Struggling fish and chips shop booming after patron's post goes viral
Published Thursday, August 25, 2016 9:52AM EDT
Business is now booming at a once-struggling fish and chips shop in Alberta after a first-time customer’s post promoting the restaurant went viral over social media.
Until recently, customers were so few and far between at Whitbie’s Fish and Chips shop in Lethbridge, owner John McMillan couldn’t afford to pay himself a salary.
But, the former master electrician says he had always dreamed about opening a fish and chips restaurant since he was a child growing up in Scotland. He’s at work daily from 6:30 a.m. to after 8 p.m. “It’s something you have to love doing and I love doing it,” McMillan told CTV News.
But business has been tough. He says a poor location and expensive marketing has left him unable to pay himself a salary.
That all changed when a Facebook post from first-time customer Colin Ross went viral on Facebook.
Ross was passing by Whitbie’s last week when he decided to check out the menu.
“I’ve lived on the west side for years, and I’ve never ever stopped here,” Ross said. “I must have read that sign how many times.
“I was like, ‘I gotta go check that place out.’”
Ross noticed McMillan sitting on a chair just waiting for customers. After ordering the halibut special and hearing McMillan’s plight, Ross knew he wanted to help.
He posted about his experience on Facebook and encouraged people to eat at Whitbie’s.
In the post, Ross called Whitbie’s a clean establishment with good food, and described McMillan as “a real classy stand up guy.
“So I ask everyone in Lethbridge to share this and go support this hard working gentleman he deserves it,” Ross wrote.
Within hours, the post had been shared thousands of times.
The next business day, McMillan was flooded with customers and had a steady lineup from the time that he opened until well after closing.
“It was worse than swamped,” McMillan said with a chuckle. “It was so good though.”
Customer Spencer Shields was happy to eat there.
“Without our support, they’re gone,” Shields told CTV Lethbridge. “And you can’t have that when you have quality product and foods.”
Another customer, Cory DeGroot said he knows what it’s like to be a small-business owner in the city. His parents own a candy store in the downtown area.
“Lethbridge thrives off of small businesses,” DeGroot said. “And we all know that, it’s a very close-knit community.”
Ross said he’s happy to see Lethbridge residents stepping up to help out.
“This place is on the map, there’s no doubt,” Ross said of Whitbie’s.
McMillan has had to hire another chef to help with the boost in business, and he’s hopeful that the support from the community will continue.
“It’s amazing, Lethbridge is the best place in the world to live.”
With a report by CTV Lethbridge’s Kaella Carr