Although commercial fryer manufacturer Ultrafryer Systems offers customizable fryers to ensure customers can easily produce their desired food, some features remain constant. The company’s products are well-known for superior shortening management, fuel savings and quick recovery times.
Its systems are so energy efficient that many of them are 30 percent more efficient than Energy Star-certified fryers. The San Antonio-based company got its start as a division of Church’s Chicken, at the time mostly making electric fryers.
“After Popeyes acquired Church’s, they had an idea for a gas fryer,” says A.C. McNamara, vice president of engineering and manufacturing. “Our engineers took over and introduced that fryer in 1991, and that’s how long we’ve been the most efficient gas fryer around.”
Sustainability is an ever-growing area of focus in the restaurant industry, and McNamara says Ultrafryer Systems stands to benefit from that focus, because the market is increasingly changing to suit Ultrafryer’s forte. “The market now is considering green as part of restaurant needs,” he notes.
“One aspect of green is energy efficiency, and we’ve been the leader there for some time. When green is further analyzed to include sustainability, our integrated ability to prolong shortening life, our efficient cooking power to avoid poorly cooked food, and our robust product designs and quality materials to minimize equipment replacement fits that need superbly.”
McNamara notes that the company performs in restaurant tests to measure fryers’ efficiency in which the utility puts meters on a restaurant’s existing fryer. “After a period of several weeks of data, our fryers are installed on the same meters,” McNamara explains. “We usually always reduce the energy bill by more than half.”
Ultrafryer Systems’ restaurant clients also include Grandy’s, Hooters, Pappadeaux, In-N-Out Burger, Shakeys and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. And although these restaurants serve up high volumes of food on a fast-pace basis, they still require top-notch quality, McNamara says.
“They expect properly fried food in whatever volume and mixture their hour-to-hour customer flow requires,” he explains. “They expect minimum maintenance and good shortening life. They expect low energy bills. They do not expect greasy, soggy food – even when the loading gets heavy. They also expect user-friendly filtering and cleanup capability.”
The company also retains institutional clients, such as colleges like University of Notre Dame, hospitals, hotels and prisons. The company plans to keep expanding its presence in the industry, focusing on chains that reap the most benefits from efficient fryers because they’re constantly churning out food.
“They expect properly fried food in whatever volume and mixture their hour-to-hour customer flow requires,” McNamara states. “They expect minimum maintenance and good shortening life. They expect low energy bills. They do not expect greasy, soggy food even when the loading gets heavy. They expect user-friendly filtering and cleanup.
“They define quality as all the expectations above being worry-free and that doors, valves, connectors, latches and filters are tight and well-finished and held neatly in place for whatever function is being performed.”
Although Ultrafryer Systems’ fryers offer great-tasting food for all clients, McNamara notes that fast-food operators and customers who don’t have periods of down time would benefit most from its products. “Generally, the heavier users get quicker payback for buying a heavy-duty, high-efficiency fryer,” he explains. “Also getting benefits from a heavy-duty unit are some institutions that serve only one meal a day but need the no critical-downtime confidence that robust equipment brings.”
Making products that save customers money has been of utmost importance to the company since it was founded. “Ultrafryer Systems learned the lesson of overall optimization,” McNamara says. “Even though today’s industry has manufacturing and distribution and installation and operation all in separate compartments, Ultrafryer looks through the supply line to the end customer – the restaurant patron – and uses his metrics to evaluate optimization. While each equipment unit is tested to physical performance metrics on the assembly line, the product is tested for value added and quality achieved in the Ultrafryer test kitchen.”
A major feature that sets Ultrafryer Systems apart from competitors is its ability to work with customers to customize fryers. Vat sizes, work or dump stations, basket lifts, field joints and shortening filtration all can be altered to fit various needs. Customers also can choose the size and power levels to produce the best-tasting food. McNamara notes that Ultrafryer Systems has produced some models designed just for frying bone-in chicken and other systems designed to handle heavy french fry loads.
McNamara explains that Ultrafryer’s willingness to customize worked especially well for one of its customers. “A West Coast burger chain wanted our efficiency but also wanted a change in vat style and cabinet style, calling for a complete redesign,” he says. “We redesigned and submitted prototypes for them to use, and they became avid users. As time went on, they spotted several modifications that they felt would make improvements for their operation but that our other customers didn’t need.
“We worked together to get just the design they wanted. In other cases, their special procedures caused inconveniences, and we worked together to design modifications that they tested and found better matched their cleaning and maintenance procedures. In all cases, we bought the exact product they cooked and cooked it in our test kitchen. We still remembered that nothing was a good change if food quality and production capacity were compromised.”
Ultrafryer’s test kitchen enables the company to bring clients’ ideas for specifications to life. The company utilizes the test kitchen to design and test the systems for customers. “We have cooked a ton or so of chicken in our kitchen over the years to help our customers find the best program parameters and menu variations on their cooking computerized controllers installed on each vat,” McNamara says.
“[Our clients] care enough about their customer to make the chicken or sides the best they can be, and we still remember how important that is.” To that end, Ultrafryer partners with its clients to pinpoint the exact fryer specifications that meet their needs. “We can tweak the design, settings and filtering of the fryer to let the chain satisfy its most critical customer and let it be repeated for every customer,” McNamara explains. “We’re the best at that, and it takes our people and our product working with their people and their raw food to do it.”
Ultrafryer Systems’ fryers have large recovery capacities and faster cooking times, meaning its clients can cook more food per hour. The food also cooks faster than in other fryers because it receives the required Btus faster. Ultrafryer’s systems include patented heat exchangers that put more energy into shortening and have enough power to recover from the temperature drop caused by placing food inside a vat.
“This is extremely beneficial for the busiest times of the day,” the company notes. “For some cases, fewer Ultrafryers are needed to keep up with the same volume ordinary fryers can produce. Additionally, a smaller hood is required with less exhaust and make-up air needed, lower energy costs and more floor space available.”
Efficient shortening filtering is key when frying food because it has a great impact not only on food taste, but a restaurant’s pocketbook.
So ensuring best taste and cutting down on shortening costs is an important area of focus for Ultrafryer Systems, McNamara notes. The company’s entire line of fryers include a shortening melt cycle. They also offer multiple filtration systems that are tailored to each client’s needs.
“Cost of customer dissatisfaction with food quality caused by poorly maintained shortening is poorly recorded or accounted for,” McNamara notes.
“The importance of filtering has been integrated into our fryers and related restaurant operations since the early founding days,” he continues. “Ultrafryer’s ability to design effective, safe and optimized filter integration is preserved by the satisfied restaurant customer mindset, viewpoint and experience that has led to energy efficiency, control and power optimization.”
This filtration makes for the best-tasting food possible, Ultrafryer says, because the systems have the fastest food recovery time, which prevents the food from absorbing more shortening from the vat.
“During the cook cycle, the temperature reaches the set point, allowing the food to be cooked at the intended temperatures,” the company explains. “This results in less shortening absorption, and consequently produces a better-tasting product.”