An entrepreneur in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island has modified an automated restaurant french fry cutter to the North American market.
The Iranian born Hamid Sanayie man moved to Prince Edward Island in August 2007 after living in the United Kingdom for the past 21 years.
He was looking for a quiet and safe place to raise his children, but Sanayie also had quite an eye for business.
Armed with experience in the United Kingdom, he got into the restaurant business on the Island. He previously owned Brits Fish & Chips in Charlottetown and still has Water Street Fish & Chips in the Charlottetown city and Brits in Cavendish.
But one thing constantly surprised him.
“I ran a restaurant on University Avenue and I was surprised to see everybody using frozen french fries.”
“They had these famous (P.E.I.) potatoes and I wondered why they were using the frozen ones.’’
So, he went looking for a fry cutter. In fact, he looked all over North America, but found nothing.
He started up a new company called Fry Factory in the West Royalty Industrial Park (Charlottetown, PEI) in hopes of changing that.
“I was surprised because they’ve been using these machines for the last 35 to 40 years, maybe more, in U.K. and Europe. Nobody heard of these machines in North America.’’
Sanayie decided to buy one from the U.K. and bring it over. Problem was, the machine that restaurants were using in the U.K. weren’t designed for potatoes in P.E.I.
“One thing you would notice by living over there and come over here is the size of the potato. Our potato is sometimes three times bigger than the potato they’re using over there. I don’t know why.”
“Over here, we use the potato with the skin, over there they take the skin off.’’
That meant modifications to the machine had to be made – bigger motor, bigger rotor and different certification due to the difference in voltage the machines use.
“We had to change most of the components.’’
What they’ve been left with is a machine that turns potatoes into french fries. Instead of pressing potato after potato through a manual cutter, the operator of the Fry Factory machine simply loads piles of potatoes into the top and then sees the machine spin out a shower of fries.
“Right now most people use the hand-cutting (version).’’
Sanayie’s machine can produce a 50-pound bag of french fries in one minute. He said it’s not all about speeding up the process. Doing it manually means constantly hauling down on a lever.
“It saves lots of people shoulder issues, doing that all day. Safety matters as well. Saves (the employee) from injuring his fingers or cutting something worse.’’
So far, they’ve sold 119 machines in three years – about 65 per cent in Canada and 35 per cent in the United States.
He notes as the only manufacturer of these fry cutters in North America, the company has room to expand.
“One of the biggest challenges we have is educating the people to use this machine.”
“So, changing their habits is a big challenge.’’