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Picking the best Hot dogs for your hot-dog cart business

hdimage

So how do you find the secret recipe to a gloriously delicious hotdog? You experiment. Get a few different products and experiment at home. Try a number of different relishes, mustard, ketchup, hotdogs and buns to see which ones offer a better taste. Try different quantities.

 

A lot of people experiment with adding more spices to the ketchup or relish or get a special kind of mustard, but that will greatly limit your customers to those that prefer your ‘special taste’. Your objective should be to perfect the simple taste. Yes, we come back to the simplicity clause again.

 

One trick that I learned down the road is that rather than spending too much on big brands or expensive alternatives for mustard or ketchup, I could greatly increase the quality of the taste by purchasing better quality buns and hotdogs. As it turns out, mustard is just mustard, and hardly many people ask for ketchup anyway. As for relish, unless you are serving Chicago style, a decent quality relish would do the trick. Again, experiment with a few sauces before you find a quality product at a decent price.

 

As for hotdogs, the most expensive aren’t always the best, and the cheapest wouldn’t necessarily save you the most money. Low priced hotdogs have high contents of fat that can easily burn and turn a dark brown and while they are still servable, the chances are they wouldn’t really go well with your customers.

 

Next come the buns. The good thing about buns and hotdogs is that you don’t necessarily need a branded product, as the customer would never really see the brand name. However, a customer will easily identify poor quality. Look for buns that will hold up better in the steamers; again experiment with a few products until you find the right one.

 

As for chips and soda, you will definitely need to worry about the brands. Be sure to serve high quality products rather than generic or store bought sodas and chips.

 

Pimp My Ride: Finding The Right Hot-Dog Cart

PimpMyride

 

Surely all hotdog carts on the streets look almost the same. The colors and the umbrellas and the size may be different, but they are all pretty much the same aren’t they?

 

If you go with an approach like that when going to purchase a hotdog cart, then you will be disappointed. Either you will buy a used cart from an individual that won’t pass the muster or, if new, the manufacturer will “up-sell” you a cart that would not only be costly but would consist of the added bells and whistles that you probably don’t even require. Most importantly, it would ignore your specific, local, health inspector mandated requirements. Case in point, you need an education in hotdog carts, their operations, equipments, compartments, types and requirements.

 

Determine the Size of Your Cart

 

The first thing you need to know before you decide on a cart is where you would be working. Would you be catering to a local lunch crowd or only work fairs and special events? If you plan on working during lunch hours, then a medium sized cart would suffice, ideally one with two three third size pans. For festivals and events, opt for big carts with two full size pans. In either case, don’t bother with tiny carts, regardless of how inexpensive they are!

 

The size of your cart will also depend on how many hotdogs you wish to produce at a given time. Each cart has different per hour production limitations. Needless to say, the more your cart’s capacity, the more business you’d likely do. But then again, you will also need to find a location that is crowded enough to support those sales aspirations.

 

Heat

 

You will need the heat to get cooking. State regulations vary based on heat sources and limitations also. But for the most part, you will require at least one 20 pound propane gas cylinder for medium sized carts. I strongly suggest that you keep an extra one with a quick connector hose for emergencies and peak days.

 

For big carts, your cart should be able to hold around 40 pounds of propane. Ideally, purchase two 20 pound propane cylinders.  According to most state regulations, it is illegal to use 20 pound cylinders indoors.

 

You will need to get an adaptor to use one pound camping cylinders for indoors. If you plan on working indoors permanently then opt for carts with electric heat sources. You can also use ‘sterno’ solid fuel heat, but that is inefficient and quite inexpensive.

 

Storage

 

Surely you wouldn’t be working on the cart day in and day out, or even camping beside it. So what do you plan to do when you call it a day? You can opt to tow the cart with you, for which you’d require a tow. You can easily tow your cart using even the smallest of cars.

 

You will need a hitch on your car.  Purchase a durable one and get it professionally installed. If you plan on towing your cart around a lot, then make sure you purchase larger cart with more durable wheels.

