4 Tips for Serving Better Fries Amid COVID-19
With the current shelter-in-place orders, delivery, takeout & curbside pick-up orders are rising fast. According to research company NPD, main and side dishes/appetizers are among the most popular food categories that are being ordered off-premise, with French fries still at the top of Americans’ favorite side dishes and comfort foods.
- In the takeout/drive-thru channel, fries are the 2nd food most ordered.
- In delivery, fries are the 3rd most ordered item, exceeded only by pizza and carbonated soft drinks.1
So it’s critical that your fries meet customer expectations—your repeat business depends on it!
That said, not every fry stands up well to the special demands of off-premise dining. Conventional fries were designed to be eaten within a few minutes after cooking, when their crispness and temperature are at their peak. After off-premise travel, they may arrive cold and soggy—a major disappointment.
What causes this?
- Moisture buildup. Hot food will continue to release moisture after cooking. When packaged incorrectly, this steam accumulates inside and makes the food soggy.
- Heat loss in transit. As time goes by, your fries cool off and their taste and texture begin to suffer.
Fortunately, you have the power to overcome these issues. Here are a few recommendations to help you serve better fries to customers off-premise:
Tip #1: Use a battered or clear-coated fry.
Clear coated and battered fries remain crisp up to three times longer than traditional, uncoated fries, anywhere from 12 to 20+ minutes. Traditional, uncoated fries are a poor choice for delivery.
Tip #2: Use packaging that protects your fries but lets steam escape.
Choose packaging with just enough airflow to move moisture away from the fries while still retaining heat. Note: any type of completely enclosed packaging will result in wilted fries.
Paper/cardboard: Paper containers offer a good combination of temperature retention, strength and ventilation options. Paper bags/sleeves and paper-based, lidded serving containers work well; punching holes in them with a paper punch helps them perform even better. They’re also biodegradable and can be branded easily to suit your operation.
Plastic: Plastic containers are certainly strong enough for travel, but harder to justify environmentally these days as many cities have given up recycling certain plastics, at least for the time-being. Punching ventilation holes in plastic may be more challenging.
Styrofoam: It’s a great insulator but environmentally controversial and prone to making food soggy. To ventilate, twist the tip of a knife into the top and sides of the package so steam can escape.
When packing food for off-premise dining, follow these tips:
- Package hot and cold items separately. Bag them separately, too.
- Pack fries in their own container— never in the same package as burgers and hot sandwiches—so they stay crisp.
- Place hot items at the bottom of a paper bag and insulate them by placing paper napkins around and between them. If the order includes fries, put the fries near the top of the bag, fold the bag closed and seal it with a staple or sticker.
Tip #3: Use a thicker cut.
The thicker the cut, the longer the fries will hold their heat. For delivery, a thicker fry like Simplot SIDEWINDERS™ Fries is a great option. Others like Simplot SeasonedCrisp® Krunchie® Wedges combine thickness plus a batter for maximum crispness and holding performance.
Here are some more fries that work well for off-premise:
- Simplot Conquest® 3/8” Straight Cut
- Simplot Infinity® 3/8” Deep V Crinkle Cut
- Simplot SeasonedCrisp® Savory® 10-Cut Wedge
- Thundercrunch 3/8” Straight Cut
- Simplot Megacrunch® Lattice Cut
- Simplot Bent Arm Ale® Beer-battered Entrée Cut
- Simplot SIDEWINDERS™ Fries
Tip #4: Use tamper-resistant delivery bags or seal deliveries with stickers.
According a March 2020 study by Datassential, food safety is now at the top of your customers’ criteria when choosing a restaurant. Tamper-resistant delivery bags and sticks assure customers that their order is safe and untainted by a third-party.
Is food from delivery, takeout and drive-thru safe during this health crisis? Experts say the risk of contracting COVID-19 through any type of meal is extremely low. To date, there’s no evidence that the virus is transmitted by food or food packaging.
Your customers love fries and they’re depending on you for the taste and crunch they crave. The good news is that, by choosing the right fry and right container, you have a much better chance to deliver crisp, warm fries and thrill your homebound customers.
1 The NPD Group, Inc. / CREST® YE, Feb. 2020