Rockfish launches range of canned British fish as restaurant expansion continues
The celebrity chef behind the Rockfish seafood restaurant chain in South Devon has launched the world’s first range of canned seafood caught in Britain.
Mitch Tonks has invested around £ 200,000 in the pioneering foreclosure project with the aim of finding a wider market for seafood caught off the south coast and landed in Brixham.
The range, which has already attracted orders worldwide, includes Lyme Bay mussels, mackerel, Brixham cuttlefish and Mounts Bay sardines packaged in bold and bright designs created by Mitch’s wife, Penny. .
This is the first range in Britain that is fished direct from fishermen, including Rockfish’s own boat – The Rockfisher.
Canning seafood ensures that all the catch is consumed, reducing waste and increasing value for fishermen.
Mitch, who has also rekindled interest in Devon crab via the South Devon Crabfest, said: “The idea came about to have some space during the lockdown, which I usually don’t have at day-to-day.
“I’ve always been fascinated by canned seafood, the incredible products from Portugal and Spain that we just don’t have here. We have canned sardines, tuna, and salmon, but nothing like the range you see on the mainland, so I started to think about how I go about it.
Mitch explained that he wanted to set up his own cannery to process the fish entering the port, but soon realized that at the national level, there are no artisanal skills to canning seafood.
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Instead, he sends the seafood from Brixham to be prepared and canned in Spain.
He said: “It’s a bit like charcuterie 20 years ago, nobody knew how to make it here but that has changed and I’m sure in the future we can do it here.
“But in the coastal communities in Spain, the whole community supports the fishing industry and they are all involved in the preservation of the catch, it is part of the culture.”
The range is the latest spin-out from the Rockfish brand which also launched home seafood at the height of the pandemic. The service is slated to be extended in January, which Mitch says will “revolutionize” the way people prepare and cook seafood at home.
And plans to expand the chain of eight restaurants that were in place before the pandemic continue with new restaurants planned in Salcombe and Sidmouth in the spring of 2022.
Mitch said demand has returned with customers eager to dine at the restaurant.
He said: “The response since the reopening has been overwhelming. People appreciate more the experience of having someone cook and serve your meal and clean the housework afterward – it has to be one of the greatest human pleasures to have another human being take care of everything that for you. Having someone else say “how are you, let me take care of this for you”, that’s when service becomes hospitality and that’s what people are looking for. .
The Rockfish group, which employs around 400 people, is chaired by Will Beckett, co-founder of Hawksmoor, with board members including Henry Dimbleby (ex-Leon & London Union), Steve Leadbeater (ex-Findus and 2 Sisters Food Groups) & John Barnes (ex-La Tasca and Harry Ramsden).
In July 2020, the company secured a loan of over £ 1million after losing all revenue in the first coronavirus lockdown.
The Exeter-headquartered Rockfish Group, which has Prime Minister Boris Johnson as its patron, has secured ‘seven-figure’ funding from HSBC under the coronavirus business disruption loan program ( CBILS) from the government.
He used the funding as working capital, allowing changes to restaurants to be made to comply with government guidelines, employing additional staff for dedicated anti-coronavirus roles and to support the business during a period of income. weaker.
Mitch said they used this time to reassess the business.
“We were looking at what was wrong and what was wrong with the business and what we could do better to take care of our people, our customers, the community and the environment. It was the magic of the lockdown, in a way, having the space and time to think about how we might change things. “
But like many hotel companies, it has been hit by a staff shortage since it reopened.
Mitch said, “I’m always looking for the icebergs that are coming in, so we made the decision to close the restaurants a few days a week because we didn’t want to fill the days with exhausted people. We did 80% of the service at 100% of the budget. It was really interesting and we retained all of our staff.
“We have to accept that the staff shortage is not going to go away – we have emerging industries like warehousing and logistics and people are changing careers.
And companies need to think about what they can offer staff in order to recruit and retain staff.
He said: “People want to work for companies that have a purpose and clearly know why they exist. They don’t want to work for a company that has the sole purpose of making money for shareholders, they want to work for a company that works for BCorps, taking into account the environment and switching to green energy.
“The world changed in 2019 and we never look back, the pandemic has put us on a different path, thinking about what we really value and our environment. Businesses that don’t adapt to what’s going on around us won’t survive. “