Coffs Fishing Co-Op, From the Ocean to the Plate

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The Co-operative has been operating on the foreshores of Coffs Harbour since the early 1950s and has occupied its current location since 1979. The Co-operative is owned by approximately 50 local fishermen and employs almost another 50 employees; so, about 100 local families depend on the Co-op’s ongoing vitality. FOCUS met with the new General Manager, Andrew Mitchell, to find out about the changes and plans for the future.

Since taking over the reins at the Coffs Harbour Fishing Co-op, what are some of the things you have changed and improved?

I’ve only been at the Co-op since the start of the year. So, my impact thus far has been marginal.

My goal is to lead the Co-op into a more dynamic and thriving business – one that generates more benefits for the local community. There are a lot opportunities that we should be pursuing, from local direct sales, to more wholesaling regionally and nationally, to exporting internationally. Our greater success will translate into economic benefits for Coffs Harbour.

I’ve started to work on these aspects, plus improving the two retail businesses that we operate: the takeaway fish and chips store, and the fresh seafood retail store. My primary focus in rethinking both has been the customers’ experience.

For the takeaway side, this has meant a revamp of our menu. Our new menu appeals to everyone, from inexpensive fish and chips starting at only $7 for the kids, to whatever fish you fancy cooked just how you’d like it. Based on customer feedback, we changed our chips to the very best on the market, using a higher quality oil. We also improved our ice cream to include premium scoops at an affordable price – perfect for a hot day on the jetty. Finally, we have focused on helping our front end staff, giving a premium level of customer service, including name tags and the like. Our goal is to offer the best fish and chips in Australia.

On the fresh seafood retail side we have the best seafood in Coffs Harbour, but locals are hesitant to come down at peak times due to crowds and parking. Many restaurants told us they’d like to order from us, but simply weren’t able to pick it up. So, the natural solution is a delivery service through our website. Local people and businesses will now be able to easily order the best seafood online and have it delivered straight to their door.

We also added fishing tackle to our bait offering. Many people come down to the jetty to fish, because it’s a great spot and a lot of fun for the family. So, we can now help people do this.

Tell us about the process of from the ocean to the plate.

Going from the ocean to the plate is not just a marketing gimmick for the Coop. Our fishermen literally haul their produce off their boats at the back and sell it out the front.

Our ultimate goal here is to barcode every fish individually, so our customers can see the full history of how it got to their plate.

With the launch of your new look and branding, how will this help to improve the way people can learn about your services and products?

Our new look and branding will show that the Co-operative means good service and high quality. The branding embraces our vintage Australian history with style.

This is a working harbour with real fishermen, who in fact own the Co-operative itself. You can’t get much closer to authentic than that, and our new brand reflects this.

Tell us about your online shopping and home delivery service.

The online shopping and home delivery brings our services into the 21st Century. You will still get premium service and seafood, but it will be far more convenient.

What makes the Fishing Co-op different from other national companies in the local area?

The Fishing Co-op is owned by local fishermen. It means that ALL our profits are redistributed locally. Other national companies in the area provide employment, but how many of them put every penny they earn back into the local community? We also do everything we can to use local vendors.

What is the best advice you can give to a prospective customer?

Delivery is convenient, but we are located in one of the most beautiful locations in Coffs Harbour. Come down for a feed during the week and enjoy the view!

Do you offer solutions for budgets of different sizes?

Yes, the takeaway’s new menu focuses on providing for a large range of budgets and tastes. Our goal is to be able to serve a family affordably and also cater to someone who wants a particular piece of fish cooked just so.

What are your plans for the future of the Coffs Harbour Fishing Co-op?

So far I have focused on the Co-op’s retail businesses, its takeaway and fresh seafood retail operations. Going forward, I want to ensure we continue to thrive as a Co-operative that also serves our members (and future members) well. This needs to be an attractive organisation that fishermen want to join and support.

This will involve building a premium brand. Educating our customers on our “ocean to the plate” will be crucial to this. The Co-operative has a bright future ahead and many opportunities to seize.

Thanks Andrew.

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