Pam is retired from a University and has been slinging dogs for 8 weeks now. She writes…
How ya doin’? I’ve wanted to say hi for awhile now and to let you know some of the stuff that is going on with the hot dog cart business, . . . I will be starting my 8th week in business next week and am finding out “if you build it, they will come!” OMG! I will just touch on the highlights for you, but know that I am “workin’ it!”
I have finally gotten caught up with all of the accounting stuff from day 1 when I started this business. I only have to do the bookkeeping a week at a time now. My accountant is giving me a great deal to do it for me. Best $ I ever spent! I am dog tired at the end of the day (pun intended!) and bookwork is overwhelming. I do manage to count my tickets daily, finalize the cash box for the next day and make deposits.
There’s a lot I could tell you about the first 7 weeks of the hot dog business, like my original cook quit on me after 3 weeks (stayed until our town festival was over). (I think I emailed you then and we had sold out on Saturday!) It’s all working out, but there have been some moments that tested me. The health dept has been wonderful to give me a 3 month reprieve to license myself, since my original cook holds the food certification. She said the job was kicking her butt! however, she would stay on with me to do condiments, so I am still under her food certification. I am halfway through the online course and hope to finish it in the next week or so, so I don’t run into this problem again. (*Note for your next book – have owners get food certified!) My student neighbor guys have been cooking for me, but will go back to school August 20. Then, there’s Willie . . . my new full time cook who has 30 yrs experience in the restaurant industry, is awesome!, and who needed a job. A lot of what I am about to tell you required a full time cook or I couldn’t pursue it . . . and now what you say in your book is coming true for me! OMG again!
The town that we live in, Macomb, IL, has a population of 33,000 (12,000 of that is university students, majority from the Chicago area, so the Chicago Dog is a real hit!).
I have lived in Macomb for the majority of my life and just retired in February 2011 (HA, that’s funny stuff!) from the University after 27 years in the printing industry, so have a lot of connections . . . The Chamber of Commerce gave me a ribbon cutting on Tuesday which was great publicity, the Mayor wanted us at the Municipal Band Concert on Thursday night so we did that (sold ice cream out of the cart freezer, Keaton & Zack (my student neighbor guys) worked a private college party on Saturday night for 7 hrs. plus we are doing lunches everyday M-F 11:00 – 1:00 in our historic downtown district either on the courthouse lawn or in Chandler Park, so we had a busy 5th week!
Upcoming events for Willie and I are . . . Spoon River College (Jr. College that only has candy bar vending machines) contacted me about serving lunch to their 250 students & faculty on Mondays and Tuesdays, so we will be placing the cart on their front lawn when school starts August 20th. I also have landed a contract with NTN Bower (a roller bearing factory that just approved a 50 million dollar expansion and has approx 650 employees) to serve lunch to 1st & 2nd shifts (200-250 employees per shift) one day a week which starts this coming Thursday. This is huge and a captive audience! I’m planning on 50% . . . if we can even serve that many in 2 1/2 hours. (Will you call me in the next day or two, so I can talk configurations of pans with you for the “Big Dog” to see if there is any way I can have 2 serving lines with two cooks?) I need to know if I can buy a 1/2 6″ steam pan for the left end that two 1/6 pans 4″ deep would fit into so I can heat up condiments at both ends with a 1/2 pan for dogs and a 1/2 perforated pan for buns now in the middle.
“Hot Doggin’ isn’t for weenies!” – Pam
I was also approached by the Director of our Convention & Visitors Bureau to be a vendor at the Macomb Balloon Rally (hot air balloons) so we are signed up to do the balloon glow on Saturday evening, September 8th, another huge one upwards of 5000 people over a 2-2 1/2 hr event (there will be 3 other vendors there, thank God! and we can only serve what we can do). Then there’s tailgating for 6 WIU (Western Illinois University) home football games which Keaton and Zach will work and we’ve been approved to participate. Oh, yah, Keaton and Zack also want to try the bar nightlife when school starts on Friday nites and maybe Saturdays if it turns out to be a cash cow which I have heard from local vendors its easy to make $500 in just a few hours. This means I will deliver the cart and help them set up at 11:00 pm and they will call me 2:30-3:00 am to come and get the cart! Like you said, I’m too old for that! All of these things are a “GO”. I’m switching up the menu for the bars to include American Dogs, Coney Dogs, and Philly soft pretzels with nacho cheese sauce or mustard all for $3.00 each.
” A coupon that I had printed (1000 qty) and personally distributed to the 98 businesses for their employees in our downtown area to introduce ourselves.”
Not to mention, and I haven’t contacted 2 festivals that happen on Labor Day and the first two weekends of October. . .
I named my cart “Sally” after the Commitments “Mustang Sally” . . . love that song! Poor girl has been getting a workout, with more to come! But, I absolutely love that cart . . . she’s just too cute!! and so put together
July has been slow, especially Monday and Tuesdays. If you’ve been watching the weather, the midwest has had real heat of 100-105 degrees for several days in a row for a couple of weeks and NO RAIN. Takes it out of you . . . so I ran some coupon advertising with Monday and Tuesday specials and got a few new customers. Our Wednesdays are typically much better due to Brown Bag concerts in the park at noon, and we joined Farmers Market on Thursdays on the courthouse lawn which sales are just OK, not great.
However, it is about to change starting August, as you can see. My goal is to live through October! and take the winter off! I can tell you this, “Hot Doggin’ isn’t for weenies!” But I am having FUN! I have a following, true die hard hot dog lovers . . . I even know what they are going to order, a weekly ritual for several of them. Too funny! We are exclusive in our town, and people are loving it! and all of the hoops I had to jump through . . . nothing but positive and helpful.
Well, Ben, I’m glad I found the time to email you . . . and bring you up-to-date! All I can say is “Thank You” (I think!) Call me in the next day or two, alright! so we can talk about the pan configuration and serving two lines.
Did I tell you I was just starting my 8th week? . . . OMG!!! Oh, one more thing, my buns (both regular and poppy seed) are baked fresh daily by County Market. I just pick them up when I pick up the ice. I now have “hummers” when they bite into it! Just a couple cents more than Wonder brand from Sam’s and very little freezer space required for the few remainders from each day.
OK that’s enough . . . take care and keep selling those carts!!! I may have to get another one, but not this year . . . I have all I can handle for the moment!! LOL!
Congratulations Pam!!! I talked to Pam on the phone today and she will coming on the HDVR show soon to share some of her ups and downs with us all. I can’t wait.