Hot chip vending machine created by company that believed it could fry!
Article Date: 2015-02-02
Ten years in development, Perth firm’s ‘mini fish and chip shop’ will start commercial production this year – and sights are set on the international market
A Western Australian company has made a hot chip vending machine that deep fries frozen chips while you wait.
While the idea has occurred to many who have stared sadly at the closed sign of the local takeaway at 3am before stumbling home for a disappointing slice of toast, the successful execution took years of work.
It’s the latest venture of the Perthbusinessman Peter Malone, best known for his turn as managing director of collapsed telecommunications company New Tel, the $2.5bn business he founded with his best man in 1988.
New Tel was publicly listed in 1999 and raised $150m from the market before its promise of being "the America Online of China” fell flat. When the company went into administration in 2002 it owed creditors almost $50m. Both Telstra and Optus were owed $10m.
Malone, who heads The Hot Chips Company, said the vending machine’s development began more than 10 years ago when his group of business associates began tracking failed attempts by other companies.
He said their machine, which has just passed the trial stage and will start commercial production this year, fried the chips in a 10-litre vat of rice bran oil in the belly of the machine.
The technology used in the final design, which relies on a robotic arm to catch the chips in a cup and then serve them up to the waiting customer, has only become available in recent years.
Malone suggested the chips could qualify for the Heart Foundation tick because they were fried in cholesterol-free oil. He said the risk of food poisoning was minimal because "potatoes are very much an inert product”.
The potato selection was no easy task. Stephen Bendotti is a director of the potato processing company Bendotti Exporters and WA Chip, which supplies the chips. He said it had taken a lot of trial and error to make frozen chips that would cook properly within minutes.
The exact makeup of the chips is a closely guarded secret, but Bendotti said they were likely to be more uniform than ordinary ones. "It has to be the perfect size and length so it doesn’t get lodged in the machine,” he said.
Bendotti Exporters has had a working vending machine in its Manjimup headquarters, about 300km south of Perth, for several years. It’s a favourite with staff and is used to give demonstrations to potato growers.
"It’s like a mini fish and chip shop,” Bendotti said. "It’s got a freezer at the top, a fryer in the middle and you collect your chips at the bottom. It’s about the size of a Coke machine.”
The machines are available for public use in two service stations in Adelaide and at the Ibis Budget airport hotel in Perth.
Malone said the company planned to manufacture 200 of them by the end of the year, with production increasing to 1,000 machines in 2016 and 5,000 in 2017. He said they would probably be sold into service station chains and should be available throughout Australia within 12 months. The next step would be taking on the international market.
"This will be bigger [than New Tel],” Malone said. "It’s popular worldwide. We don’t need to go and tell people that a chip is something that they should eat.”