Facing inflation and supply chain strains, global chicken brand Church’s Texas Chicken turned to its oil to cut costs.
Inflation has caused oil prices to skyrocket, said Luis de la Torre, Church's VP of global ops services, and the chain started brainstorming ways to cut its oil costs.
Along the way, it tested a product by FreshFry, a frying oil life extension company. The company’s FreshFry Pods are made from agricultural scraps and extend the life of frying oil by two to three days, according to Jeremiah Chapman, co-founder and CEO of FreshFry.
“We found out about this product and it’s completely natural, and it even helps the environment. So, we decided, Hey, why not? Let’s test it,” said De La Torre. “We found out we can actually expand the life of oil, and also we’re actually reducing our oil consumption.”
This collaboration with Church’s marks FreshFry’s first global partnership with a corporate QSR. The company plans to expand into Church’s global units starting this year. Church’s is currently finishing up the domestic rollout of the product and hopes to have a standardized process across all 1,700 units worldwide by next year, according to De La Torre.
“Church’s is a 70-year strong brand that has known the whole world over, so we’re really proud to be able to bring them such meaningful cost savings in this environment,” said Chapman.
Saving money by being green
For Church’s, the partnership provided an opportunity to save money on oil costs while making a contribution to the environment, De La Torre said.
“To find savings and to drive profitability to our restaurants, we are constantly evolving, constantly innovating. And by partnering with FreshFry Pods, we can save a lot of money and be more green and efficient in our restaurants,” he said.
The pods have helped Church’s decrease their oil usage, which has led to cost savings.
“Before the pandemic, a jug of oil could actually cost you maybe $20 but now you are paying, I don’t know, maybe $50 per jar,” De La Torre said. “By using the FreshFry Pods, we are reducing the amount of oil that we’re actually using, discarding less oil.”
For FreshFry, sustainability means more than a commitment to the planet. Chapman said that FreshFry prides itself on being sustainable to the businesses it serves as well.
“We wanted to make sure that the planet was well thought of when making our product, the person using the pods was well thought of and appreciated,” Chapman said. “And the profit of the business. There’s a way to do all of that. We focus on the total environment, not just creating a product to use.”
Chapman said that each case of pods offsets about 8.2 pounds of carbon emissions.
“So, we’re talking to the tune of almost 5 million pounds of offset that is also providing monetary savings for the brand,” he said.
Food quality and ease of use
Chapman developed the idea for FreshFry when cooking with his grandmother, who would use potatoes to clean frying oil after cooking things like fish.
“Think of it as a popcorn seed—you heat it up, it pops open, and now you have all this surface area that really loves to go in oil and take away the acids and the metals. Basically, the things that make the oil taste bitter, turn dark and start to smoke,” he said. “When you’re taking those away, you’d rather have it go in the pod instead of staying in your oil, getting worse and then ending up in your food. So, one use every night is allowing that removal to happen.”
Using the pods is simple, said De La Torre. As they close the store, a staff member will toss a pod into the oil while it’s still hot. Then the next day, the pod gets taken out.
"There is no measurement, there is no additional steps and that actually helps a lot with engagement,” he said.
Another benefit of the pods is their impact on oil quality, which is a contributing factor in the quality of food, according to Chapman.
“Whenever you’re eating something that’s fried, your food is 10 to 40% oil. Which means it’s an ingredient,” he said. “If the restaurant is thinking about it as overhead—it doesn’t matter what the quality is—that means you’re not taking care of your ingredients.”
Through customer surveys, De La Torre said he has noticed an improvement in perception of food quality after consistent pod usage.
“We capture the guest’s sentiment around several metrics: speed of service, friendliness, accuracy and taste of food is a big part of it,” he said. “What we’ve seen is an increase in several points in the overall satisfaction to taste of food. So having a natural product, using it in our oil, is showing us that it actually changed the perception of the product.”
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