When Hamid Sanayie moved to Prince Edward Island, he found it strange that so many restaurants served frozen French fries.
“Being in the Island, which is famous for the potato, I wondered how come everybody used frozen fries here,” Sanayie explains. “Then I realized, if they want a fresh potato, they have to cut it by hand.”
As president of Fry Factory, Sanayie hopes to change that — not only in P.E.I. but across North America. His company manufactures an automatic fry-cutting machine that can turn a 50-pound bag of potatoes into fries in just one minute.
“Doing that by hand takes too much time,” he says.
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.
Sanayie says the machine not only boosts the speed of the process but also health and safety, since automation avoids the repeated stress on an operator’s arm and shoulder.
In creating his business, Sanayie brought his extensive background in the restaurant industry — both from living 21 years in the United Kingdom and close to a decade in P.E.I. (He previously owned Brits Fish & Chips in Charlottetown, and still has Water Street Fish & Chips in the capital and Brits in Cavendish.)
Sanayie also brought understanding of different technology. The time this Iranian-born entrepreneur spent in Europe helped familiarize him with automatic fry-cutting machinery there.
He started his company in 2014 as Hopkins P.E.I., then as a partnership with the Hopkins catering equipment business in U.K. Now, he owns Fry Factory outright. The company operates from West Royalty Business Park and employs five full-time staff.
The business marked a major milestone in 2016, when it obtained the NSF International certification needed to sell these machines in the massive U.S. market.
To date, Fry Factory has sold more than 100 fry-cutters, with about 65 per cent in Canada and 35 per cent in the United States. Sanayie notes that as the only manufacturer of automatic fry-cutters in North America, the company has tremendous potential to expand.
Sanayie says the main challenges at his business have been finding manufacturing expertise and educating potential buyers about new ways and new technology.
What is his best advice for other entrepreneurs? He recommends pursuing business interests based not on money, but on the skills you can bring.
“If you have the expertise, do it!” he says.
And while Sanayie wants to sell far beyond the Island, he also hopes his company helps show off the province’s famous produce. When tourists visit, he wants them to enjoy fresh-cut fries, not fries they could get in the freezer at any grocery store in the world.
“We’ve got the best potatoes here!”