Fish and chip shops take a battering

Fish and chip shops are closed under the Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon
Fish and chip shops are closed under the Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon
It's a cherished tradition - the Friday fish and chip run - but right now the industry is taking a battering.

Lulu and her husband own Islington Fish and Chips in Christchurch.

She said thankfully their rent was cheap and it was just the two of them working in the shop, so they would be able to weather the shutdown.

"We're … enjoying the time to have a rest."

But she said the larger stores with more staff might not make it through.

"We have a friend and he's got quite a lot [of] people [who] work for him.

"[It's] going to be very hard for him."

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said in a statement that one in five hospitality businesses would close permanently because of the coronavirus pandemic, with half likely to be wiped out in the tourist hotspots.

Bidois said her understanding was that takeaway joints could operate under level three. She said talks were underway with officials about what exactly the rules would be for the hospitality sector when the country moved out of the alert level-four lockdown.

The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment said in a statement that decisions about how the country exited the lockdown had not been finalised yet.

New Zealand produces 500 million kilograms of potatoes each year and half of that ends up as frozen chips with the vast majority being sold to takeaway shops and restaurants.

Potatoes New Zealand chief executive Chris Claridge said people making do by whipping up their greasies at home had increased its supermarket sales, but that was nowhere near enough.

''That hasn't made up for a drop in demand from the hospitality sector in the food service sector, which has essentially gone to zero.''

Claridge said without the chip shops and restaurants, growers would have to look at cutting back planting which could hurt the industry long-term.

Right now it is unclear what the rules are for fish and chip shops under level-three restrictions.

Claridge said he wanted the chippers to be allowed to reopen as soon as the alert level drops.

"Because that allows people … to get access to hot chips in your suburban, local fish and chip shop.

"It's local, it's easy walking distance, they can take orders by phone. Having those sorts of outlets available for the industry is crucial for our long-term function."

The $1.8 billion-a-year seafood export industry has also taken a massive hit with disruptions to international trade.

A closed fish and chip shop during the Covid-19 alert level four lockdown. Photo: RNZ / Nate...
A closed fish and chip shop during the Covid-19 alert level four lockdown. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon
Seafood NZ chief executive Jeremy Helson said demand for seafood here had dropped significantly as well.

"I can't put a figure on it at this stage but it's certainly pretty significant.

"Obviously, a lot of wholesalers that sell direct to the public have been hit by this … fish and chips and of course, the restaurant trade."

Local trusted journalism matters - now more than ever

As the Covid-19 pandemic brings the world into uncharted waters, Star Media journalists and photographers continue to report local stories that matter everyday - yours.

For more than 152 years our journalists have provided Cantabrians with local news that can be trusted. It’s more important now than ever to keep Cantabrians connected.

As our advertising has fallen during the pandemic, support from you our reader is crucial.

You can help us continue to provide local news you can trust simply by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter