Kitchen Stories

Faster-Cooking Fry Helps Drive-Thru Beat the Pandemic

Sep 24, 2020

Faster-Cooking Fry Helps Drive-Thru Beat the Pandemic

For many restaurants, the order to close down during the coronavirus pandemic was crippling—but not for all. At a time when your car felt like the safest place you could be, drive-thru held a considerable advantage over their dine-in-only competition.

Fanci Freez, a classic burger-fries-and-shakes diner located in Boise, Idaho, found themselves in this “fortunate” position when most Idaho restaurants were forced to shut their doors in March 2020. As one of the few operators left standing, their drive-thru business exploded, coming to represent more than 80% of their revenue.

“We’ll get a line that wraps around our building,” says Nate Kenyon, Operations Director at Fanci Freez. “The other day, the line of cars was blocking traffic on State Street at our downtown location.”

Drive-thru and the need for speed

At Fanci Freez, nothing is cooked in advance of a customer order, so the more time it takes to cook those orders, the fewer the cars they can serve per day—and lower throughput means less revenue. So the cook time of every menu item quickly came under scrutiny. This included their ¼” shoestring fries which took a full 2 minutes and 30 seconds to cook.

“It took too long to cook those fries to maximize the efficiency in our kitchen,” says Kenyon. “We needed to find a product with that same level of customer satisfaction, but that cooked faster to help our kitchen push orders out faster.”

Fanci Freez discovers fast-cooking Simplot Infinity® Fries

Kenyon eventually heard about Simplot Infinity® Fries through his distributor. Infinity Fries are specially made for high-volume, quick-turn operations that need fast-cooking fries. Their incredibly low moisture content cuts cook time down to just 1 minute and 30 seconds—45 seconds faster than the fry they were using.  

“Whatever they did with the moisture content and the coatings, it works,” says Kenyon. “The Infinity product cooks faster than anything out there.”

The incredible difference 45 seconds makes

While 45 seconds of saved time per order may not sound like much, Kenyon recognized the cumulative savings over the course of a day would make a huge difference at Fanci Freez.

“That 45 seconds we save on each order when we’re going through hundreds and hundreds of cars through our drive-thru a day allows us to go through maybe 100 more,” Kenyon says. “It’s also important that they’re consistent so that our crew members know exactly how long they’re going to take, so they can deliver exactly the same product every single time. The faster we can execute all of our drive-thru and delivery orders, the better off we are.”

Change is never easy, especially with fries

In spite of this performance advantage, Fanci Freez owner Bill Hawes remained wary about changing out his existing fries, a proven and popular menu item among his customers.

“I just didn’t want to mess with it,” Hawes says. “We have a formula that works and the fries are a big part of that.”

Undeterred, Kenyon set up a blind taste test between the two fries for the staff.

“The idea was that I knew he wouldn’t be able to tell the difference,” Kenyon remembers. “The Infinity Fries have a lot of other qualities beyond just the cook time. Taste is huge.”

“I honestly couldn’t tell the difference,” Hawes says. “That was a good thing.”

Better hold time further tips the scales

While great taste was critical, the factor that pushed Fanci Freez to switch to Infinity was their extraordinary hold time, thanks to an invisible clear coating.

“Hold time is really important to drive-thru customers. There are people at home waiting on those fries, so making sure they’re as good when they get home as when we put them in the bag is really important. Infinity Fries hold visually but also in their taste profile,” says Kenyon.

What did their customers say?

Ultimately, the final verdict on any menu item is left to the patrons. For Fanci Freez, the feedback on their fries remains overwhelmingly positive, even among its toughest customers

“Bill’s daughter-in-law—before we converted to the Infinity Fry—said, ‘You can change anything you want on this menu. Just don’t change the fries.’ And she never knew we changed them,” remembers Kenyon with a grin. “That says it all for me.”