The head of one of the UK’s largest fish and chip chains says the soaring price of fish and chips may go even higher.

James Lipscombe, chief executive of The Chesterford Group, which runs 38 takeaways and restaurants under several brands, told Sky News that industry prices are stabilising but have yet to reach their peak. He said cod and haddock prices had risen 50% in the past year.

He said it was taking a huge effort to maintain sales volumes as the industry grapples with unprecedented price rises and consumer caution amid the rising cost of living.

Sky News said its spending calculator, produced by the Sky News Data and Forensics Unit, suggests the price of a fish and chips takeaway has gone up 21.7% nationally over the last year.

That has forced many restaurant operators to adapt their customer offering – with meal deals and cheaper products, such as sausages and nuggets, taking a more prominent role.

James Lipscombe admitted that the cost of fish had proved too much for many. He told Sky News: “We’re paying 50% more for cod and haddock on this time last year… That has been driven by a supply and demand facet, but also the war in Ukraine.

“Russia supplies about 40% of the whitefish that comes into the UK… and the government has put a tariff on that, forcing us to go elsewhere and driving prices up.”

The company ships its cod and haddock directly from a fishing business in Iceland, rather than buying it through wholesalers, he explained.

“We had to implement five price increases over the past year to offset the cost increases coming into us.

“We’ve had to raise our prices by about 14% because the cost increases from our suppliers are as much as 40% higher across the business.”

Cooking oil was up by 75%, while potatoes were heading upwards of £400 per tonne due to increased fertiliser costs and the effects of the hot summer last year, he said.

James Lipscombe said another price rise for his customers was on the way in April as a looming hike in the minimum wage means the business was facing having to find an additional £250,000. And if he had to agree a new energy deal for the business, it would add a further £1m to his costs at current prices.

On the prospect of customer costs continuing to rise, he said: “I think [they] will do.

“It still represents very good value for money. We’re still serving the same customers in terms of amount. The price point has damaged fish demand, but we’re still serving.

“Fish and chips has a very strong future, but we have to work hard to keep customers coming into our shops.

“A stabilisation of prices, around these levels, is ahead, but we haven’t seen the peak quite yet.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.

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