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7-Eleven Canada All In for Freshness, Quality

Consumers have grown used to drive-thrus, takeaway, curbside pick-up, grocery delis and convenience stores in their search for a decent meal. While the Chicken Sandwich Wars raged in the U. S. and restaurants closed during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, 7-Eleven Canada saw an opportunity for same-store and unit growth by upping its hot food game with high-quality local products, freshly-prepared.

7-Eleven Canada operates over 600 stores, mostly in the Western provinces. Key locations offer a hot food menu that varies depending on the market and store footprint. Two types of countertop ovens were being used to heat various individually quick frozen (IQF) products and baked goods, along with roller grills for hot dogs and sausages.

Key to the new fresh food program would be a privately-branded fried chicken menu and a new approach to cooking, holding and display.

 

CHALLENGE

Serving hot food—even fried chicken—was nothing new to 7-Eleven Canada. But things were changing. The chain was determined to build a locally-sourced, high-value menu and improve operational excellence. That meant competing directly with global QSR brands in the chicken category.

Enter Crispy Classic Chicken, a 7-Eleven Canada private brand of fried chicken favorites billed as Your favourite chicken restaurant, right here in the neighbourhood. Cooking fresh breaded filets, tenders and bone-in chicken pieces required a significant upgrade in fryers. The key to delivering on the Crispy Classic Chicken program would be to consistently produce high quality fried chicken with fewer workers and less training. The challenge was finding a fryer that was efficient enough to recover temperature quickly while being easy to use and filter, and still fit comfortably in the available space.

Systematizing operations is just as important in the convenience store world as it is for QSRs. “Everything depends on the quality of the product we give our customers,” said Mathew Javan-Sehati, Senior Category Manager for 7-Eleven Canada. “Having the right equipment to deliver these products will be critical for our growth. Changing the fryer to Henny Penny is a new direction for us.”

 

RESULTS

That new direction came courtesy of DSL, a tried-and-true partner that has been supplying and servicing 7-Eleven Canada’s beverage equipment for more than 50 years. DSL has been an exclusive Henny Penny distributor for nearly as long. There was a lot of trust involved, which made it easier to go with one manufacturer for the key elements of the new program.

“After testing the Henny Penny system in select stores, we saw that the finished product was of a much higher quality than our current system,” said Javan-Sehati. “Holding time for the product also improved.”

The Henny Penny two-well deep fryer with Computron 8000 control and automatic basket lift checked all the boxes for Javan-Sehati. “The reliability, energy efficiency and oil savings are all good. But this fryer is also versatile and extremely easy to use,” he said. “Each menu item has the cooking parameters programmed in to its own Computron button. It couldn’t be simpler to operate.”

All new stores offering the Crispy Classic Chicken menu will use the Henny Penny fryer paired with a Henny Penny HMR merchandiser that combines beautiful, high-visibility display with precise temperature control and even heating throughout the case.

Select stores are also replacing a tabletop convection oven and a convection microwave oven with a compact Space$aver Team Combi oven from Henny Penny. A big selling point for the Space$aver Combi, according to Javan-Sehati, was being able to replace both conventional ovens. “We gain footprint, and staff only need to work with one piece of equipment to cook different foods.” The integrated hood also gives individual stores flexibility in locating the Team Combi on their floor plan.

The Space$aver Combi features two separately controlled five-rack ovens integrated vertically in a single unit. The two ovens have identical program menus, allowing operators to cook in volume and meet customer orders effectively. “This equipment gives us redundancy, flexibility, and simplicity,” said Javan-Sehati. “Being able to go directly to the Favorites mode makes it easy to cook anything on the menu.”

LK Chieh, Strategic Business Development Manager for DSL, led 7-Eleven through the process. “They went into this focused on serving a high-quality product to their customers,” said Chieh. “What they are getting is a major upgrade in quality and consistency, much simplified operation, and significant reduction in food waste.”

Javan-Sehati acknowledged the important role an alliance partner like DSL plays in helping 7-Eleven executing its foodservice strategy. “We truly appreciate not only the commitment of the Henny Penny brand, but as always, the selection, support and service solutions DSL provides to meet our needs.”

 

 

 

 

Why Your Commercial Kitchen Needs a Pressure Fryer and Heated Holding Cabinet

If you’re serving a chicken-heavy menu featuring items like bone-in wings or juicy tenders, you’ll love having a pressure fryer and a heated holding cabinet in your kitchen. (And if you’re not serving chicken, we’ve got four reasons you should be!)

Combining a fryer and a full-size holding cabinet allows operators to implement batch cooking. This means the product is fried in large batches before the rush and served fresh out of a holding cabinet.

Together, pressure fryers and heated holding cabinets create an ideal ‘system’ for commercial kitchens, specifically fried chicken concepts. Here’s why:

#1: Fried Chicken Holds Well

Pressure fryers are arguably the best commercial fryers for fried chicken. Why? Pressure frying maintains the chicken’s moisture and flavor while sealing out excess cooking oil. Retaining that moisture helps maintain quality when the chicken is transferred to a holding cabinet.

Holding cabinets allow food life to be increased without sacrificing food quality. Fans that circulate hot moist air evenly throughout the cabinet help maintain safe temperatures and a quality product.

Premium holding cabinets with precise humidity control can keep chicken fresh and ready-to-serve for anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours.

#2: Less Staff in the Kitchen

With batch cooking, there are significantly less staff members needed in the kitchen. Today’s labor shortages make this is a huge win for operators.

Our own Corporate Executive Chef, Gregg Brickman, says that holding cabinets offer extensive relief for restaurants. “Henny Penny holding cabinets allow restaurants to serve consistent, quality items while also easing pressure on the kitchen. And, when you don’t have as many staff members in the kitchen due to staffing levels or pandemic restrictions, the cabinets can actually relieve as much pressure as adding another employee or sous chef.”

Read more about how kitchens can handle peak order volume without adding staff: click here.

#3: Increase Throughput Significantly

Batch cooking allows for increased throughput by prepping orders in advance, meaning no stress during peak order volumes.

Dedicate the hour before rush time to filling the holding cabinet. After that, simply manage the cabinet instead of the fryer. Establish a point that the cabinet should be refilled once a certain amount of product has been depleted. You’ll never run out of chicken this way, and your ticket times will be quicker than ever!

