What is there to say about the humble chip that hasn’t been said before? Quite a lot, actually. Despite it, arguably, being one of the simplest dishes on a pub menu, the staple of almost all UK boozers can’t escape from the mass of innovation currently going on in pub food.
From the basic chip, to the skinny fry, curly fries, triple-cooked, wedges, seasoned fries, twisters, sweet potato fries and even cross-cut chips, there’s a lot going on from standard products all the way up to the premium. As a result of the wide offer, there’s also an extensive range of margins pub chefs can achieve.
See our boxout below for five tips to chip success
Lamb Weston, a potato product manufacturer, is no stranger to chip innovation and has recently launched a range of potato dippers in response to rising customer demand for snacking.
“As a snacking and sharing product, potato dippers can be promoted all day. Whether as an afternoon al-fresco dining dish, or as a late-evening snack, we’re providing operators with a very marketable product and encouraging chip lovers to trade up to a new and exciting option,” says Nigel Phillips, Lamb Weston’s country sales manager UK and Ireland.
The continued rise of the casual-dining trend is feeding the growth of chip innovation because more customers want quick, tasty food that is different from products already out there, he adds.
“To cater for those looking for something fun and different to snack on or to share among friends, our ‘Specialities’ range includes a number of exciting options, including industry favourites such as CrissCuts and Twisters, which will enhance the customers’ dining experience and help to create a stand-out menu.”
Need for added value
Aviko, another potato product manufacturer, also understands the need for added value and recently launched a campaign to highlight how operators can generate up to 87% of profit per portion of chips.
The ‘Cash in Your Chips’ initiative hit the sector in February and gives operators the information they need to boost their bottom line by adding more value to the simple dish.
By switching from standard chips to a premium range, such as Aviko’s Supercrunch, Superlong or sweet potato fries and adding a seasoning, pubs can add value for customers and, therefore, put more money in the till. The company suggests offering Schwartz Chip Seasoning — a blend of spices including paprika and black pepper — to customers as an add-on sale.
“We’re not asking caterers to take a gamble here, it’s a win-win situation and the sums clearly stack up,” general manager of Aviko UK and Ireland Mohammed Essa says.
“Caterers can charge 48p more for a serving of our premium fries versus regular chips, plus 25p extra for adding chip seasoning — that’s more than 70p extra per portion. Fries account for a massive 73% of the servings of potato products in the foodservice market (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board).”
Yet, while the chip may be the star of the show, it’s importance as a supporting act in other dishes shouldn’t be forgotten. Chips are undeniably the most ordered item on many pub menus but the British classic of fish and chips is also hugely popular.
Classics still popular
Following research into what Brits want on menus, Sarah Robb, channel marketing manager at Premier Foods, says it was a shock, despite constant talk about new food trends, the classics were still very popular.
She explains: “We were surprised to discover diners really want to see more fish on the menu — whether it’s a more indulgent fish and chips or a lighter fish dish as a healthier alternative.”
Despite continued customer interest in the British staples, introducing new flavours and themes is a sure-fire way to boost sales too, she adds.
For instance, with the rising interest in Asian flavours, putting dishes such as lime and chilli-battered fish and chips on the menu plays into customer demand for the familiar, as well as their desire to try something new.
The importance of fish and chips in pubs was highlighted earlier this month when fish and chip chain Harry Ramsden’s unveiled a new on-trade concept with pub company Punch. The new format launched last week at Chesterfield pub the Wingerworth. Fish and chips feature on the menu alongside new dishes such as steaks, ribs and Sunday lunches.
Harry Ramsden’s will manage both wet and dry sales at the Wingerworth and the model is expected to roll out to other operations in future, with a further two expected to open in conjunction with Punch during the next year.
With that, the humble chip is likely to be at the centre of more innovation in the months to come as manufacturers look to seek ways of boosting operators’ margins.
Five tips for chips
1) The best potatoes
A good chip starts with a good potato and a few varieties come to mind that are up for the job.
The Yukon Gold is known for its buttery yellow flesh and works well in the deep frier – it maintains its fluffy texture inside, while crisping up on the outside.
Not the usual choice, but the Highland Burgundy Red offers something a little more exciting for the discerning chip lover. The red-fleshed potato was chosen by chefs at the Savoy Hotel in London for a meal served to Duke of Burgundy in the 1930s. Importantly, it has all of the characteristics of a good chip potato.
Tapas is still a popular dish among Brits and the humble chip shouldn’t be a stranger on the menu. Offer them triple-cooked to make them extra special. Serve them thick and chunky for that indulgent, warming and comforting feel you want when eating a good chip.
3) Canadian style
The Canadian phenomenon that is poutine may not appeal to many, but it’s a dish that’s certainly growing in popularity.
To make the perfect poutine, top French fries with cheese curds and a light brown gravy for this classic that originated in Quebec. If you’re not keen on the cheese curds, try cheddar or, better yet, take inspiration from the north of England and forget about the cheese and top with just a good gravy.
Casual dining may be a rising food trend in the eating-out sector, but let’s not forget about takeout. As more pubs turn to food to boost their margins, it’s also important to look at ways of increasing covers and takeaway food could provide your business with another revenue stream. Think about setting up a chip shack in your pub’s beer garden on Friday and Saturday nights during the summer to feed hungry customers who don’t want a proper sit down meal.
5) Healthy chips
Chips don’t have to mean fried food. Consumers are increasingly demanding dishes lower in fat and your chip offer can tap into this too.
Chip your potatoes as normal and bake them in the oven at 230C for up 45 minutes – depending on how thick they are. To make baked chips more exciting, consider serving them with a herb-seasoned salt or a low-fat chilli mayonnaise.