Case study - Susan Ord, Land & Sea Fish & Chip Shop

Land &sea 180210In a sector known for tradition, Susan Ord stands out as an unusual person to be an innovator in the world of fish and chips. Having a fish allergy since birth, Susan has never actually been able to eat the very dish she grew up with. Her father built the family fish and chip shop in Polmont, Stirlingshire, and she grew up with the business from Primary School, though only ate the deep-fried pizza.

In a sector known for tradition, Susan Ord stands out as an unusual person to be an innovator in the world of fish and chips. Having a fish allergy since birth, Susan has never actually been able to eat the very dish she grew up with. Her father built the family fish and chip shop in Polmont, Stirlingshire, and she grew up with the business from Primary School, though only ate the deep-fried pizza.

She started working in the shop when she was old enough, working her way from serving at the counter all the way up to frying. "I never thought it would be possible given I have a fish allergy, but I loved frying and serving up fish and chips that people enjoyed." After finishing her higher education, Susan took over the business in 1995. She's now been in the business for 25 years, over which time she has seen enormous changes in the landscape of fish and chips. "It was very rare to see a woman frier let alone a business owner, I only knew of one other lady who owned a very successful fish & chip shop in Yorkshire.  I've seen Fish Frying being recognised as a true skill with the likes of Young Fish Frier of the Year as part of the National Fish & Chip Awards."

Throughout this time, Susan has been tireless in her quest to 'keep fish and chips on the menu' and she's seized on new and developing markets to do so. When a coeliac friend mentioned how much they'd love to be able to eat fish and chips, Susan's experience of living with a fish allergy inspired her to create a gluten-free menu.

Despite the enormous challenge, as no suppliers had any gluten-free batter, Susan was undeterred. In 2004 Susan launched the first ever dedicated gluten & wheat-free Fish & Chip Day in February 2004, as well as a line of gluten-free fish and chip products. "[The seafood industry] makes you responsible for your ingredients whether it be the sustainability of the fish or farming (potatoes). You can be creative and promote change (getting customers to try different seafood), you can also be a key player in your local community and local charities."

We asked Susan some questions about women in the seafood industry, and her experiences throughout her career.

1. Do you know of any other women who work in a similar role to you, and if not, do you think there is a reason for this?
All of our Friers are woman, not by default but they just seem to take to it naturally.
2. Did you ever have any doubts or fears about entering this industry and do you feel it is an industry that is adaptable and open to change?
None at all, this was my life's degree.  The industry has to be adaptable and open to change otherwise we won't have an industry.
3. What are the biggest challenges of working in the seafood industry from a personal and professional point of view?
Knowledge and being able to educate our customers to open their palate to other species of seafood.  We would love to expand choice and more variety of seafood to ease our oceans resources but our customers are very traditional in their preference.
4. What advice would you have for women who were thinking of a career in this industry?
Why not, be the best you can be at everything and whatever you do
5. Finally, in reference to the the term 'fishermen' - do you think we need a gender-neutral term for fishermen? I think the industry has more important issues to deal with.  It's not something that bothers me personally or I have even given any thought too.  Will it really make any difference to anything if we change it, will people adopt it???

Owner/Manager of the Land & Sea Fish & Chip shop and an entrepreneuer.