The Fish & Chip shop rules

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There’s a lot of talk in Australia about what makes a good Fish & Chip shop. It just so happens I know the answer to this question, and based upon this tweet by Heath, it has become clear I must share my rules right here.

Fish & Chip Shop rules:

  1. Cannot sell other food items which traditionally live outside of the Fish & Chip ecosystem. Namely pizza and kababs.
  2. Cannot be attached to another retail outlet such as a Milk bar. Must operate single business operation.
  3. Must have fish tiles on the wall.
  4. Must have wall poster of local fish population.
  5. Must wrap Fish & Chips in paper. Boxes are an unacceptable packaging material.
  6. Must not provide tomato sauce. Only salt and vinegar. Tomato sauce you have at home or go without. It’s just the way it is.
  7. Must sell pickled onions in a plastic tub on the counter, with the price written in a marker pen on the side.
  8. Must have traditional retro cans of beverage for sale in the drinks fridge such as Creamy Soda and Passiona.
  9. Drinks fridge must have a sign which says: “Please make selection before opening door”.
  10. Must make hamburgers and include a hamburger with the lot which has the options of beetroot, egg and pineapple.
  11. Hamburgers must be built on the grill while they cook by an expert burger cook.
  12. Must be run by hard working immigrant Greek family – the inventors & stalwarts of the local Australian fish & chip shop tradition.
  13. Must have home made chips from own potatoes. Frozen chips from bag are unacceptable.
  14. Must make potato cakes in house and dip in batter, just prior to dropping in deep fryer.
  15. Must provide both fired and steamed dim sims. These of course, must come from the frozen bag variety.
  16. Pricing board must be above the cooking fryers with prices written in chalk to allow for inevitable price inflation.
  17. Must have retro 1980’s arcade machine with a single game such as Galaga or Pacman.
  18. Must claim to be ‘local fish supplier’ of some random restaurant or pub in the local area.
  19. Must be located in working class area, preferably in the Western Suburbs.
  20. Should not be in obvious seaside location and counter intuitively be far away from waterway or estuary.
  21. Must be closed on Mondays.
  22. Must only be staffed by family members.
  23. Must have wide multi coloured plastic strip at door entry – to keep flies out.
  24. Must have cabinet at the front of the store window to display the ‘fresh’ fish.
  25. Must have semi inappropriate Chiko Roll poster on wall.
  26. Must sell ‘apple turnover’ oily apple pie with thick pastry.
  27. Must sell banana and pineapple fritters.
  28. Must wrap non-fried items in separate paper.
  29. Must use metallic industrial sized salt shaker to deeply cover chips in salt.
  30. Insert your rule here…. 

So why am I telling you this here on Startup Blog? Because sometimes the real innovation is about having the presence of mind to maintain a tradition in the face of change. While fish & chips might not be a thing where you live, I’m sure there is some kind of equivalent food or retail outlet. When change is the order of the day we can become worth talking about when we don’t change, or even bring back things of value which got lost along the way.

Leadership ironically, is sometimes about being a stalwart of the past.


  1. Sam Sabey · October 29, 2013

    + cooked in animal fat

  2. tommy mccubbin · October 29, 2013

    – chicken salt by request only.
    – minimum chips is always enormous.

    • Steve Sammartino · October 29, 2013

      Two very good additions Tommy – nice work.

    • Where did this chicken salt phenomenon come from? One day all is well with the world, next it is all chicken salt, unless you are quick enough to stop them throwing this foreign substance all over your traditional Friday night fish & chips.

      Is there a world shortage of traditional salt?

  3. Peter Cain · October 29, 2013

    must have a copy of the Herald Sun on the counter to ‘read’ whilst waiting..

  4. Anne Daniels · October 29, 2013

    Must always ask if you want salt. As if……. And must use proper potato cakes from real pototo slices and not pre battered.

    • Steve Sammartino · October 29, 2013

      Yes – potato cakes must be made in house from scratch and cut out of giant potatoes.

