For Allan Shillingford, owner of Shillingfords in Neath, Port Talbot, lockdown has proved an opportunity to try new ideas, catch up on jobs he’d put off and generally re-evaluate his business.
During the first few weeks when the shop remained closed, Allan spent a week ripping up the potato prep room, putting in new drainage and giving it a general overhaul – something he says he’s not sure when he would have got round to doing had the shop been open. When it did reopen, operating Wednesdays through to Saturdays only, Allan did away with telephone orders, switching to click and collect and delivery via an app.
“The change has been huge,” says Allan. “I wish we had done it sooner. We know exactly what we’re walking into each day, how much to prep and what to order.
“When we first reopened we had a much smaller menu with fewer slots available and as we got to grips with the system we opened up more slots and gradually added more items to the menu. The average spend per head now is much higher and we’ve been selling things that I never used to sell much of in the shop – seafood baskets, we’ve sold loads of those, and burgers, the amount of burgers we’re selling is incredible. I think people come into the shop to buy what they always buy, whereas when the menu is there and customers are scrolling down they see that you sell this and that and they’ll add things they wouldn’t have had they walked into your shop.”
There have been plenty of other changes for the good of the business too – food is now packed in cardboard boxes rather than paper to reduce the number of touchpoints for staff, and the shop is no longer open for breakfast, giving Allan valuable family time back. Another time-saver has come in the form of a Vito 80 oil filtration system, which Allan invested in during lockdown.
Allan comments: “We’ve got an old P&T range which doesn’t have any built-in filtration so we were skimming as we went along and then filtering using a standalone machine. It was always such a labour-intensive process at the end of the night. Not only did we want to reduce that down but we also wanted to improve our oil management. We’re always striving to improve on what we do and to work to best practice.”
With the Vito, it’s a quick skim of the oil before dropping the filter unit into the pan. “It literally takes about five minutes to filter each pan,” explains Allan. “It’s that quick and we can do it even while the oil is hot – there’s no need to wait for the pans to cool – so we can do it as we go, rather than it being another job to do at the end of the night.”
Using the Vito 80 in conjunction with Vito’s Oil Tester, Allan knows exactly when it’s time to filter the oil. “It’s really improved our oil management, the oil is so clean now as all the tiny micro particles of carbon are removed,” he says. “We’ve actually had comments from our customers to say how much nicer the chips are. It’s no coincidence!”