A natural prawn winner

Olley'sBy Agatha Georgiou

Olley’s Fish Experience, a small family-run fish and chip shop in Herne Hill, South London is a perfect example of a restaurant that wanted to change the way it operated – to help to protect our seas – and won!

With a clear vision, sheer determination and a willingness to learn, owner Harry Niazi has ensured his initial gamble has been a sustainable success!

As soon as Harry began to work with Matthew Couchman, qualified fisheries scientist and Sales Manager at Southbank Fresh Fish (SRA Approved Supplier) he started to perfect his sustainable seafood sourcing and purchasing policies. This has seen numerous changes to the menu at Olley’s, including the removal of all species on the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) fish to avoid list. However, I wanted to focus on just one of their changes to demonstrate results in a bit more detail.

Historically, Harry used to serve cheap, mass-produced tiger prawns from Bangladesh. He freely admits now: “They were not the greatest product and quite bland Prawnstasting, but we were selling quite a lot”. With the guidance of his fish supplier, he has since swapped these for wild Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Spencer Gulf king prawns. However, this switch cost Harry 55p more per prawn. How could he justify this price increase?

A blind test soon settled any apprehensions going forward. The more expensive, ethically sourced option was the clear winner. Harry says: “We have a duty to ourselves, to stay in business and to our customers, to give them an exceptional product which is sustainable.”

His customers couldn’t be happier – demand for the new prawns has tripled – and any apprehension about the increased price dissipated. In fact, it’s fair to say the gamble has paid off. The old prawn starter used to sell at £4.50 and has since increased to £9.50 (for the same portion size). By word of mouth and some promotions, people fell in love with the product and wanted more. Customers were willing to pay extra for a good quality, tasty and, most importantly, sustainable product.

Harry is committed to running a sustainable business and to that end says he will only sell products with a future, from plentiful stocks. Now all species sold are listed in the MCS fish to eat list – a real example to us all.

With over 20 different species on his menu, his sourcing is an ongoing educational process for him, his staff and customers. Conveying correct information to your diner is as important as the change in purchasing mentality.

Matthew from Southbank has been there every step of the way to support Harry. “Small menu changes for the better are easy to implement. With a small investment in price one can obtain a much improved quality and certified product, there are many choices out there.”

He urges everyone to challenge their supplier. “Request a list of certified products – remember if they offer organic, Freedom Foods or Aquaculture Stewardship Council, your supplier requires their own accreditation for each offer, most don’t have any. Insist you have a copy. When you see products that interest you request the product specifications and certification documents. Suppliers should have these to hand or will have no problem obtaining them if the offer is honest. Don’t buy until you see the evidence otherwise you could be selling products that have a negative impact on the environment. Take it into your own hands, no one else will do it for you!”

Olley’s Fish Experience has had MSC accreditation for three years now and is a fabulous example of what can be achieved by a restaurant with a clear vision, determination and most importantly willingness to learn through guidance and education of one of our valued SRA Approved Suppliers.

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