  5. Dave(e/id) Payne · October 29, 2013

    Decades ago it was conceivable that one person might occasionally want MORE than the minimum chips;- even if they ordered something else. The ridiculously big minimum is only a recent tradition, like plain paper wrapping. I assume the fish&chippy gets a kickback from the seagulls.

  6. Dave(e/id) Payne · October 29, 2013

    What about a dripping air-conditioner over the door, or is that just Milkbars?

    • Steve Sammartino · October 29, 2013

      I’m liking the dripping air conditioning… Nice addition.

  7. Dave(e/id) Payne · October 29, 2013

    Before air-con they used to run water down the windows, but I only saw that at the National Gallery of Victoria.

  8. Dave(e/id) Payne · October 29, 2013

    Rule #20 deintensifies the term “Local” in Rule #4

    Local meaning LESS distant.

    Floor should be concrete partly covered in linoleum tiles. Laminex tables should be piled with old magazines & brochures for drive-Inns or Cinemas & fund-raising raffles, school fairs etc.

  9. Dave(e/id) Payne · October 29, 2013

    Perhaps commentators could nominate any outstanding contemporary examples so younger people can be culturally enriched by them.
    (So far I don’t recall any).

  10. Steve · October 30, 2013

    This is singularly the most important blog post I have, and will, read this year. Kudos Mr S.

  11. David Brim, Tomcar Australia · October 30, 2013

    Can’t leave out home-made tartar sauce – with real mayo, capers, onions, parsley and lemon. None of this Master Foods sauce bull crap…

    It’s interesting reading your take on an Aussie Fish & Chip shop. Being a Londoner I’m familiar to most except the rules about: Creamy Soda and Passiona (beer & lemonade in London), hamburgers (just fish & chips please), immigrant Greek family (local east end family), potato cakes (don’t exist), dim sims (don’t exist), 1980′s arcade machine (in and out, no hanging about), multi coloured plastic strip (you what? flies?), and Chiko Roll poster (what’s a Chiko Roll?!).

  12. LaunchBox · October 31, 2013

    Hi Steve,

    I have a recent start up selling boxes each week, and want to honestly sincerely organically grow LaunchBox.

    Putting on my bravest hat, I ask to which boxes you are referring in point 5? Solely referring to freshly cooked food or is this a general rule about all boxes.

    Hope you enjoyed your Hub Melbourne event.

    Kind regards, Amy Howe BDM

    • Steve Sammartino · October 31, 2013

      Hey Amy, I just don’t like it when fish & Chips come in a box (It’s a personal Steve Sammartino thing) but I believe that this food should be sold in wrapped paper.

      • Tradition dictates that they must be wrapped in either newspaper or white butchers paper (now there is something else to explain to young people) with a piece of greaseproof paper in the middle. Takes me back!

  13. ray hines · April 20, 2014

    u know how fish shops would all jack up their prices in unison, like it came from the fish and chip business council or something, I would love to have a table that shows all those price hikes for the standard items, going back to say 1960 (my dob) – it would be a great indicator of how we have suffered from inflation – i’m from Melbourne.

  14. troy · November 24, 2014

    when you order a works hamburger you let the people know what you want and dont want not cheese is extra or crap like that sorry im from nsw living in qld they be weird up here

  15. ed · February 11, 2015

    I loved this. In Sydney I find fish and chips is pretending to be gourmet in price and presentation but sadly not in taste. Wrapped in paper I 100 percent agree.

  16. Andrew · August 9

    This set of rules needs to be printed off and put on the wall of every fish & chip shop in Victoria, and strictly adhered to. Went to my local fish & chip shop asked for $8.00 chips, still not enough for 4 people. Leave the boxes for the American multi national

  17. Kent Claffey · August 19

    Deep fried kabana.
    Lemon wedge in automatically no asking.
    And if you put processed seafood stick in fisherman’s well lets just say don’t.

  18. cateringbychefs · November 21

    Fish & Chips are my favourite. Just loved it. Cheers!

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