Case Studies • Quick-Service
Offsetting Commodity Cost Increases with Increase in Fry Life
Today’s quick-service restaurants are challenged more than ever with rising costs, as many commodity costs hit nearly 20-year highs, labor costs continue to rise and healthcare costs were added to the equation. To help offset some of these cost challenges, a leading drive-in quick-service restaurant partnered with Omega-9 Oils to evaluate the overall value proposition of their frying oil.
Like many organizations, the chain was trying to understand the value of high-stability oils and chose to begin their test with a blend of their current oil, commodity soybean, and Omega-9 Oils against 100 percent commodity soybean oil. The study evaluated fry life, overall oil cost, sustainability and flavor/quality of the products over a pre-determined period across multiple stores.
The test also included a focus on two operation drivers of extended shelf life:
Skimming: This simple process removes loose food particles in the oil. When particles from fried foods — more common with hand-breaded items such as this chain’s signature made-in-house onion rings — are left in the oil between fry cycles, they overcook in the hot oil. Over time, this leads to premature oil breakdown which will influence the quality of the fried food.
Discard Driver: The team shifted from oil color to food color and quality as the driver of discard. Oil color can be a measure of fry life, but as it is influenced by what foods are fried in oil as well as oil degradation, food color and quality are better metrics.
POSITIVE IMPACTS OF TEST
v Fry Life and Cost Savings
The impact of the test was immediate — within the three-week test, stores shifted from a three to four day fry life to six to seven days of fry life.
Taking the most conservative shift from four to six days shelf life (50 percent increase in fry life), annual savings would equate to over $6.5 million a year for the chain. These savings are driven by a 40 percent reduction in oil usage, which offsets the premium paid for Omega-9 Oils.
These striking results could be even further improved by using 100 percent Omega-9 Oils rather than as part of a blend.
> Food Quality, Nutrition and Sustainability
Food Quality: General and kitchen managers from all test stores provided anecdotal feedback from their staff and their guests. Staff and customers noted:
- They could taste the product, not the oil, in their fried foods.
- The product looked great.
- There were no flavor issues. In fact, when the stores shifted back to commodity soybean after the test concluded, managers noted their regular guests said the food tasted greasy.
Nutrition: With menu labeling regulations on the horizon, both operators and consumers are focused more than ever on the nutritional values of their restaurant choices. With the shift in oils, the saturated fat contribution from the chain’s frying was reduced by almost 40 percent.
Sustainability: Reducing packaging not only reduces waste but also saves the fuel needed to transport product to the restaurant. The decreased usage would reduce the number of JIBs used by nearly 700,000 per year. Additionally, fewer cleaning cycles means less harsh chemicals being used to remove polymerization build-up.