Popular Inverness fish and chip shop batters opposition to land prestigious UK award
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An Inverness fish and chip shop is toasting sizzling success in a prestigious national industry award.
McLeod’s Fish & Chips, of Grant Street, was named by leading trade publication Fry Magazine as one of the 50 best – from among more than 10,000 – in the UK.
The accolade thrilled owners David McLeod and Anne Marie Fraser, who have gone to great lengths to adapt the business model to keep supplying delicious dining to loyal customers during the pandemic.
Mr McLeod felt the award was a credit to his staff of nine and their excellence in customer service during challenging times.
Fry Magazine mounted an extensive search to find those chippers serving up the finest fish suppers amid a tough and challenging Covid year.
McLeod’s, the only chipper in the Highlands recognised, scored high in every category from quality of food and customer service, to social media presence and Covid-safe practices.
With Mr McLeod’s step-daughter Emma also part of the business, the family went to great lengths to adapt, and re-adapt, the business model as different lockdown rules were announced.
“The award is a credit to all the staff,” Mr McLeod said. “Like everybody else, we’ve faced our challenges, so to be named one of the best 50 UK is just fantastic.
“It’s an honour to be included in the list with so many other great chippers. Quality of food and service is something we have built our business on over the last five and a half years.
“The pandemic has been tough for everyone and we’ve really had to think on our feet. We are very lucky to have a great team behind us and fantastically patient customers who have usually had to wait outside in all weather conditions for their fish and chips.”
Judging took the form of a mystery dining visit, with shops marked on the over 40 detailed aspects of the complete experience from first order to fork.
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McLeod’s pride themselves on high ethical and environmental standards, with a mostly recyclable packaging and fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.
Fish is responsibly sourced in Peterhead, with the family firm's preferring fresh-landed, rather than frozen at sea fish.
Local food suppliers, such as Hastie & Dyce butchers of Inverness and William Hendry Potatoes of Elgin, are used while Highland Industrial Supplies provides the environmentally-friendly packaging.
Judges also looked at aspects of customer service, social media presence and Covid-safe practices.
McLeod’s mark came in at 98 per cent, just above the top 50 benchmark of 97 per cent.
“It was different from the social media votes awards we’ve done in the past, given it was done by a mystery visit report,” Mr McLeod explained.
“They actually send you the detailed report and pictures, so you can see exactly where you’re excelling and where you might need a little bit of work.
“Luckily we had already put a click and collect service in place before the pandemic.
“We started deliveries and we’re finding that’s now a side of the business we have to maintain.
“My initial thoughts were to do it temporarily during the pandemic, because we’re just a small shop even though demand can be huge at times.
“It is a big part of the business now, though, and we’ll carry it on.”
The Merkinch chipper’s next target is to enter the National Fish and Chip Awards, run by the seafood industry’s public body Seafish, but cancelled 2020 and 2021.
Fry Magazine’s competition organiser Reece Head said: “Without doubt, the last 12 months have been tough for fish and chip takeaways and many will not have dealt with this level of crisis management before.
“Allowed to stay open during the pandemic, there was a lot they had to implement in a very short space of time to operate in a Covid safe manner.
“But they did, and they kept the nation fed including our elderly and vulnerable, those shielding and our key workers.
“This year’s judging criteria took into account these changes and we’re delighted to acknowledge that, despite the difficulties and added pressure, McLeod’s never let standards drop.”