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On his first day as the new owner of Jimmys Takeaway, Michael ran out of hot chips

March 4, 2023

Michael and staff at Jimmys on Friday. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

By Peter Holmes

When The Orange News Examiner popped into Jimmy’s Takeaway on Woodward Street on Friday morning to check on the hot chip situation, new owner Michael Everett was on his laptop trying to source frozen chips.

It used to be that if you felt like hot chips, you could just go into town and buy some. Stans. Jimmy's. Cheeky Barista. Ali's Kebabs. Mackies (RIP). Peisley Street. Choox.

But those days are in the rear vision mirror.

A national shortage means the hot chip situation in Orange has become completely ad hoc and unknowable. Does your supplier have the goodies? How much? What is the premium?

This week Stans didn’t have hot chips. Jim and George were making thousands of their legendary potato scallops, but couldn’t get their hands on hot chips.

Everett, who bought Jimmy's Takeaway 11 days ago just as the Great Hot Chip Shortage of 2023 started to bite, has restricted the amount of hot chips customers can buy.

When people came in on day one to buy hot chips and there weren't any, Everett said they were a little miffed, but said they have come to accept that there are more businesses looking for hot chips than the market can handle.

An electronic sign at Jimmys Takeaway. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

“When you run out of chips on the first day you open, it’s a pretty average afternoon,” he said. “Gets you a bit stressed, but our suppliers are really good, they’re trying their hardest.”

For now, Everett has hot chips, but not enough to allow people to really get amongst them. The solution has been to limit hot chips to just two serving sizes, akin to the cardboard packaging in fast food chains.

[On the sly, Everett told The Orange News Examiner that if a family needed a few more hot chips, he would do what he could to give them a larger serving.]

The issue around the dearth of hot chips is not simply related to a shortage of potatoes.

Potatoes are still widely available, said Everett, but the process of turning a potato into a hot chip is labour-intensive and therefore costly. They need to be washed, peeled, chopped, par-cooked and then cooked to order.

This may have been the norm in another era, but today most takeaways rely on frozen chips that have been par-cooked.

Jimmys Takeaway. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

As the owner of a number of food and beverage outlets under the Ever Hospitality Group in Orange, including Tuckshop on Forest Road, Ever Coffee Roasters on Endsleigh Avenue and food trucks, Everett has a few connections.

He knows vendors in Sydney that might have access to frozen chips. A lot of frozen chips.

“In certain places, but they keep it very low key,” he said. “There will be a black market in potatoes very shortly.”

Stock image.

I think he was joking. So how many frozen chips would he buy if he could?

Everett said that, first, he would hire a refrigerated van. The frozen chips come in 12kg bags. He’d buy about two tonnes of them. He said that if this came to pass he’d be happy to share with other takeaways in town.

Hand or machine cut chips are a plan B that Everett will fall back if he has to, but reluctantly.

He said buying a potato peeler was relatively cheap, but that a cutting machine could set him back $14,000. Then he would need to hire staff to par-cook the chips, which would be challenging in the current market, and then adjust his prices to compensate.

Everett was awaiting an update on the frozen chip situation on Friday afternoon.

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