Coronavirus: How one fish and chip shop is coping with lockdown
- Credit: Archant
Will Watson has run a fish and chip shop in north Norfolk for 14 years. During that time he has had to contend with the recession and a fire. But he says the lockdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak has been his biggest challenge. Reporter DAVID BALE spoke to him.
Will’s Plaice in East Runton was closed for one week during the lockdown, before Will Watson, who runs it, was persuaded to re-open on a part-time basis by hungry regulars.
He checked with the council’s environmental health team whether it was okay re-opening, and he is now offering local deliveries as well as call and collect, alongside his usual takeaways.
The shop is open to the public on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, from 5pm, and he’s there, from 12pm, during the week to take pre-orders.
Mr Watson, who has run the fish and chip shop since May 6, 2006, said: “The recession was hard enough and we had a fire in the shop one night, but we’ve had to recreate ourselves this time to survive.
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“It’s really testing everybody. But everybody’s been really kind and we’re hoping that a lot of people we are now helping, will remember us when this is all over.”
While he’s still receiving regular supplies of potatoes and fish, he now has to collect from Friars Pride as they have no delivery drivers. They are based at Rackheath, which is a 50-minute drive away.
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He added: “At this time of year we would normally be heaving as we are very tourist-based.
“We’re doing okay over the three days we’re open, but we would normally be open seven days a week at this time of year. We make about 100 deliveries over the three days we’re open, with 30 to 35 each day. We’ve got a couple of lads who deliver for us.
“Demand is high and the telephone is ringing almost non-stop with orders for both deliveries and collection. People are very grateful we are open and are getting good feedback from customers.
“When customers come on the three nights they keep the two-metre safe distancing rules and only one person is allowed in the shop at any one time. We also have a hand sanitiser inside the shop that people can use.”
Before the lockdown restrictions were introduced, Mr Watson welcomed many regulars through the door and he could catch up with holiday-makers year after year.
He added: “It gave a great sense of continuity. Some of the favourites on the menu are my famous home-made tartar sauce and home-made fish cakes.
“These are freshly made by myself and the fish cakes are made using smoked haddock, cod, salmon, red onions and capers and have proved to be extremely popular all year round.”
He plans to continue to provide his fish, chips, fish cakes, sausages, and pies to customers during the current crisis and, in the future, looks forward to business as usual.
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But when the East Runton shop became available, he didn’t hesitate to take it on.
Not only was it the type of business he’d been looking for, it was also the same shop he used to visit as a boy with his grandparents when they visited Norfolk.
He said: “The fish and chips were always very good from the East Runton shop when I was a boy and I like to think I’m keeping that quality going for customers now and into the foreseeable future.”
When he first opened the shop, the winter trade was all but non-existent.
But, before the coronavirus pandemic, he was open every weekend in the winter and in the summer, every day, often with queues down the street.
During his time, the name of the shop has changed from East Runton Fish and Chips to Will’s Plaice, and the shop and potato store have been completely refurbished.
He would like to thanks suppliers, Lambert’s Potatoes, Friar’s Pride, R & M Trading and Pilgrim Foods, customers, locals and holiday-makers, staff, past and present, and Bernie Parkin, who owns the premises,
For takeaways and deliveries, call him on 01263 519222.