Increased throughput capabilities mean that kitchens can balance dine-in, carryout, and delivery orders with ease. With the increase in off-premise demand, many restaurants have struggled to keep up – some have had to restrict delivery hours on 3rd party apps or decline carryout orders altogether. Batch cooking can eliminate this issue!

When implementing batch cooking, it’s also important to consider your fryer’s total load capacity. Our Velocity Series is perfect for this application because it can cook an entire 8-head of chicken in just one load.

#4: Decrease Food Waste

A lot less food gets thrown away when you’re cooking in large batches and have a holding cabinet on hand. For high volume kitchens, batch cooking is a proven way to decrease food waste.

The concept of batch cooking isn’t new – in 2016, Foodservice Director Magazine published an article about how Franklin College was able to significantly reduce food waste in it’s dining halls. After implementing batch cooking, their food waste costs plummeted from over $250 a month to around $30.

Frying under pressure at lower temperatures also reduces wasted frying oil and helps extend its useful life. This added benefit of pressure frying is especially important given today’s inflated oil prices.

#5: Built to Work Together

As mentioned earlier, fried foods like chicken retain more moisture when cooked under pressure. A humidified holding cabinet is the perfect companion for a pressure fryer because it can keep the product moist and juicy for an extended period.

At Henny Penny, our pressure fryers and holding cabinets are built to work together as a system. When transferring product from our 8-head fryers to our holding cabinets, there is no re-racking required. Crew members simply slip a sheet pan under a lip on the fryer that allows for a seamless transition into the holding cabinet.

 

No re-racking means more consistent food quality, increased food safety, and a less time-consuming process for the back-of-house crew.

 

Our global network of exclusive distributors can work with you to develop set points for everything from your fryer’s cook cycle to your holding cabinet’s ideal temperature, humidity level, and maximum hold time. Click here to request more information from your local distributor.

The popularity, versatility, and profitability of chicken make it a no-brainer for any menu. Download this free ebook from our experts and start serving chicken like the pros.

Keep Reading

Check out our Fried Chicken Restaurant Equipment Guide to read more about the equipment you’ll need to start dishing out golden-fried goodness.

 

 

 

 

Fit Flavors Case Study

Jillian Tedesco—chef, fitness trainer and author—began Fit Flavors from her home, building the business over the next ten years into a successful resource for healthy meals in the St Louis area. “It was a way I could combine my talents and really help my fitness clients eat better in the kitchen.”

Today, Fit Flavors operates five storefront locations and one commissary. The Fit Flavors team of trainers, chefs and dieticians cook a full menu of meals to order for later pick up or delivery. Customers can also walk in and purchase ready-made meals from a more limited menu.

Portions are cooked and packaged at the central commissary and delivered to the stores for final assembly. The menu is wide ranging and packed with fresh, healthy selections like a lean protein-loaded buffalo turkey burger, anti-biotic-free herb-grilled chicken and basmati rice, and Caribbean pineapple slaw.

CHALLENGE

Cooking healthy meals from fresh ingredients was time consuming and kitchen space was limited. With a focus on good food pre-made for delivery or pick-up, orders often exceeded capacity during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Even before then, we were looking at more efficient ways to cook variety in volume,” said Fit Flavors Executive Chef, Warren Hamilton.

They couldn’t keep up. Braised shredded beef, for example, might take most of a day. Chicken breasts meant someone flipping them individually on a flattop grill. “We averaged seven or eight hours of shuffling things in and out of our regular old ovens. What we needed was a way to achieve the desired outcome in less time without using unhealthy ingredients or cooking methods.”

That search led Fit Flavors to Hess Meat Machines, a St. Louis-based commercial foodservice equipment company and exclusive distributor for Henny Penny FlexFusion combi ovens.

“We took a close look at their systems and processes and understood the challenges they faced,” said Rachel Herren, president of Hess Meat Machines. In turn, Fit Flavors culinary team tested recipes in Hess’s demo kitchen. The result was a new approach to cooking meal components that had an enormous impact on efficiency and throughput.

RESULTS

With the new Henny Penny combi ovens, Fit Flavors was able to cut cooking times in half across the board. “Anything we cook in the combi, regardless of which cooking mode or setting, is done in half the time.” said Chef Warren. “Suddenly an eight-hour task is done in four hours. This has been crucial for the flow of our daily production.”

According to Chef Warren, technology and ease of use are what sets the Henny Penny combis apart. “The different modes and settings allow us to adjust conditions on the fly for the perfect cook on each item. Once we know exactly how we would like the finished product to look, we build a cooking program with a shortcut to the correct settings right there on the screen. The way this unit is setup makes it very user friendly and takes the chances for human error out of the equation.”

60 to 70 percent of the menu is prepared with four Henny Penny combis configured in two stacked units. Chefs start baking in one stack at 5 a.m. In the other stack they might cook veggies and potatoes in the top oven and all chicken or overnight brisket in the lower one. Because of its versatility, almost any ingredients can be combined in the FlexFusion combi oven according to cooking method and cooking time with zero flavor transfer. Having separate ovens also allows greater production flexibility.

“Our job was to find Fit Flavors a better, more consistent way of doing things,” said Herren. “It’s not just about the combis. It’s about being partners in that success. We’re with them every step of the way on this.”

Hess customized on-site training for Fit Flavors kitchen staff and provides round-the-clock technical support. Most important, Hess had the combi-ovens Fit Flavors needed in stock for immediate installation. A second two-oven combi stack was ordered a month later and installed within 30 days. Fit Flavors has plans to expand its commissary in 2023 and add even more Henny Penny combi ovens.

In the end, it was about the food and the mission of Fit Flavors to be the first resource for healthy meals. “We can get a nice crisp fry on a chicken breast without having to fry it in oil,” said Chef Warren. “Really simplifying our ingredients is something we have always done but now we can go even further by simplifying the oils, the cooking process and the handling. Having the ability to serve food this consistent is what is taking our product to the next level.”

 

 

Dealer vs. Distributor? Three reasons to make the right choice

Buzzwords aside, what exactly does “customer experience” mean at Henny Penny?  For starters, it is a way to think about what we do as one continuous effort to make life better for our customer partners. Then we add data-driven processes so the work we actually do every day remains focused on this outcome. In this three-part blog series, we pull back the curtain on some of these activities and the people who lead them.

