Special Focus: French Fries


Few items are as universal to restaurant menus as french fries. But few
categories present as many options to purchasers. Major manufacturers
offer up to 200 skus of frozen fries. How to choose the right potato
for your operation—a fry that pleases fussy customers, differentiates
your concept and works with your traffic flow?


“There’s a cut to meet every operational need,” says Matt Petersen,
marketing manager for J.R. Simplot Company. While a QSR might want a
shoestring fry that cooks up quickly, a buffet concept is looking for a
thick wedge with a longer hold time and a casual steakhouse, a
batter-coated potato that can be sprinkled with its proprietary
seasoning, he adds.


Jay Wallsweer, brand manager at McCain’s, another major supplier of
fries, sees a trend toward specialty products. “Sweet potato fries are
the rising star,” he claims, “and specialty cuts [like lattices or
loops] and signature seasonings are also going strong. “ These
alternatives are especially appealing to casual dining, where more than
one french fry choice is becoming necessary to stay competitive and
increase profits. “Operators are branching out to offer a second option
besides traditional straight-cut fries,” notes Wallsweer.


That said, straight-cut fries—either regular or crinkle cut—are the top
foodservice buy. Petersen points out three characteristics that
determine quality and affect customer response: length, texture and
color. “Length is very important as it helps determine yield,” he
explains. “You need fewer long pieces to fill up a container or cover
the plate; a top quality product has more long pieces while a
low-quality one is made up of shorter pieces.” Wallsweer agrees,
adding, “if it takes fewer fries to make a serving, there’s more profit
for the operator. And long pieces provide more perceived value for the
customer.” As far as texture goes, limp and soggy are out—a cooked
french fry should be crisp on the outside with a baked potato-texture
inside. And a consistent golden color is the benchmark; light for
uncooked fries and a deeper gold for cooked potatoes.


The quality of the finished product is impacted by delivery and
handling as well. “Treat a case of french fries like a case of eggs,”
Petersen advises. “If you drop the case, the long pieces break up and
your yield goes out the door.” Inspect the case, too, to make sue
there’s no damage or leakage. And make sure the fries don’t clump
together in their bags—they should be free flowing without any ice
crystals.


Now that trans-fat-free fries are an industry standard, sodium has
moved to the forefront as a health issue. The major manufacturers are
reformulating some products to reduce sodium and taking other
health-oriented initiatives. “We’re also looking at bakeability—how
fries perform in the oven—so we can cut total fat,” adds Wallsweer.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
trail mix

We’ve added fueling stations in our units for our workers who didn’t have time to eat or just need a snack. We have areas set up with trail mix, crackers, cookies and water. It helps us avoid people feeling or getting ill, especially when we get closer to exam periods and student workers are studying and not taking the time to eat.

Ideas and Innovation
reusable coffee cup thermos

We were inspired by a book titled “Influence” to start a sustainable cup program called My Cup. All 15,000 new students receive a reusable cup with their name on it, which they can use at the dining halls. Personalizing helps them invest in the program and actually use it.

Menu Development
quinoa bowl

In a time of growing health consciousness, it might not be enough anymore for food to be merely filling. According to Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report , diners are looking for food with a function, such as those with high protein content, immunity-boosting properties, antioxidants, probiotics and more. The data suggests 63% of consumers see these foods as healthier than those without any specific nutritional function—and would be more likely to buy them.

But are those stated preferences translating on an operational level? There, the answer is less clear. Baby...

Ideas and Innovation
phone bed call sick

We make people call and directly talk to their boss or supervisor if they are reporting an absence for a shift. While it is more cumbersome, it is a conscious decision. We have adapted and implemented electronic methods to obtain efficiencies in just about every other functional area, except for electronic absence reporting systems. The direct supervisor can put more pressure on an employee to show up—especially those with some form of the “Super Bowl plague”—than any electronic system can.

FSD Resources