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Cheap as chips?

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

Customer Perception

Chips as a relatively 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.

With a rise in popularity of the ‘Gastro’ triple cooked chip, and increased food costs – particularly for prepared foods, the question is: “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 – here’s how: 


This is a matter for personal preference and standard of execution – I have experienced some truly greasy soggy home made ones and some dry and flavourless frozen chips. Whatever your preference – good quality product and clean, hot oil is essential.

Undoubtedly when done well the crispy outside and fluffy inside of the triple cooked are unbeatable.

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 conducting an experiment in my kitchen

Pitching 2.5 kilo of Supermarket Maris Piper (90p per kilo) split into 2 styles of home- made chips (Heston Blumenthal Triple Cooked and Classic Chip Shop styles)


1.5kg Supermarket Value Frozen chips (55p per kilo) and branded frozen chips (£1.75 per kilo)


Heston-style Triple Cooked

Chip Shop style


1.25 kg Maris Piper (90p per kilo)

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

1.25 kg Maris Piper (90p per kilo)

Hand peeled with a peeler and cut into ‘chip shop’ style chips


1.25 kg frozen chips

55p per kilo (value range) £1.75 per kilo (top branded)


  • 25% weight lost in peelings


  • 11% weight lost in peelings


  • 0% lost in peelings
  •  a further 30%  (375g) lost in shaping chips (small potatoes discarded as they didn’t make the size grade)
  • a further 3% (36g) lost in shaping chips (small potatoes, knobbly bits and rounded ends all made into chips)


  • 0% lost in shaping
  •  40% of prepped weight lost (mostly moisture) during blanching, par fry and final cooking process
  • 41% of prepped weight lost (mostly moisture) during blanching, par fry and final cooking process


  • 26% of prepped weight lost in cooking process
  • Final portion just 25% (315g)
  • of the original raw potato weight.
  • Final portion 51% (639g) of the original raw potato weight


  • Final portion 74% (930g)
  • of the original frozen chip weight
  •  200g portion cost price = 72p
  •  200g portion cost price = 35p
  • 200g portion cost price from
  • 15p (value)
  • to 43p (branded)



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, (you can hardly rustle up another 20 kilos of Heston- triple-cooked from nowhere, in the middle of an unexpectedly busy service!) 


In the experiment above the oil used to fry the potato chips was approx. 100ml per 200g portion (and not included in the costing)

The frozen chips used less than half this amount as the par frying has been done for you.

Over the course of the year that could add up to 365 x 20 litre drums more for frying potatoes rather than prepared chips of (based on on 40 portions of chips a day) 

Size of portion

If you are guessing what goes on the plate – now is the time to invest in measures. Attractive wire presentation baskets not only look more impressive than a pile of chips on a plate but also help keep a handle on portion control.

Over- portioning by just two chips (12.5g ea) could cost you dearly.

At 40 portions of chips a day, just two chips too many on every portion comes to 365 kg of chips a year with a cost of  £1,315 (Heston) £ 638 (chip shop) £240-£730 (frozen)

If you were to sell them instead of give them away - at 70% GP this equates to a loss of up to £3k from your bottom line.

Over-portioning could also mean your customers are too full of chips they may decide not to spend out on a pudding – losing you even more revenue! 

Getting the portion just right is crucial – to both customer satisfaction and your profit margin.

Staff Grazing

It’s not just on the plate that over-portioning can occur – not using a measure to put chips into the fryer has an impact too – any left over usually end up eaten by the staff or in the bin – sometimes it can even become a habit to cook a few more for the team to graze on.

“staff grazing” – chips are eminently nibbly – but allowing your team to help themselves as they pass through the kitchen can also mount up – as much as £1,500 a year if staff help themselves to a portion or so a day 

The Humble Spud

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



  • 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 
    • What are triple cooked chips?
  • Uniform in size
  • Part cooked in boiling salted water (Heston cooks his till they are nearly falling apart – but this makes handling them tricky) Drained and chilled.
  • Fried at 130 degrees for approx. 5 minutes
  • Drained and chilled again (popping in the freezer draws out more moisture)
  • Finished by frying at 180 degrees for approx. 7 minutes - make the coating crispy and the inside lovely and fluffy

Par-fried they can be kept chilled for up to three days



Posted by on: February 18th, 2014