An Interview with General Manager, Andrew Wilkinson
What’s your role at Trenchers?
I’m the General Manager of Trenchers which means I oversee everything on a day to day basis, ranging from recruitment, staff training, maintaining service levels, ordering and working with suppliers and ensuring all food and drink is of the highest quality. I’ve been here 16 years and I love it more than ever, I genuinely look forward to coming to work every day.
How did you get involved in the business?
I came to Trenchers for my 6th birthday party right back in 1985 and I remember it vividly, I had the chocolate fudge cake for dessert and the recipe has remained the same for all of these years. I remember it being special because my family had just moved to Whitby and it was a chance to invite my new Airy Hill School friends to a party and get to know them, my own children now also go to that same school and we recently welcomed the Airy Hill year 2 class for a school trip to Trenchers, it’s nice to see it come full circle.
My Dad was Trenchers bank manager in the 80’s too so we would often have meals here and years later, my brother, James, got a job as a Table Assistant, as soon as I was 13 I began working too and by 17 I was on the range with my brother as my manager. From then, I worked my way up to General Manager. I’m grateful to have experienced so many parts of the business over the years and I think it really helps me to do my job.
What makes Trenchers a special place to work?
Whitby itself and the people, it’s a brilliant place to live and work and we are one big family here, often literally. My wife, Sophie works as a waitress and many members of staff work with their relatives, we have three generations of one family all on shift quite often. That aspect really adds to the community atmosphere and we also have loads of customers that we have known for years with lots of them having worked at Trenchers themselves, or known someone who has. It’s not unusual for people to have their first job at Trenchers and still be enjoying working here 20 years later.
What’s your favourite dish on the menu?
My favourite is definitely the Seafood Salad, it’s really fresh and I just enjoy having so many different flavours on one plate at a time. From the seafood itself to the fruit and salad items, you get to eat things you wouldn’t have every day. Obviously, I love fish and chips too, my order is haddock and chips with some of our homemade mushy peas and tartar sauce.
Why do you think Trenchers has been so successful for so long?
Trenchers has been open since 1980 and to continue to have queues out of the door after all of that time is something we’re hugely proud of. It’s quite simple really, I think the success comes from first of all taking care of our employees and customers well before anything else, and then just keeping standards high and never getting lazy or letting them drop. We are very picky about the food we source and how it’s prepared with recipe’s being tried and tested. We have to be thorough and make sure that everything is done properly and when we need to, we adapt to changes whilst keeping the heart and soul of Trenchers alive.
What are your future goals for Trenchers?
It’s really important to me that we continue to be part of the community, we value our customers and the town that we call home, so giving back as much as we can is hugely important. We will continue to get involved in charities like The Fisherman’s Mission and support local causes like the U8’s Whitby Fisherman’s Football Club in the Scarborough League and the Whitby Regatta.
We’re also passionate about what some people call the ‘fish family’ and want to continue to be part of the fishing industry in Britain. We work very closely with Dennis Crooks Fish Merchants, who are a brilliant local supplier, to ensure that as much of the fish we serve as possible is MSC certified. We now only serve MSC certified cod and haddock and I want to continue to make positive changes forward in terms of sustainability.
Aside from the food, as I’ve said, the people at Trenchers are massively important. We’ve been focused on training young employees and giving them the tools they need to succeed. For example, we recently brought on a Professional Cookery apprentice, Kieron, who is going from strength to strength and promoted one of our Trainee’s, Nathan, to Assistant Manager.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the fish and chip industry in the past 10 years?
The biggest change has definitely been in how we source fish. It is important that as an industry we are committed to sustainability and ensure that we all do our bit. That’s something we focus on a lot and we see our contemporaries doing too.
What’s the best business decision you’ve made in the last 12 months?
The best decision has been to bring on apprentices and train younger staff through the Trenchers management scheme. We are seeing some real talent so that not only makes us really happy but it also gives me time to work on other things during the working day. Knowing that I can trust them to manage certain things means I can work on more creative ideas for Trenchers like promotions, offers and new ideas, we really are lucky to work here and the passion everyone has, from employees to regulars and tourists is incredible