned UK’s Takeaway of the Year 2023 in the National Fish & Chip Awards.