Melbourne fish and chip shops face potato shortages

Some customers have left negative reviews online after the price hikes, she said.

“It’s a very, very difficult time. Some customers don’t give us a chance to explain what happened and it’s very sad because we can’t control anything, we’re just a small company.”

Fish and Chips by Tommy Ruff.

Fish and Chips by Tommy Ruff.

For some venues it was even worse. Sunshine Star Fish and Chips closed its shop for the entire last week because it couldn’t get enough chips.

John Stamoulis, a fish-and-chips veteran who owns the Tommy Ruff Fish Bar restaurants in Mordialloc, Elsternwick and Windsor, said he’s managed to maintain the supply of chips by signing a deal four months ago .

But the quality and size of the chips that are coming in — expensive and increasingly from overseas — are unpredictable, he said.


He said other fish and chip shop owners called him begging for replacement chips.

Stamoulis said he has avoided changing his prices and portion sizes but may be forced to act if the situation continues to deteriorate.

The pressure is compounded by skyrocketing fish prices, he said. Worst of all was the Melbourne-loved King George whiting, which he stopped selling after prices tripled.

“It’s crazy. As if fish wasn’t tough enough… You would never imagine running out of potatoes,” he said.

Hazem Hazouri, owner of Off The Pier in Williamstown, said sourcing quality chips and potato pies has become increasingly difficult and he never expected their costs to rise so sharply.

“I’ve been doing this for about 30 years and I’ve never come across it,” he said.

Off The Pier owner Hazem Hazouri cooks up fries at his Williamstown shop.

Off The Pier owner Hazem Hazouri cooks up fries at his Williamstown shop.Credit:Joe Armao

Hazouri had to start charging its customers about 5 percent more for fish last year.

But fish and chips are loved by families as budget-friendly fast food, which is why Hazouri has so far resisted raising chip prices — but he’s recently had to reduce portion sizes somewhat.

“We hope that things will return to normal over the next few months,” he said.

At the Bellarine, Barwon Heads Fish and Chips reduced its portion sizes for chips, explaining to customers that the new portions reflected the shortage.

Shaun Lindhe, spokesman for industry association AUSVEG, said Australia’s unusually wet weather last year has created difficult growing conditions for potato farmers.

Producers of processed potato varieties, such as those used for frozen crisps, are more affected than producers of fresh potatoes.

Lindhe expects normal supplies to resume over the next four months as the weather stabilizes. In addition, the drought has affected production in countries Australia imports from and increased potato shortages.

Shoppers have also been confronted with bare crisp shelves in supermarket freezers.

Coles introduced a limit of two frozen chip packets per transaction on Dec. 15, noting that stock levels would return to normal levels “in the coming months.” Woolworths is under supply pressure but has not introduced product restrictions.

The Morning Edition Newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here. Melbourne fish and chip shops face potato shortages

Callan Tansill

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