 

Wondering where to buy commercial kitchen equipment? Well, if you are a DIYer, you look online for the lowest price and do everything yourself. That’s fine for working around the house. But if you are looking to build a successful restaurant business, there is a better way. In fact, we’re going to give you three compelling reasons why working with a Henny Penny distributor is the right move. Before we get to that, let’s clear up any dealer vs distributor confusion that might still be out there.

Dealers and distributors are often thought of as competing for customers. For the most part, they are part of the same sales and service channel. It’s just that very few food service equipment manufacturers work exclusively with a network of local distributors. Instead, they may list restaurant supply dealers as “distributors” for their equipment in a particular region.

Jake Bronson, Henny Penny Senior Regional Sales Manager for Northern U.S. and Canada, explains the relationship this way: Restaurant equipment and supply dealers act as general contractors for practically anything a restaurant might need for the front and back of house. In that role they source products, supplies and contract out for expert services on behalf of the operator. That’s where the Henny Penny distributor comes into the picture. Henny Penny distributors are the experts in commercial cooking equipment, particularly when it comes to frying operations.

“Today, most dealers have good relationships with our distributors,” said Bronson. “They are happy to turn over equipment selection, training and service to our distributors who then work directly with customers in a number of ways. A lot of restaurant supply dealers are recommending Henny Penny distributors to their customers because of product availability, reliability and expertise.”

 

Reason #1: Product Availability

The biggest advantage right now in working with Henny Penny is product availability. Because of current extraordinary supply chain constraints, it can take up to a year to get a fryer order from most manufacturers. Bronson says it’s gotten to the point that operators are considering six months reasonable. Against that, it’s not uncommon for a Henny Penny distributor to have a deep fryer available within six weeks. Pressure fryers even sooner.

How? Henny Penny distributors play a crucial role by stocking an inventory of Henny Penny fryers and other equipment. While Henny Penny continued production during the initial Covid economic shutdown, distributors were able not only to fill new orders but also replenish their inventory. “Our exclusive distributor network is just about the only channel entity that does this for fryers,” said Bronson. And it’s a big reason why dealers otherwise unaligned with a particular manufacturer will turn to Henny Penny distributors to get the frying piece done.

 

Reason #2: Owning service and training

We talk a lot about our 24/7 Technical Service Hotline, and how Henny Penny customers save millions every year with remote service capability and a first-time fix rate of 84 percent—20 points higher than the CFESA industry average!

Customers expect a lot from a premium brand, and thanks to our distributors, they get it. Henny Penny distributors and their authorized service agents are experts on one brand of fryer. They are trained and certified by the factory. In fact, Henny Penny will train anyone who wants to become certified to service Henny Penny products.

“Training is always part of new equipment purchases,” said Bronson. “But with staff turnover so high these days, most of our distributors offer on-going training whenever you need it.”

The quality of food and efficiency of kitchen operations depend on knowing how to use equipment properly. Henny Penny equipment is designed to take a beating and will continue to do so for a long time if it is well cared for. And that’s a good reason to stick with your distributor for service after the warranty period.

 

Reason #3: Ongoing partnership

It’s natural for local restaurant chains and independent operators to wonder if they will get as much attention from a manufacturer as big national accounts. This is one reason Henny Penny has always worked through a global network of exclusive local and regional distributors. A commercial kitchen equipment distributor tends to be more invested with their customers and projects than other equipment sales channels.

“A Henny Penny distributor is a frying expert and a Henny Penny expert,” says Bronson. “Our brand is going to be number one or two in their business. They will take the time to help improve your process and build a long-term relationship by standing by your operations after the sale. That’s the difference.”

Every Henny Penny distributor has a demonstration kitchen where customers can test their own recipes and product formulations in Henny Penny equipment. They can help you select the right breading, product and oils, and frying process for a new or expanded menu. They will even help you improve operating efficiency by recommending ways to reduce oil, food waste, and labor costs.

Bottom line? “Henny Penny distributors are independent local equipment and operations experts who represent our brand promise to deliver a superior customer experience,” says Bronson. “They are truly the face of Henny Penny in the marketplace.”

 

 

 

3 Ways Commercial Fryers Help Restaurants Maintain Food Quality

It’s no surprise that many operators struggle with how to maintain food quality in a restaurant. A lot of it comes down to your fryer oil!

In the restaurant industry, we call a 35 lb. container of bulk cooking oil a “jug-in-box” or “JIB” for short. Not surprisingly, just like everything else restaurants are paying more for these days, JIBs have increased in price too.

How much? Depending on what type of cooking oil you purchase, a JIB will now run you as much as four times what you paid in 2019. So, today you’ll pay between $40 and $100 for a JIB of cooking oil and that’s wholesale pricing.

Increasing costs associated with fry oil and inflation in general are important reasons to make sure you’re prioritizing keeping your commercial fryer in tiptop condition.  Doing so will not only ensure you continue to dish up quality menu items that delight your customers, but it will also help manage costs and prioritize profits.

To help, I’ve identified three tips that will keep your commercial deep fryer operating in peak condition.

1. Resist the Temptation to Cut Corners

With cooking oil prices spiking, some operators may be tempted to keep their fry oil longer than they should. They may rationalize, asking themselves, “What’s another day or two, or even a week going to hurt?” Well, that’s a bad idea and for a few reasons.

Not only will your food not taste as good, oftentimes taking on a burnt flavor and smell, reusing old oil can open the door to bacterial buildup and well, that’s not good for your customers’ health or your restaurant’s reputation. But, there’s a solution.

Filter, Filter, Filter

Routine filtering of your vats is the single most important thing you can do to ensure the quality, taste, and consistency of your food. That means the first person that you serve gets the same great tasting meal as the last person you serve.

Some commercial fryers are equipped with built-in oil filtration systems, like Henny Penny’s, which come standard on every open and pressure fryer. Not only does the automatic system reduce the manual effort associated with filtering, but it extends oil life, translating into thousands of dollars in annual savings.

How often you should be filtering is dependent on what you’re frying, how much you’re frying, and how old your oil is. This free Filter Frequency Calculator will help you determine the ideal filtration frequency for your restaurant.

