National Chip Week: is it cheaper to buy in or make chips from scratch?

By Ali Carter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Chips, Potato

National Chip Week: cheaper to buy in or make from scratch?
National Chip Week: cheaper to buy in or make from scratch?
As National Chip Week hits (17 to 23 February) Ali Carter investigates whether it is cheaper for pub chefs to make their own chips or buy in frozen readymade products

It is estimated more than 1.6m tonnes of potatoes are made into chips every year in the UK (the same weight as 4,000 jumbo jets) and chips are in big demand on most pub menus.

Chips as a low cost yet bulky item can enhance the perceived value of any dish – add half a portion of chips (+20p cost) to the humble sandwich on a plate and you can increase the selling price by £1 (+75% GP) while still representing ‘good value’ with a hearty plateful.

But is it really cheaper to use fresh potatoes for chips or frozen? Getting it wrong could add up to more than £5,000 a year. The big question - are potatoes worth the hassle – and more importantly are they as profitable as they are perceived to be? In writing this article – I checked some facts on wastage and shrinkage by experimentation.

Pitching 1.5kg of supermarket Maris Piper (90p per kg) split into two styles of homemade chips (Heston Blumenthal triple cooked and classic chip shop styles) against 1.5kg supermarket value frozen chips (55p per kilo) and branded frozen chips (£1.75 per kilo).

Heston-style triple cooked

1.25 kg Maris Piper (90p per kilo)

Hand peeled with veg knife and cut into uniform 2cm x 2cm x 6cm chips

• 25% weight lost in peelings

• a further 30%  (375g) lost in shaping chips (small potatoes discarded as they didn’t make the size grade)

• 40% of prepped weight lost (mostly moisture) during blanching, par fry and final cooking process

• Final portion just 25% (315g) of the original raw potato weight

• 200g portion cost price = 72p 

Frozen

1.25 kg frozen chips - 55p per kilo (value range) £1.75 per kilo (top branded)

• 0% lost in peelings

• 0% lost in shaping

• 26% of prepped weight lost in cooking process

• Final portion 74% (930g) of the original frozen chip weight

• 200g portion cost price from

• 15p (value)

• to 43p (branded)

Labour

Even with a potato rumbler to take care of the peeling there is a labour cost attached to the home made chips – the process of shaping, blanching, par frying and storing can be burdensome depending on the scale of your operation. Prepped chips are minimal with regards to the additional labour costs and have the added advantage of convenience, with easy storing for peaks and troughs in trade levels.

Oil

In the experiment above the oil used to fry the potato chips was approx. 100ml per 200g portion and not included in the costing, while the frozen chips used half the amount, having been par fried already.

Over the course of the year that could add up to 365 extra 20l drums based on 40 portions of chips a day.

Size of portion

Rather than guessing how many chips are going on the plate, invest in portion controlling items, such as a wire basket. Over portioning by two chips (12.5g) a portion comes to 365kg a year and a cost of £1,315. Selling them instead would mean a profit of £3,000 at 70% GP. Over portioning could also result in customers avoiding dessert - another loss of trade. Also, beware of staff grazing - a nibble each time they pass through the kitvhen can equate to a loss of £1,500 a year.

Prepared chips

• Raw ingredient price increases are passed on immediately – can squeeze your margins

• You choose how to cut to size – giving options to make a chip ‘statement ‘ with chunky chips

• You can leave skin on and customise

• Flavour - Maris Piper are generally believed to be the best – but check out Yukon Gold and Highland Burgundy Reds heritage varieties as well

• Uses more oil in the cooking process

• Higher labour cost and waste considerations

• Excellent flavour and crispness gives great customer satisfaction

Bought chips

• Can secure a fixed price or negotiate prices held

• Long life and convenience

• Less waste than fresh

• Less labour cost than fresh

• Higher energy cost - if chips are cooked from frozen the temperature of the oil will drop and use more power to get back up to full heat

• Variety – they come in a wide range of quality, styles and sizes

• Storage - drop a box of frozen skinny fries when they are frozen and the shattered sticks will only produce half the normal portions

• Ease – sometimes life’s too short to peel a spud

Related topics: Menu Ideas

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