I know, I should be shot. I put out 4 parts and then skipped a week. Duty called and I was out of town for over 9 days. This week we will see two more parts of the A to Z Course – How To Become A Hot Dog Vendor. In this section we will learn about selecting the right menu and cover your cart decisions along with some tips on finding the best deals on used hot dog carts.
- Your menu
- Cart decisions
Follow along below with the full transcript.
We have covered – is this for you, What the health department requires, if you can vend in your city, what permits and licenses are needed, where you can vend, and about commissaries and what is required.
Now lets say you got all that done and now you’re excited about serving mamas secret chili recipe but lets hold on there just a minute. Most states allow the serving from open carts foods that are considered “Non potentially hazardous foods” which means they don’t grow bacteria quick and they meet certain requirements to be in that category.
Now here is the crazy thing, NSF calls hot dogs potentially hazardous, I haven’t heard of a state anywhere in the country that calls hot dogs potentially hazardous on their list, but NSF does which means they get to certify more equipment, I think. So ignore that if you run across that, you can just see the ignorance that is involved with that.
Remember the hot dog fellow we called about the cart and the sinks, well we need to go back and find out what he will allow us to serve. Well we need to go back in our time machines and go back to that phone call and cover this with the inspector as well, this is the health inspector you spoke to about getting inspected. This is one of the important questions to ask, you’ll want to ask what you can serve. He will probably say you can serve anything as long as it was prepared in a commercial kitchen and packaged for single use. Some states will allow you to serve many items so long as they were prepared at the commissary and packaged for individual use. Some states will want it to be commercially packaged which you probably don’t have a vacuum sealer. So you will consider those things before you begin.
Some states require a covering or a sneeze guard around all cooking areas on the cart. This is a no biggy as most manufactures make these; they are sometimes called a roll top or a flip top or sneeze guard. I know this is going to sound crazy but even though your pans already have a covering they don’t want you to be serving and a bird fly over you and poop in the soup, so to speak. I know it seems redundant but some states require that. South Carolina requires that from the bread box forward, all the way forward be covered, and this may require you to make something from plexus glass or going to Lowes and making something so you can be in compliance. We have a lot of customer in SC, I guess causes were so close, but their rules call for the whole cart to be covered when working. Always know in advance so that in case you do hear something crazy you can say “Show me that in the Code”.
Most States Don’t Allow a Deep Fryer
Another common thing I get called about is deep fryers on carts. I get people calling all the time saying they want to do fried chicken gizzards or whatever. There is a reason why you mostly see hot dogs and that is because they are inexpensive, they are easy, they are safe, and states allow them. I know of only two states that allow a deep fryer on an open cart. Don’t ask about deep fryers on it, if was it allowed you’d see more people with deep fryers. I get over 100 calls about deep fryers on carts, that’s why you won’t see them on the website. I don’t want to sell you a cart for the sake of selling a cart. Some sites will sell you a cart with deep fryers and they don’t care if you can have them in your state or not.
You know you can look up the states that allow you to do some deep-frying. There are some state that are very lenient and allow you to do breakfast burritos and some other cool things. If it was I and I had to do it over again I would still do hot dogs.
Lets get to the fun stuff.
I teach that you can buy a used cart there is nothing wrong with doing that, its smart, if its going to get you in the business quicker and making money and supplying money to yourself then by all means. I know that if you follow the radio show and Rob discourages used carts, hear me out I’m going to teach you how to buy it the right way. I know this sounds cannibalistic because I make carts and I sell carts for a living manufacturing carts, but my goal is to see you successful and yes I would love to see you buy a cart from me but id rather buy your second one from me if it means you got to get started six months earlier than you had planned because you found a good deal on a used one. That would make me happy.
Figure Out Your Menu
Before we determine on a cart you will need to figure out your menu.
I’m sure you already have some ideas on your menu and we have this thing K-I-S-S “keep it simple Sam”. I want you to do is keep it simple at first. You may have this idea of doing this gourmet and 14 different types of this or whatever. Start off, at least if its only for the fist week just get your feet wet and find out what your customers are going to want. I’ve got a good friend who series exotic meat and he only serves it to this crowd and when he does this crowd he does regular hot dogs. You want to learn those things so when you start getting out there you’ll know what you customers will want.
It is natural, I don’t want to ruin anyone’s enthusiasm, it is natural for you to get excited to want to go crazy and want to do everything you can, just take it one step at t time. Keep it simple and choose just one type of hot dog and not ten, don’t try to be everything to everyone. We know and have evidence and proof that just selling hot dogs works, it works and it works well. So you don’t have to be this gourmet hot dog chef. There are things that will make you stand out and I agree with those but lets get started simple and then get things going first. Get your feet on the ground before you start buying 14 different types of hot dogs.
