UK’s Best Fish & Chip Shop
In January, Millers Fish & Chips in Haxby, York, North Yorkshire was crowned the UK’s best fish and chip shop as part of the 30th anniversary National Fish & Chip Awards, organised by Seafish. EC caught up with the dynamic father and son team – David (56) and Nick (28) – to find out what has set their shop apart from the rest of the nation
EC: How did you get to where you are today, running the UK’s best fish and chip shop?
David Miller: Fish and chips have been in the family for over 50 years and several generations here in Haxby. Having worked as a chef on the luxury liner, the QE2 for many years, I came home to take over the shop, which is where I met my wife, Lesley!
Before our son, Nick, joined the business in the summer of 2015, he had established a hugely successful career as a touring musician, playing in venues all over the world. He decided to join us in the shop following one of his longer visits back and we haven’t looked back since.
Nick joining the business gave it a real shot in the arm. He was able to come in with a fresh pair of eyes, bringing new skills and perspectives on areas we hadn’t previously explored – such as vlogging and effective use of social media and marketing – and combine this with the core skills and knowledge that have always been part of his heritage. It really was the dawn of a new era for the shop, and we were determined to grab this opportunity to take the shop to the next level.
EC: What is it like working as a father and son team?
David Miller: While Nick and I tend to be the faces you see, as we’re out and about the most, it really is a family business in the truest sense of the term. My wife, Lesley, runs the serving team and restaurant with military precision and never forgets a customer’s name; her role, and the commitment and dedication of the wider team are absolutely integral to our success.
In terms of Nick and me, we don’t really have specific roles because it varies day to day and week to week, depending on what’s in the diary. That said, we always joke that I have the age and experience, and Nick has the youth and enthusiasm. I suppose that translates in part to the work that we deliver – I spend a lot of time working as a trainer for the National Federation of Fish Friers and using my experience to help other shops, whereas Nick brings his youthful outlook and passion for embracing new technology and innovation, which you can see through our activity online. Most importantly though, you’ll still find both of us in the shop, serving and making sure that we continue to push ourselves to deliver the very best experience for our customers.
EC: What is trade like? Has the health trend affected you?
David & Nick: We are very busy! We have customers visiting us from all over the UK, so we would say that we certainly haven’t seen a drop in trade. Obviously the industry as a whole and we, as shops, have to be mindful of the health agenda. Many shops now offer healthier options as standard.
At Millers, we have seen an increase in the popularity of our Lite Bite offer, which is much more manageable and lower in calories. We have also found that this option reduces waste, which is a real bonus.
EC: What do you do to accommodate allergens and special requirements?
David & Nick: We believe everyone should be able to enjoy the great taste of fish and chips. For this reason, we invested in a separate gluten-free fryer a few years ago, which certainly gets a lot of use. The free-from food movement is a huge consideration for any business operating in the food industry, so we try our best to accommodate any requests our customers may have. We are proud to be accredited members of Coeliac UK, and entirely support their work.
Some of our products are also halal-friendly, and we make sure that there are always vegetarian options on the menu.
EC: How do you source your fish?
David & Nick: We take responsible sourcing and sustainability issues very seriously. We only use MSCcertified fisheries and have full visibility on the provenance of the produce we use. For example, we are supplied with sustainable, line-caught frozen-at-sea haddock from the MS Leinebris trawler in Norway. Not only do we have a constant dialogue with the crew and captain, but we have even been out on the vessel to find out more about their practices – an unforgettable experience!
EC: Which dishes are the most popular?
David & Nick: Haddock and chips with mushy peas is by far the most popular choice. That said, we find that customers who dine in our restaurant really enjoy the diversity of seafood that is available for them to try. We offer a very popular seafood basket, which features varieties such as tiger prawns and salt and pepper squid.
EC: Do you have any words of advice for others in the industry?
David & Nick: The fundamental thing is always to maintain standards. First, we source everything – from fish and potatoes to salt, vinegar, oil and packaging – from suppliers we trust to deliver the best. We then ensure that everything else is executed to the very best of our ability, from preparation and cooking to, crucially, service. We are committed to ensuring that every customer has the best experience possible, whether they’re in the queue on a busy Friday night, or the last customer of the evening.
EC: Do you get involved with your local community?
David & Nick: We are very much a part of a very close community and consider the majority of our regulars to be good friends. We see food as a means of bringing people together and we like to share our fish and chips as a celebration of community spirit. For instance, we recently partnered with York City Knights Foundation and York St John University to help bring people who may be feeling lonely and isolated – or who could benefit from additional socialising opportunities – together over a delicious meal of fish and chips.
We have lived and worked in the community of Haxby for over 50 years, so making sure that we play a part in its continued success is really important to us. We get involved with charities and, last week, for example, we ran one of our popular class assemblies at a local primary school explaining where fish comes from.
EC: How do you market the business?
David & Nick: Obviously winning this incredible award is a whole marketing campaign on its own. We have been bowled over by the response from the media, and from customers far and wide, which, of course has been great for the profile of the shop.
We have always tried to take an integrated approach to our marketing. Rather than relying on advertising, which can be an expensive avenue to take and very hard to measure, we have invested time in our PR, digital and social channels and platforms so that we have an active dialogue with our customers. We find that customers respond much more powerfully when they get an insight of what’s going on in the shop and can put faces to names when it comes to our team. We find this personal and engaging approach to marketing is a lot more successful in building a strong relationship with our customers and suppliers.
For more information on the National Fish & Chip Awards, visit www.fishandchipawards.com