Because time is money in the restaurant business, when you’re filtering your vats, you’re not frying product in them. Luckily, some fryers on the market like the Evolution Elite allow for filtering by individual vats, so you can filter one vat while frying in others.  And, because it’s a low-volume oil fryer, it filters completely in less than 4 minutes, so you’re able to get back to frying even faster.

2. Clean Up Your Act (or, at least your fryer’s)

I don’t need to list all the reasons and benefits associated with routinely cleaning your commercial fryer, but I can tell you what could happen if you don’t. I read a news article recently about a restaurant fire and the investigation determined the fire started in a deep fryer-vent due to lack of cleaning of the commercial cooking equipment.

No operator expects this will happen at their restaurant and it likely won’t if they adhere to a daily cleaning regimen and a deep cleaning schedule every few weeks.

Commercial Fryer Cleaners – Choose Wisely

When it comes to choosing a commercial fryer cleaner, it’s important to remember they’re not all equal. No one knows that better than Bill Sparks, VP of Operations and Franchise Sales for Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken who at a supplier’s recommendation agreed to ask some of Lee’s franchise owners to test Henny Penny’s Prime Cleaner against their current product.

The side-by-side tests were planned for one month, but within a week, Bill said he started getting feedback from owners, commenting that the difference was like night and day.  Sparks told us, “Our owners have 21-year-old fry pots looking like they’re brand new. Plus, they’re saving time on each clean-out, since you don’t need to neutralize with a vinegar solution.”

You can learn more about the franchise’s experience and plans to equip every new store with Henny Penny fryers by clicking here.

3. Work Smarter. Not Harder

Another way your commercial fryer can help maintain food quality is by ensuring recipe consistency.  The digital age we live in comes with advantages and one of those is some commercial fryers are now equipped with advanced controls that allow operators to choose from a selection of preprogrammed recipes or simply program in their own recipes.

In my job, I spend a lot of time working with restaurant brands, getting their programs just right for their proprietary processes. With Henny Penny fryers, we have the ability to change cooking perimeters.

For example, a restaurant might have a recipe program that starts at 330 degrees and for the second stage, the temperature goes down to 320 degrees, and then, up to 340 degrees. What they’re doing is creating a product that you can only get from them. They’re creating a texture and taste at the end of the cooking cycle that nobody else can copy or repeat.

Want some tips on how to refine your frying program? This free download includes the top five frying mistakes and what you can do about them.

Your Fryer’s Best Friend – A Heated Holding Cabinet

Finally, want to know the “secret” to keeping your food fry-fresh for up to two hours after it leaves the fryer?  Using a heated holding cabinet in conjunction with your fryer can extend food life without sacrificing quality. Think about it.

Whenever you’re using your fryer by itself, you have to wait 10 to 12 minutes before you can place more chicken in there. But if you’re taking that same chicken and cooking it ahead of time for 6 minutes and then putting it in the heated holding cabinet at 185 degrees with 15 percent humidity, you’re able to hold that product for 2 hours.

Then all you have to do is flash it inside the fryer for a minute or minute and a half, and you’ll have a product that’s crispy on the inside yet juicier on the inside because it wasn’t cooked in the fryer for 10-12 minutes.

If you’d like to learn more about our products or how we can help you improve and maintain food quality, contact your local Henny Penny distributor. They’re conveniently located throughout North America and around the world. They can also assist you with training, technical support, and much more.

 

 

3 Ways Restaurants Can Fight Inflation with A Commercial Fryer

Record high inflation, rising food, labor, and utility costs along with ongoing staffing shortages are leading many restaurant operators to wonder if a recession is looming. Could what lies ahead be worse than what they faced during the pandemic?

There’s no question about it. Food prices are soaring. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the food index shot up by more than 10 percent in May, making it the largest increase in 40 years.

If there’s a silver lining for restaurant operators, it’s that while menu prices at restaurants and fast-food locations increased 7.4 percent compared to last year, grocery prices rose nearly 12 percent annually, far outpacing the increase at restaurants. It’s a small advantage, but one restaurant operators welcome as they actively explore ways to minimize the impact inflation is having on their business and diners’ wallets.

It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. And restaurants from fine dining, fast casual, and quick service establishments are serving up innovation and cost-cutting measures ranging from slimming down menus and adjusting portion sizes to debuting new value deals and modifying product composition, a practice also known as “menu engineering.”

Harness Your Kitchen’s Workhorse: The Deep Fryer

Apart from the aforementioned cost-cutting measures, what else can restaurant operators do to reduce costs and expenses and grow profits? One surprising answer lies with a piece of equipment nearly all restaurant operators already own: their commercial fryer.

The commercial fryer is one of the most expensive pieces of commercial kitchen equipment, so it’s no surprise the profit margin associated with fried food products is likewise high.  How high? According to a new report on the commercial fryer market in the U.S., fried foods bring in an average profit margin of 75 percent. Globally, the deep fryer market is expected to surpass $612 million by 2026.

In tough economic times, having the right fryer is important too, especially when you consider that some low-oil volume fryers can deliver up to $5,000 in annual oil savings when compared to other fryers.

If properly maintained and operated, your deep fryer can deliver direct savings associated with using less oil, lower energy costs, and greater throughput, as well as indirect savings associated with ongoing staff training, automatic oil filtration, and routine cleaning, all of which play a vital role in food quality.

During off hours, your deep fryer can also drive revenue and increase profits when operating for a virtual restaurant, catering business, or leased to a reputable third-party.

So, what can you do to maximize the profit associated with your commercial fryer? We spoke with some leading experts in the restaurant industry, as well as food service operators and asked them to identify their ‘Top 3’ tips. Here’s what they had to say.

 1. Maximize Your Fryer’s Throughput

Your commercial deep fryer may be your most versatile piece of restaurant equipment. Depending on your menu, you may currently use it to fry baskets of crispy French fries and crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the inside chicken. Considering the profit margin associated with fried foods, you may want to explore your options and do more with your fryer.

Consider Catering

Shelley Swartztrauber is the owner of Rob’s Restaurant & Catering in Brookville, Ohio. In business since 1976, Shelley’s customers are loyal and faithfully frequent the restaurant seven days a week, ordering up any number of homemade daily specials or lining up for the restaurant’s always popular buffet.