How to Do a Hot Dog Taste Test
Lets talk about taste test they are very important. Just gather your friends and family around and let them taste test different ones you are thinking about. Have them taste your hot dogs off your new cart, this will be good practice for you to see how long to cook them how you like serving them on the cart, etc. And will give you good practice right before you start.
Taste testing comes down to cutting them down to bite size and color-coding the brand with hot dog and bun and color tooth pick, and write it down and tell anyone. Its not an exact science but it will help you come to a decision. My advice is to pick two or three, I would prefer you start with two you can always add more as you go. So you don’t need 16 tables and 5 grills. It just isn’t smart to start out like that. I didn’t start teaching this and I don’t teach because its my job I teach because I love the business and I know what it has done for me and I know it came do the same as you. You may not be in as a bad a situation as I was, you may be worse I don’t know but I do know it can help solve the problem. There isn’t any luck, luck is wonderful, but you don’t have to have it. iF you have the skills and the knowledge you can go out and make money with this, and not just getting by money but good money.
It’s Okay if You Outgrow Your Cart – Upgrade Later
Once you pick your cart you can outgrow it. To outgrow your cart is a good thing. You can always upgrade. You can’t serve as fast as you can cook on the cash cow cart. Just wait, do the basic things first then grow out of it and then you can get the bigger better cart. Start small then upgrade, that’s why we sell different size carts the little dog and the cash cow you can always upgrade.
Even if you do outgrow your cart you will have the experience and the knowledge of what you want on your next one. Because you’ll have the experience you’ll know exactly what you want.
What Condiments Should I Carry?
The same goes with the condiments. Don’t over do the condiments, its easy to do you can get into this thing where your like “I’m gonna have 70 different types of this” and you don’t need it all, keep it simple at first. Try keeping it to maybe five different types of condiments hot sauce, jalapenos maybe it depends on your area. I do mustard ketchup and onions. You may want to have the basics at first and then add. You don’t have to wait a year to add you can add next week. You may be getting request for such and such and get it next week and now your keeping your customer happy.
What Size Hot Dog?
Another good reason to keep this stuff down to a minimum is the amount of food that you have to buy. It helps to keep the cost to get started down and the opportunity to lose food on waste or expired foods happens less if you have less. So if you go “ok I’m going to have coleslaw cause bubba likes coleslaw and I think it’ll do good on my cart” It may do good in some areas but the point is now you got to buy it and its expensive and if you get it in bulk now you have a lot of it to sell and it could be two weeks later and you could still have many pounds of it left over. IF I were new starting out what I would do is have a good hot dog 8:1, all that means is 8 to one pound. Go to any grocer in any town and see what they offer in their hot dog section and see what all they offer is it 6 inch 8:1 dogs and a few quarter pound dogs, that’s how you tell what people like. The most requested dog is an 8:1 or a 6:1 but the 8:1 outdoes it every time because it’s the right amount of meat for the condiments the bun. Yes you can try some of the other sizes and I’ve had success with some of the other sizes but my staple dog is a 8:1 and that means 8 dogs to 1 pound. It’s the most popular size.
If you’re going to do a quarter pound dog add you one but I wouldn’t start out that way. I would offer one sausage or brat no matter what, I would offer a hot dog and then offer one extra item. I would carry ketchup, mustard, and chili if your state allows it. I would have about five different cold drinks and five different chips and that show I would start. There is a trick to buying cold drinks and that is the grocery store, you will never ever get a deal from the cold drink supplier unless is buying the cold drinks that have been damaged and repackaged. I go to my grocer store and if you talk to the store manager and tell him what your doing and you will be buying a lot of cold drinks and see if he can give you a discount, mine gives me %10 off no matter what I get a 10 percent discount on even when they are on sale.
Don’t let this discourage you, you can always add as you go.
Steam Table Size
Steam table size – this is going to play a big part in deciding on a cart. Because the size of the steam table is misleading online if you look at carts online. If you have been looking at carts online it can be misleading. I took pictures of two of someone else’s cart and put them next to my big dog cause what they do is they make these pretty pictures and it looks like a huge cart and most people don’t go look at the schematics and look at the size and go oh that cart is really only 22” wide and you only have half of a steam table on there. Some people are selling that out there, and Its not that they are bad its just misleading which is why I’m telling you. If your looking at some other cart manufactures be sure to check out the schematic be sure to check out the size make sure you know exactly what your getting in size cause they can trick you, and not intentionally.
Your steam table though, bottom line is if you have a big enough steam table or enough pans you will be able doing a bigger variety. I do have a video online that explains that if you just go to www.learnhotdogs.com/bonusvideos and on the bonus video pages you will see three videos I have done on steam table size, steam table pans just make sure to watch that cause it will answer all your questions, but if you still do just call me. This will give you the most information.
Go to part 6: Buying A Hot Dog Cart.
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