MORE THAN TEN?
Although these are the top ten hot dog vendor questions, I have the top 40 that new vendors ask – you can read it here.
I also have a short list of the most asked questions that I receive from BensCarts.com – Please check that out here.
Those contemplating becoming a hot dog vendor have many questions. As they learn it often spawns more questions. This time of year I get deluged with questions and so I wanted to list them here so that I can serve more people. I'm limited to how many calls I can answer, emails I can respond to, so hopefully some of you will share these on the many forums, blogs and Facebook groups. These are the top ten hot dog vendor questions I get. Simply put a link to this page on any site and share away. https://learnhotdogs.com/top-ten-hot-dog-vendor-questions/ (copy and paste)
1. What kind of cart do I need for my business?
Before your search begins on a cart, make sure you have checked with the health inspector for your area, find out if what your planning on serving is allowed. Check with the zoning division or city/county and find out if they have any restrictions on vendors. Most don't, but you don't want any surprises. Once you have those answers then you can start cart hunting. Get online and search; hot dog carts. You will find many options and choices and manufacturers but before you buy you should consider what cooking set up you'll need for your menu. Most of us use a standard steam table and some of those are capable of boiling and steaming. A cart with the ability to steam and boil will really make life easier. A small steam table can limit the variety on your menu where a large steam table can handle direct heating, boiling and steaming all at the same time. It's why our Big Dog Hot Dog Cart is so popular. You can see it here.
2. I don't understand steam pans, direct heat and the different set ups. Can you explain?
This won't take long because I have pictures and video. How's that for fancy learning? It's straight from Chapter 17 of my course/book: Hot Dogs Saved My Life. Watch this video:
3. Can you put a deep fryer on a hot dog cart?
Well of course you can, you can put a sausage grinding machine, a pastry oven and a meat slicer too. The question is, CAN YOU OPERATE IT LEGALLY WITH THOSE OPTIONS? Probably not. It's why most carts you hear about are hot dog carts.
4. What kind of license do I need?
Because you're going to be serving food to the public you will need to be licensed with the State. Some states you would just need to contact your local health department as the inspectors usually work from there. Other states call it environmental safety division or some version of that. You can call your state's information line and tell them you need to find the department that handles food vendors and restaurants. The other license you will most certainly be required is a business license, resale license and hawker or vendors license. For example, in TN, I must have my state health permit, my business license for the county in which I'm based and in some other cities I must have a license to work there too. All of this is pretty easy to do. The one that can take the longest is the health department permit. Here is a link to an article I did on setting up your business. It also includes information on setting up as a LLC, Inc., Sole Proprietor and more.
5. Do I steam, boil or grill the hot dogs?
Great question and I have written a lot about this one. I even have an entire section in my book / course; “hot dogs saved my life“. Here is a video I did.
Before moving on, check out this article I wrote on the the Pros' and Cons' of each.
6. What hot dog brand do most vendors use?
I wish there was one brand I could give you but there isn't. Different regions feature and have a following for different brands. For example in Florida, due to the number of retirees from up north, a popular brand is Sabretts. Nathans hot dogs are a popular one as well. I use Bakers and Chefs brand from Sams Club and have for years. They are all beef, very inexpensive and taste great. Other popular brands include Vienna, Chicago Red Hots and of course there are regional brands that are wonderful. I recommend in my course and on my videos and on my radio show to do a taste test in your area. Gather up the family and friends and do a taste test. If I had my choice and could get them easily, I would serve Vienna all beef hot dogs. They are my favorite by far. Some vendors use no-name brands and season the water to make them taste like a gourmet hot dog. I do a little trick or two with mine as well.
7. What condiments should I offer?
Like the brand hot dog you should serve, the options are many and it will depend on your area. Definitely you want to offer the basics, ketchup, mustard, onions and relish, but you will be wise to offer some more. In your area they may love jalapeños or pickles or tomatoes or chili. I know vendors that have many types of mustard or exotic toppings. For example, in my area a Chicago dog is not appealing to my customers. They think it's a salad on a hot dog, which it is. But I love them. While were on it, chili can be challenging in some areas. Some states don't allow it or they allow only vegetarian chili. I have to use vegetarian chili on my cart. A good place to get that is www.chillimans.com They have an award winning vegetarian chili. Always check with your inspector on what other items you can carry. Some may be off limits to you.
8. How do I know how much food to take?
Another great question but without a solid answer. This will come with experience, but if you are setting up in one of the many many places I tell you about in my course, then you will want to take enough to serve 50 meals. That means about 100 hot dogs and an equal number of chips and drinks. If you sell out then you will know to take more the next day. All places can be different, but if your not selling at least the 50 meals a day, then you need a new location. If your using the meal deal advice from my course, you will with 50 meals a day be making around $175 in net profit, which is the least I would want to make at a location per day. I have made less, but I learned to find the best days of the week, the best times of day or I changed locations.
9. How do I get a commissary and a location to set up?
I have a video below on commissaries and have done numerous writings on locations. Be sure to check out the past radio show archives. https://learnhotdogs.com/category/podcast/ We talk locations and advice in almost every one of them. Here are two links to two different commissary articles. Here and Here. Forward to time stamp 1:51 of this video for the start of the commissary info.
Keep in mind, video 5 and 6 cover locations and how to get them. You can watch all those Here.
10. How much does it take to get started and how much time?
This is another question that is relative to what state you're in and what you plan on buying to get started. Are you building a cart? If so you could get started for less than $1000. Licensing and permits can be costly in some states, but even if your buying a used cart or building one with our plans at www.BuildaCart.com, you should be out no more than $1800 in the worst states. Buying a used cart can be a great way to start but can also cause you some headaches, be sure to do your due diligence before buying used. I have an entire chapter on it in my course book. It will keep you from making a mistake when buying a used cart.
Well that was the top ten hot dog vendor questions I get daily. Of course there are many other questions and most are answered in my free videos and my blog and radio show. Be sure to take advantage of all the great info and you will be miles ahead of the others.