During the pandemic, like other restaurants, Swartztrauber had to close for a few months. When she was able to reopen, though not for in-person dining, she made a purchase decision that helped keep the restaurant afloat and expand her catering business.

“We bought a 4-head pressure fryer, manufactured by Henny Penny, which we used to fry up buckets of chicken for our customers who would order online or over the phone and pick up their orders curbside.” It’s a purchase decision Swartztrauber said was one of her best, and one she’s never regretted.

“It truly sustained us during the pandemic and kept our customers happy. And, when we were able to open our doors and restart our catering business, it’s truly been our kitchen’s superstar, frying between 900 and 1,000 pounds of chicken a week.”

Or, An Online-only Restaurant

Introducing a virtual brand, operating out of your existing restaurant’s kitchen, is another way to expand and capitalize on your fryer’s throughput.

HOA Brands, which is the franchisor of Hooters, as well as the fast-casual brand Hoots Wings, knows all about the profit potential associated with opening virtual restaurants. It has three, including Hootie’s Chicken Tenders, Hootie’s Burger Bar, and Hootie’s Bait and Tackle.

“Everybody has the ability to do a virtual concept,” said Marc Butler, Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning, HOA Brands. “Just think through what you have on your menu and how you can make yourself stand out without creating a lot of complexity for your store. That’s the first step.”

Last, but not Least…Leasing

If the prospect of opening a virtual restaurant or catering business just isn’t for you, allowing your restaurant’s kitchen to be leased out by a reputable home-based food business or food truck operator during off hours is another way to generate a supplemental revenue stream for your restaurant

2. Prioritize Your Fryer’s Profit-producing Potential

While fried chicken isn’t going away anytime soon, you could increase your restaurant’s operating profit by adding more affordable vegetable entrees, appetizers, and side dishes to your menu. And, they don’t have to be boring, just ask Chef Gregg Brickman, our own Corporate Executive Chef.

“More and more restaurants are serving up vegetable dishes like buffalo cauliflower, bang-bang cauliflower, spicy edamame, fried pickles, fried loaded tots, crispy eggplant fries, honey sriracha brussel sprouts, sweet potato fritters and more to their diners who are eating them up, quite literally.”

What’s more, Brickman says some of the best chefs in the world at the most renowned restaurants are featuring more vegetable-based and plant-based dishes as their “showstoppers.” One of those is celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck.

In a recent interview with Yahoo! Finance, Puck conceded that while inflation has forced him to raise some menu prices, especially for his famous steaks, he’s now offering diners more affordable vegetable-centric entrees that taste great. “Yes, if you want a really good piece of meat, it’s very expensive, but we can give you a good meal without having that meat,” said Puck.

3. Optimize Your Fryer’s Performance

Finally, if you want your fryer to take care of you and your business, you’ve got to take care of it. And that starts with proper maintenance.

Think about it. If your deep fryer is your commercial kitchen’s workhorse, a breakdown could translate into thousands of dollars in lost revenue. In addition to quarterly and annual preventative maintenance, routine cleaning is a must and it starts with keeping your fryer’s vats as clean as possible and that’s easier with the right products, equipment and training.  Henny Penny has easy-to-understand operations manuals and videos for each of its fryers.

“For example, with the Evolution Elite Fryer, when you need to clean the fryer’s vats, the display on the unit is going to step you through the process with simple prompts. Before adding cleaner, the display will ask is ‘Solution Added?’ Yes or No will display. It will ask ‘Start Clean?’ and Yes or No will display again and so on until you’ve completed the cleanout process.

So, if you can’t remember all the steps or maybe someone showed you, and now it’s your turn to do it, but you can’t quite recall the specific order, you don’t have to worry because the control prompts will remind you of the order and step you through the process until the scrub vat process is complete. It’s just that easy,” said Pete Krause, Director of Training and Digital Assets at Henny Penny.

In between cleanings, to help keep your frying oil cleaner longer, consider adding an oil-life extender product like Henny Penny’s Prime Filter Powder, which is designed to make your filtered oil that much cleaner, translating in to fewer change outs, longer oil life, and more money in your wallet.

Finally, as a restaurant operator, while you can’t control the economy, inflation, or whether a recession is on the horizon, you can maximize your fryer’s throughput, prioritize your fryer’s profit-producing potential, and optimize your fryer’s performance. And that’s something that could amount to a lot in the long run.

Ready to explore what a commercial fryer can do for your kitchen? Connect with the Henny Penny Team and let’s get started!

 

Henny Penny Tech Support builds resource hub for commercial kitchen equipment

Buzzwords aside, what exactly does “customer experience” mean at Henny Penny?  For starters, it is a way to think about what we do as one continuous effort to make life better for our customer partners. Then we add data-driven processes so the work we actually do every day remains focused on this outcome. In this three-part blog series, we pull back the curtain on a some of these activities and the people who lead them.

 

Any equipment manufacturer or supplier worth doing business with will train you on how to use and maintain their products. But in the hustle and bustle of a busy restaurant kitchen how easy is it, really, to find out exactly what you need to know? Our own Pete Krause is the expert on that.

Krause is the Director of Training and Digital Assets at Henny Penny. Digital Assets, he says, is all about being able to communicate correct information to end users and service techs about the equipment they maintain.

Right now, there are a variety of ways that happens. Users can refer to printed manuals, download online manuals and technical bulletins, watch YouTube videos, or just search google for answers. This is the reality Henny Penny Tech Support and servicing professionals in the field are facing. Krause and his team are working to make this flow of information more efficient.

“The whole idea is to build a searchable knowledge base that combines text, images, videos and documents into something very easy to use,” says Krause. “Customers need to know there is a single source for the truth about Henny Penny equipment.”

Over the decades, Henny Penny has enjoyed an enviable reputation for customer service based to a large extent on our 24-hour technical support hotline. “Digital assets are an evolution of that,” said Krause. “There is a growing number of users who shy away from calling 800 numbers and are more comfortable acquiring information online. We’re creating that world for parts and operations.”

Pete’s group has developed Hennypennyhelp.com, an online resource in two sections: operations and parts. Operations is organized in broad categories based on what the user is trying to do: install, maintain, clean, trouble shoot or customize.

