Taking his first Friday night off in 14 years to attend the Westpac Rotorua Business Excellence Awards paid off for Oppies Fish and Chips owner Michael Huang.



In their first year in the awards, Huang and his team won the Pukeroa Oruawhata Holdings Retail Business category.



"We were one of the last awards of the night and the guys had closed up, but were still at the shop waiting to hear.



"They were so excited. We have a lot of young people on staff and they have a lot of energy."

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Taking a Friday night off to go to the ceremony would not have happened 14 years ago when Huang and his wife Winnie Liu bought the Fenton St takeaway.



"Friday is always one of our busiest nights and, at the start, it was just me and my wife, with [my brother-in-law] James [Liu] helping out."



But he has invested heavily in the business, recently expanding into larger premises, and he now employs 10 people in addition to family members.



"I have a good team. They have done a very good job and I am very proud." The team and its efforts to combine good quality food with great customer service paid off a second time when Oppies won the national title in The Chip Group's Best Chip Shop competition a couple of weeks ago.



And they have been rewarded for these two successes with bonuses and an inhouse awards ceremony for staff, including a prize of a return trip to China.



Oppies has won the Bay of Plenty/Waikato/Hawke's Bay regional Best Chip Shop title a number of times and Huang said these wins had been instrumental in increasing sales and inspired him to aim for the national title.



"Now it is very important for us to keep doing better.



"When you are at the top, the only way to go is down and everybody else will be trying to take our place.



"We have to keep improving to stay at the top."



Although he knew about the Rotorua Chamber of Commerce annual awards, he did not think of entering until he received a letter saying Oppies had been put forward during the nomination phase.



Despite the recession, business has continued to increase and Huang puts this down to following industry guidelines and educating staff to produce the healthiest, best quality takeaways he can and provide top service.



"New Zealanders love their fish and chips and we are trying to provide the healthiest possible option for them.



"There were a few complaints when we first started this two years ago, because buying the best quality food put prices up, but most people are prepared to pay a little bit more for healthier food and we are still competitively priced."



The focus on healthy options also extends to Oppies' Chinese meals, which are all MSG-free.



Huang said the greatest barrier to growth for the business had been parking and he has plans for a 13-space parking area behind the shop to address this.