The market for fast food is highly competitive. Forecasts say that it will remain on a growth path and that the major fast food chains will continue to expand their number of outlets. Even in this tough marketplace the independent fish and chip shop can compete and thrive. Many operators can and do market their outlets strongly. Yet the key factor will always be the standard of the food. Statements like "people will travel miles for decent fish and chips" and "never buy fish and chips unless there's a queue" have never been more relevant.
As a range maker, Hewigo cannot dictate how fryers should fry but we do strive to provide ranges that are totally appropriate for that outlet and build in as much flexibility as we can. Rightly so operators are spirited in their defence of what goes in to the 'perfect chip' and there is no shortage of opinion.
Manufacturing in the UK with a British and Dutch heritage, we make both traditional and round pans. To be honest we have not seen any movement towards cooking with round pans and tend to sell them only as a replacement for those who are already experienced in using them. We were one of the first to introduce high efficiency ranges some ten years ago, the pros and cons of which have been discussed frequently in the trade press. The high efficiency traditional square/rectangular pan range is now our most popular.
A trend we have noticed is the increasing number of fryers who are basket frying or at least have the option on their ranges. Most ranges we sell have a basket rail and baskets provided as standard unless the customer specifically says no. To the advocates of this technique of frying the advantages are clear: The basket method allows par-frying of the chips and then cooking them to completion as ordered - important at quieter times. Even at busier periods the ability to have a number of baskets of chips cooking at different stages can give more customers that 'just cooked' taste. Some fryers have also commented that using the basket encourages them to chip the potato straight into the basket so uncooked chips are not stored for long periods. This again is an opportunity to improve the product.
Basket frying is not for everyone. However in almost every instance that we know when it has been suggested that an outlet should change to basket frying, most now would not cook any other way, despite the initial apprehension. Interestingly we have come across situations where, even in the same shop, when you might have a different fryer at lunchtime and in the evening, then one might basket fry and the other pan fry.
We all have to work harder for less these days – offer so much more to a discerning customer. Fish and chip shops, helped by the technological advances from range makers are more than holding their own. High efficiency has been the major advance over the last few years. Equally relatively less dramatic operating changes like a move to basket frying can often make a real difference.