Within each category, the user finds the equipment and model they want. Once there, simply scroll to an item and click for instructions, images, graphics, and video in a clear, easy-to-view format.

The parts version of Henny Penny Help includes specific information such as bulletins and parts lists. This way, users can easily reference and source OEM parts.

A key component for the Parts section is the use of QR codes. When a user scans the QR code on a deep fryer (or the manual that came with it), the code links to the digital assets relating to that exact model. Changes to parts are updated on the site, so the existing QR code will always lead to current information.

Much like digital content marketing, Krause’s group employs a full toolkit of behind-the-screen technical stuff to make sure the right results come up no matter how or where people search. “We use meta data, SEO, keyword searches and backlinks,” said Krause. “We’re constantly adding new videos and doing frequent updates. All this activity is designed to make sure when someone does a google search for ‘pressure fryer lid seal replacement’, the right parts and videos will be at the top.”

Regardless of how people search for information about Henny Penny equipment, there are clear benefits to being able to get it all in one place. Krause says his team exists to make life easier for people who don’t want to call. “They don’t have to go to somewhere for a manual, somewhere else for parts, and then to YouTube for videos. It’s all here in one easily navigable world.”

That makes Digital Assets an ideal resource for training service techs, distributors, and customers. There are overlaps with Customer Relationship Management (CRM), as well. “Data from customer searches relating to equipment in the field helps us become predictive in terms of parts and support,” Krause said. “Basically, we have a near real-time picture of how customers are maintaining their equipment, what are common requests, how often, and how critical.”

For manufacturers of commercial restaurant equipment, this degree of integration and interactivity in the realm of maintenance and repair is unusual. Henny Penny has relationships with partners in restaurant supply and parts that operate primarily online, so there’s a common interest in putting out correct information that’s easy to get to. Why not go the extra mile and make it more like what people are used to as consumers in other areas of their life?

Want to talk to the Henny Penny Team about how we can support your foodservice operation? Whether you’re already using Henny Penny equipment, or you simply have a few questions, we’re here to help. Click here to connect with us today.

 

Fried Chicken Restaurant Equipment: A Guide for Commercial Kitchens

It’s no secret that there are plenty of advantages to serving fried chicken. Chicken is the world’s most popular protein, it can be fried in batches and held for hours, and it’s an incredibly profitable menu item. Plus, according to a recent Technomic report, chicken menu category sales have increased at an average rate of 12% since 2019.

Are you ready to get in the fried chicken game? Here’s a quick summary of the commercial kitchen equipment you’ll need to consider for your foodservice operation:

Chicken Fryers

When it comes to commercial deep fryers, operators have two main choices: open fryer or pressure fryer.

Pressure Fryers

If you’re serving bone-in fried chicken, you’ll probably want to invest in a pressure fryer. Pressure fryers consistently produce flavorful, tender, and juicy fried chicken every time. Not only that, but pressure frying is faster than any other method when cooking in high volumes.

When exploring pressure fryer options, it’s important to consider how much product you’ll need to be frying and what advanced features you might need.

Henny Penny offers several pressure fryer models to fit the needs of different commercial kitchens. We have standard pressure fryers for normal volume kitchens and Velocity Series pressure fryers for high-volume kitchens looking to save on oil, labor, and time.

Open Fryers

If you’re serving a variety of fried food times, including fried chicken, an open fryer might be perfect for your operation. Open fryers produce a crispier product, increase overall throughput, and allow plenty of freedom for customization.

When looking at open fryers for your commercial kitchen, there are a few things to consider.

First, are your menu items freezer-to-fryer or freshly breaded? Will your kitchen be frying in large quantities? Are you looking for an all-purpose “workhorse” fryer to handle all your menu needs? Or do you want something more advanced to improve operations, maintain consistent food quality, and save money?

Henny Penny offers a wide range of open frying platforms, so there are plenty of options for every unique kitchen.

No matter what fryer you go with, all Henny Penny fryers include built-in oil filtration as a standard feature. This means oil filtration is no longer a chore and can be completed in just a few minutes at the touch of a button.

Keep in mind that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ best commercial fryer for fried chicken. Still struggling to decide between open and pressure frying? Check out this in-depth blog covering the differences and similarities between the two frying methods.

Heated Holding Cabinets

When you’re serving fried chicken, a holding cabinet is one of the most valuable pieces of kitchen equipment you can invest in.

Since diners are embracing off-premises channels at an unprecedented rate, peak order times and volumes have fluctuated. At the same time, operators are struggling to keep their kitchens staffed with enough employees to handle the rush.

The answer to these challenges? Cooking in large batches and holding product until it’s ready to serve.

Today’s holding cabinets are much more than stainless steel hot boxes – they can keep fried chicken fresh for long periods without sacrificing product quality. This way, the chicken will still be moist on the inside with a golden crunch on the outside. The customer won’t even be able to tell that it’s not fresh out of the fryer!

At Henny Penny, we offer two main options for holding cabinets: our standard cabinet, and the more advanced SmartHold model.

Our standard heated holding cabinet includes temperature control to keep fried chicken ready to serve (the recommended holding temperature for fried chicken is between 175- and 185-degrees Fahrenheit). A simple water pan allows the cabinet to create steam and help maintain the chicken’s moisture.

Our SmartHold cabinets feature something a bit more advanced – precise humidity control. This is ideal for naturally moist products like fried chicken. SmartHold allows operators to hold fried chicken and almost any other food for up to 200% longer than most other holding cabinets.

According to our corporate executive chef Gregg Brickman, either of these cabinets will make a major difference in your commercial kitchen. He says that holding cabinets can relieve as much pressure for today’s kitchens as adding another employee or sous chef.

Breadings and Seasonings

Aside from your kitchen equipment, you’ll also want breadings and seasonings to bring your fried chicken menu to life with flavor and texture.

At Henny Penny, we offer an extensive collection of breading and seasoning formulations. There are options for every taste, menu, and health concern. Click here to explore flavor profiles and menu suggestions for each of our exclusive breadings and seasonings.

Want to get an expert involved? Work with the Henny Penny team to create a signature taste for your brand. Connect with your local distributor to get started!

