This month, I want to tell you a bit more about one of my other businesses, Eric’s Fish and Chips. It’s a little embarrassing that they are all named after me, but my ego isn’t that big, honestly; it was a joint decision!

How did it all begin? We opened the chip shop at Drove Orchards in Thornham on April 1st 2015, so we’re coming up to our 7th birthday. We felt the coast was lacking classic fish & chips, we thought there was a gap in the market for a different kind of family friendly casual dining. There are lots of fantastic pubs along the coast, but they’re all quite similar, and the idea appealed of doing something in complete contrast with what I was offering at the hotel – my take on ‘fine dining’.

I wanted to make classic fish & chips, but using the best ingredients and freshly preparing as much as possible. We put local beer in our batter and we make our curry sauce from scratch, instead of using powdered mixes which is the norm. I hoped customers would be willing to pay 10-15% more to get that better quality – and they did! It’s been an amazing seven years, and I’m proud of what we have achieved. The restaurant and takeaway has got busier every year and it’s become something of a North Norfolk destination. Drove Orchards has grown with us – there are some great independent shops and restaurants there, and even when it’s busy it manages to keep its relaxed friendly vibe.

Almost three years ago we decided to open a couple more fish & chip shops, one in Holt and one in St Ives, Cambridgeshire. Our timing wasn’t perfect. Brexit came into effect in January 2020 and then the dreaded pandemic hit, but I’m pleased to say we have weathered the storm and both shops are now growing steadily. Having multiple sites has been challenging at times, but it’s enabled us to grow our team and bring some great characters into the business. Teresa (Holt) and Alan (St Ives) have managed the restaurants since they opened, and they have both been brilliant. They have that magic ingredient of caring about the business as if it were their own, and they’ve taken challenges (there have been plenty of them!) in their stride. I try to give them both some freedom to run the shops as they wish because while I want to maintain consistency, I don’t want Eric’s Fish and Chips to feel like a soul-less group. I think it’s worked really well. Each restaurant has its own feel and has settled into its local community.

A lot of people ask if I’m planning any more. We’re not actively looking to grow at the moment, but I’m not too good at standing still… so never say never!