Fifty-three percent of adults say takeout and delivery food is essential to the way they live, according to the 2021 National Restaurant Association’s State of the Restaurant Industry Report. Fried foods, in particular, are some of the most popular delivered foods and the most susceptible to a change in quality as they grow cold or soggy. With the quality of food being the most important part of the delivery experience to consumers, according to a 2022 study by Toast, consumers expect nothing less than an on-premise experience when their delivered foods arrive. This means fried foods need to maintain their crispiness, temperature, and flavor throughout the delivery process.
Keeping fried foods crispy and delicious throughout the delivery process is even more challenging because it takes 35 minutes on average to have food delivered, according to a Hotel Tech Report. “With the increase of off-premise dining, many consumers are having more negative experiences than positive ones, especially when it comes to fried foods,” says Shannon O’Shields, vice president of marketing at Rubix Foods. “I think poor quality sentiments are probably the number one complaint we see in our market research related to deliveries.”
Time-sensitive foods—like french fries and the ever-popular fried chicken sandwich—need to be protected throughout the delivery process, especially as consumers start to rely more heavily on off-premise dining. Restaurant operators do not have much control over how long it takes for food to be delivered; however, there are technologies and techniques they can employ to improve flavor and texture. “Of course, operators can experiment with unique packaging and even breading systems to enhance the quality of their product,” O’Shields says. “But until now there hasn’t been much innovation in flavor systems that do the same. That’s why we developed CrispKeeper.”
O’Shields further explained how Rubix began working on this issue after a quick-service restaurant reached out to Rubix Foods to create a “flavorful, spicy glaze for their fried chicken sandwich.” This was during the famous 2020 chicken sandwich wars and in the midst of COVID-19 when off-premise dining reached record highs. “Traditional glazes typically have a higher water content, they’re very wet products, and they’re not designed to help fried foods in quality,” says Mark Rones, vice president of culinary sales at Rubix Foods. “Traditional glazes can make products soggy, and they really don’t enhance the overall fried food experience. CrispKeeper is the complete opposite.”
Traditional fried food sauces and glazes use water, which can perform well when the food is delivered on-premise immediately to customers. However, today, many more customers are clamoring for fried foods delivered to their homes and want the fried, crispy, crunchy exterior to remain that way, even when tossed or coated in flavor systems. Traditional water-based sauces simply cannot perform as well throughout a 30-minute or longer delivery process. “CrispKeeper has very low water activity,” Rones says. “It creates a great barrier for flavor systems from sweet to savory. When applied to many fried foods, the CrispKeeper system becomes part of the fried product, soaks in, and is almost indiscernible as a sauce or a glaze.”
CrispKeeper performs well compared to traditional glazes partly because of its low-water composition, but it is also highly customizable. “The customization opportunities are nearly endless with CrispKeeper,” Rones says. “Whether it be a traditional flavor, a globally-inspired flavor, or a unique mashup, your imagination is your only limitation.”
While CrispKeeper permeates fried foods without making them soggy, it can also keep up with customers’ needs for innovative menu LTOs and operator’s needs for a cross-functional SKU. “When an operator buys a CrispKeeper flavor delivery system from us, they may apply it to a chicken sandwich, fries, and chicken nuggets–now they’ve created three new menu items with a single SKU,” O’Shields says.
Some operators may think a good alternative to glazes is dry seasoning to provide a more consistent delivery experience with fried foods; however, consumers may not enjoy dry rubs as much as glazes and other wet applications. “In some of our market research and in actual feedback from our customers, there are some challenges with dry seasoning, too,” Rones says. “It’s often inconsistent and doesn’t evenly coat the full product, especially with a chicken sandwich.”
Relying on employees who have different levels of familiarity with product guidelines and expectations can make dry rubs particularly challenging to use. “You’re relying on your back-of-house to evenly distribute the product or seasoning,” Rones says. “So again, you’re not delivering a consistent experience, as some bites may be over or under seasoned.” Furthermore, in some of Rubix Foods’ proprietary research, a vast majority of consumers prefer glazes and sauces over dry rubs.
In a rapidly evolving landscape of off-premise dining and food delivery, maintaining the quality of fried foods has become an increasingly daunting challenge. Keeping fried food integrity intact throughout the delivery process is a challenge for restaurants while being of increasing concern for consumers. On-premise foods still need a flavor application that delivers a consistent experience. An easy application of flavor helps employees and operators while meeting customer expectations regarding texture, flavor, and consistent experiences at quick-service restaurants.
Rubix Food’s transformative flavor system offers an alternative to dry rubs and water-based glazes and sauces that can damage the texture and integrity of fried foods making them soggy and unappetizing. “Off-premise dining has played a huge role in consumers’ evolving expectations of fried foods,” O’Shields says. “Operators have a huge opportunity to enhance the fried food delivery experience and we’re excited about helping them do that.”
To learn more about CrispKeeper, visit RubixFoods.com