Clearly there is a lot to consider regarding fried chicken restaurant equipment. And beyond the equipment itself, there is even more to think about.

How will the kitchen process flow? Where will you source frying oil and other product? How will you get customer service once the equipment has been installed?

Answer all these questions and more by downloading From Sourcing to Serving, a comprehensive guide from our chicken experts. It’s packed with 22 pages covering everything you need to know about adding chicken to your menu!

 

 

Engineering at the Business of the Year

Henny Penny Corporation, Eaton, Ohio, was recently named Dayton business Journal’s 2021 Business of the Year. It’s a terrific honor and we take a certain amount of pride in being recognized for the effort our employee-owners put in every day and the accomplishments that result. But it goes deeper than that. We see this as a validation of what we have, for decades, simply called the Henny Penny Culture.

What is that difference? Is there something unique about this 1000+ employee-owned manufacturing company that was founded in small-town Ohio and never budged? In this 5-part blog series, we’ll hear from some of the individuals who understand best the hows and the whys behind the things Henny Penny does and believes in that have made our company not only a Midwestern success story, but a highly regarded global brand in the commercial foodservice equipment industry.

Engineering at the Business of the Year

Engineering has always been a priority at Dayton Business Journal’s 2021 Business of the Year. In fact, it’s not much of a stretch to say Henny Penny is an engineering company that happens to make restaurant equipment. After all, it was founded by an inventor who happened to run a restaurant.

Today, engineering has been reimagined as a collaborative effort between Henny Penny and our strategic partners. It involves research, design, production, and food science, and it takes place in a brand new state-of-the-art product development center designed from the ground up for that specific purpose. Dubbed “The Incubator,” this 150,000 square foot addition to the Eaton campus encloses a daylight flooded expanse of open-plan design and huddle space, 300 linear feet of hood across eight test-and-build bays, a food science lab, prototype assembly, robots, 3D printers, huge touchscreen video boards… and several kitchen sinks.

The Incubator hosts a veritable Venn diagram of activities fundamentally associated with engineering. The three big circles are New Product Development, Research and Development, and Sustaining Engineering. Various resources, such as the Food Science group, testing lab and prototyping are shared. More overlaps occur with Quality Assurance, Technical Services and Assembly. The building itself transitions from design, testing and prototyping to an entirely new manufacturing assembly floor.

Planning for the Future

It’s hard to talk about what Engineering does at Henny Penny without constantly referring to its new digs. While that may be true of any new facility and its inhabitants, the Incubator was designed and built to order just as the restaurant industry descended into the chaos wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jim Anglin, Vice President of Engineering, called that a testimony to the long view.

“The leadership at Henny Penny understood that the way we choose to do business with our customers meant we would continue to grow. We would have to. And the current setup simply wasn’t going to support that effort. Once we decided to build this big state-of-the-art engineering, product development and food science facility, how would we make our efforts efficient? How would the building do this? How would we put our talent to work in the most productive ways possible? This is the answer.”

For starters, he said, the new facility supports an unusual degree of collaboration internally and with customers. “Developing customer solutions is a continuum. We engage with customers before the sale and then follow up with technical support after the order. Sometimes we have an existing product that can solve a customer’s immediate problem. Often, we are able to take a proven product platform and modify it in some way that addresses a customer’s specific needs. Occasionally they bring us an idea and ask if we can make it.”

The sheer size and number of resources, and their integration within the space, helps with the speed of development. Conceptually, the Incubator embodies the transition from functional departments to customer-focused activities. Anglin mentioned electronic controls as an example. “We design and build them in-house, but it was always the software group here and the firmware group over there, even when they were working on the same thing. Now, every project has a team, and anybody might be on it.”

New Product Development

New ideas for improving commercial kitchen equipment usually come from helping customers improve their operations. It could be anything from a new basket design that makes loading a fryer easier to an entirely automated freezer-to-fryer system that maintains production with fewer workers. Senior Product Development Engineer Melissa Hohler heads up New Product Development. “It’s a new world,” she said. “No one has the luxury of building, testing, and evaluating sequentially any more. Speed to market is so important. This facility allows us to iterate so much faster.”

With all those new bays and hood space, Hohler and her team are able to test several ideas at once and emerge with the best solution in a fraction of the time. They work directly with customer recipes in our existing products so they know exactly what has to be achieved with modified or even new concept equipment. In every case, the Food Science lab is dialed in to make sure we are producing the customer’s gold standard products perfectly.

“We even have our own skunkworks,” said Hohler. “Behind the curtain stuff where we’re able to replicate a customer’s existing production system to test the new ideas. We’re always trying to improve performance… increase throughput utilizing new technologies, heating algorithms that react to what is going on in real time. Most of the time we’re trying to solve this high-level problem of increasing throughput from the same space. It’s true of all kitchens, especially globally. And even more so at the moment with energy becoming a major concern.”

Research & Development

Cracking the same nut means exploring new technologies and materials or applying existing technology in new ways. That’s where R&D comes in.

“We tend to focus on core technologies like heating and mechanics,” said Bill Casey, Director of Research and Development. “We work on the big problems that sometimes involve things we don’t know how to do yet. We’re typically outside the box looking for solutions we may not need for another year. We’ll take a new technology or concept to a point where it can go to New Product Development or on a shelf until they need it.”

Henny Penny does R & D a little differently according to Casey. “At other companies engineers see R & D as this secret group that reports only to senior management. Things are more collaborative here. We deal with engineering day to day. It’s important that we stay in touch with what they are doing. And they need to know what’s on the shelf. We all share resources. In fact, that’s what this place is all about. That’s why we call it the Incubator. Resources, decision-making, talent, feedback, leadership, it all happens in here. And this is where big ideas will get hatched.”

Sustaining Engineering

Henny Penny customers are constantly looking for ways to increase the value of their brand by entering new markets, introducing new menu items, or redesigning stores or kitchen space for greater efficiency. Most of the time that doesn’t require new products or technology, just well-performing ones readily available.

“The job of sustaining engineering is just that,” says Engineering Manager Jason Hollinger. “We’re here to make our existing products easier to manufacture, and to support our customers ongoing growth and our supply chain team moving forward.”

Hollinger’s group focuses on ways to “commonize” parts and components across product lines, and to reduce manufacturing complexity and lead times by designing with fewer parts and more sourcing options. Design engineers also interface with Quality Assurance through a reliability engineering program. The idea is to design for the level of risk to quality. If a part or component fails, what is the risk? If it is a safety issue, engineers work to either design out the risk or design in a failsafe that eliminates the risk without depending on any other system.

Improving safety and ease of use, increasing throughput, reducing the cost of operations—these are the constant “problems” facing the development of commercial kitchen equipment, and the ones engineers at the Incubator work on every day.

“This is a fantastic environment for engineering work,” said Hollinger, who has been with Henny Penny for a little over two years. “People work together here. The company continues to grow and improve. We get to be a part of that process. We are granted the flexibility to do what’s right. As employee owners, everybody has a stake in the game. And that means working together for what’s best for the company, not just for yourself. It’s a totally different environment than I have experienced. Henny Penny planned and built this facility for growth not knowing exactly where it would come from. It was a great bit of forward thinking.”

Anglin agreed. “It’s amazing what this organization does to put in place what we need to get the job done.” And does he think that means the future of foodservice equipment will be coming from Eaton, Ohio? “Absolutely.”

 

Why Your Restaurant Needs a Chicken Fryer

Commercial fryers, sometimes referred to as chicken fryers, are one of the most common pieces of kitchen equipment in food service. And for good reason, too.

What are chicken fryers?

Chicken fryers are simply the fryers used to prepare chicken (among other food items) in a commercial kitchen. There are two main types of chicken fryers to choose from: open fryers and pressure fryers.

Pressure fryers are perfect for bone-in items like fried chicken, as well as pork, fish, potato wedges and more. Open fryers are ideal for a variety of fried food items, from French fries to fried chicken.

With fried chicken, deciding between open frying and pressure frying comes down to the preferred taste and texture of the final product. An open fryer will produce crispy and crunchy chicken while a pressure fryer will yield juicy and tender chicken.

Some kitchens choose to employ both types of fryers to offer two versions of the same product. Take fried chicken sandwiches as an example. Several restaurants serve a juicy fried chicken sandwich out of a pressure fryer while preparing a crispy version of the same fried chicken sandwich in an open fryer.

If you don’t have a chicken fryer in your commercial kitchen, here are four reasons you should consider getting one and adding fried chicken to your menu:

Reason #1: Chicken is more popular than ever

The first, most obvious reason to invest in a chicken fryer is to serve fried chicken because it is popular with customers. As of 2021, Chicken is the number one most consumed animal protein in the world. And in 2022, Americans are on track to consume more than 97 billion pounds of chicken.

Chicken was surging in popularity even before the pandemic. In 2019, fast casual chicken chains grew their sales by over 24% – that’s more than any other segment tracked by Technomic’s Top 500 chain restaurant data. Having fried chicken on the menu is almost guaranteed to generate more food sales.

In fact, Technomic consumer data shows that 55% of consumers are likely to order fried chicken dishes from restaurants or other food service locations at least occasionally. When half of today’s customers are ordering chicken on a regular basis, it’s an obvious opportunity.

Reason #2: Serve more customers with less labor

Today’s commercial fryers are much more than a stainless steel box with oil – they’re capable of producing large quantities of food for high volume chains. When combined with heated holding cabinets, chicken fryers maximize throughput while minimizing necessary kitchen staff.

Instead of cooking to order, restaurants can batch cook in advance with less crew members in the kitchen. Advanced holding cabinets can hold food product at the desired temperature for up to four hours with no discernible difference in quality. As far as the customer can tell, their fried chicken is being served fresh out of the fryer!

Operators can speed up the cooking process entirely by leveraging a pressure fryer since they have faster cook times than an open fryer.

How long does it take to cook chicken wings in a deep fryer? It can vary based on equipment and the amount of product. On average, operators can fry 4-head (~32 pieces) of bone-in fried chicken in about 10-11 minutes depending on size.

Reason #3: Offer a more versatile menu

Another great reason to add a chicken fryer to your lineup of kitchen appliances? It’s an easy way to delight customers with more choices on the menu.

There are so many ways to serve fried chicken, we can’t even count. From a bone-in fried chicken meal to tenders/strips/fingers and nuggets, the possibilities are endless.

Adding a chicken fryer to the kitchen means automatic menu versatility. Restaurants can even offer just one signature chicken item with multiple sauce or dry rub flavor options. Alternatively, they can serve a variety of chicken items (strips, nuggets, sandwiches, etc.) using only one piece of equipment.

It’s important to remember that more of today’s customers are looking to indulge in spicy chicken options. According to Technomic, 34% of consumers ages 18-34 strongly agree that they are eating more fried/breaded chicken with spicy flavors now than they were two years ago.

Want to learn more about why the versatility of chicken is the secret to success? Download this free ebook from our chicken experts to uncover key points about starting or upgrading a chicken program.

Reason #4: Take advantage of a profit opportunity

Finally, fried chicken offers a profit opportunity that cannot be ignored by restaurant operators. Each part of the chicken is its own popular menu item: wings, thighs, breasts, tenders, nuggets.

These menu items aren’t just popular; they’re profitable too. Chicken nuggets cost about a dime to make but go for about $0.60 each. On the other hand, restaurants can build a farm-to-table fried chicken sandwich on an artisanal bun with bacon for about two bucks and sell it for $8.99.

Inflated cooking oil costs make it more important than ever to invest in a fryer that makes the most of oil’s useful life. Look for features such as built-in filtration and consider what a low oil volume fryer could do for your business.

At the end of the day, a premium fryer can pay for itself with oil savings alone in just a few years or less. Some operators even sell their used cooking oil to boost their return on investment. Once the fryer is paid for, everything served out of that piece of equipment is pure profit. With proper maintenance, a commercial fryer can be put to work for a decade or more.

Check out this case study on how Evolution Elite open fryers deliver quality, consistency, and oil savings for an international fried chicken concept.

 

If you’re not in the fried chicken game, it’s time to consider investing in a chicken fryer. The popularity, versatility, and profitability of fried chicken make it a no-brainer for any menu. Download this free ebook from our experts and start serving chicken like the pros.

Ready to talk to someone about getting started with a profitable chicken program? Click here to connect with a Henny Penny team member who will be happy to help.