 

A lot of vendors have an arrangement with the landlord to store the cart onsite, in a storage area or backroom. Make sure you decide on how you plan to store the cart before purchasing one, because in case you plan to store onsite, then you can easily opt for a less expensive cart with regular bicycle tires. For this of course, you’d need to figure out your location and speak to the landlord before purchasing the cart.

 

Added Equipments

 

Carts don’t just simply require a fryer and a bun heater, it is mandatory to have other equipments installed too – including, but not limited to, a cooling compartment, washing equipment and water mixing faucets.

 

For most locations, your cart will need to have hand-washing equipment with a sink, faucets and two separate tanks for clean and waste water. The waste-water tank should ideally be at least 15 percent larger than the clean water tank for overflow prevention. The health department in your area may have other specifications, so be sure to check with them first.

 

How I began my hot-dog empire!

Dare2Dream

Here is the deal . . . I had a pretty crappy job, I hated having a desk-job, and not making enough money to support my family. Whatever your story, like you I wanted more. And the one thing I was sure of was this: I wasn’t happy.

 

There was a time I jumped from business opportunity to opportunity, looking for the right off-ramp from my crappy no-pay life. I settled on a genius idea: I would purchase items from the flea market and sell them on Craiglist and other online marketplaces for a higher price. I had a good sense for quality and understanding of what people are looking for. So I headed off to the flea market the very next week, only to be completely over-whelmed!

 

What was I supposed to buy? After circling around the market a few times, I couldn’t really decide what my ‘niche market’ would be. I needed a little more research.  And on my way home, I grabbed a delicious hotdog from a cart next to the flea market.

Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.’

Henry David thoreau

 

At home, I started brainstorming. I did not want to go back to that flea market, unless maybe for that hotdog! It was while I was thinking about that delicious hotdog that I had the idea. I’d make a new product! A Bacon Dog! It just made a lot of sense. Americans loved bacon and they loved the hotdogs, and they would just kill for a combo of the two!

 

I decided to pay the flea market hotdog vendor a visit and I pitched my idea to him. I knew it was a big risk to openly talk about my genius with a stranger, but I needed some advice. So we got to talking.

He first pointed out to me that to start, market and manufacture a new food product would cost millions! “Why not start with a hot-dog cart?” he asked. I was hesitant, to say the least. After all, no one wants their dreams (however crazy) to be crushed.

 

When he pointed out to me that he made $500-$1000 a day — and that his total startup cost could be paid for with not much more than one day’s work, I was stunned.  Low risk, low startup cost, high profits. Whenever I mustered or stammered some possible objection, he would simply repeat himself.

 

 

Low risk, low startup cost, high profits.

 

But it was just a hotdog cart! Could it really be that simple? And that’s when every little quote on simplicity and getting back to the basics started popping in my head. Today, I make good money without having to conform to the ‘technological demands’ that everyone keeps talking about. And I provide a basic, inexpensive – and HIGHLY PROFITABLE – service …… that EVERYONE needs!

How can we help you along the path to success?

 

Go Big, or Go Home! ( Can You Handle Multiple Carts?)

mathimage

The Secret of scalability! Multiply your success x10, or x100, or x1000!

You already have a good thing going on. You are earning more money in a quarter or even a month than you did in an entire year! Life’s good. You don’t even need to go any further. But that’s life. You are already moving forward, as that’s the only way to go. But I am not here to give you advice on life, I am here to tell you about foolproof ideas on how to make the most of it.

 

As a cart owner, you will always be on the lookout for better locations, more business prospects. And every now and then, you’d be tempted to relocate your cart from the already lucrative spot and move on to new scenario, newer faces and perhaps bigger profits.

 

But that’s a bet that you’d rather not take. I am not asking you to play it safe, I am simply asking you to play it BIG, BIGGER and then eventually….well you get the deal. Don’t give up on your current spot. I want you to get another cart.

 

You know the drill, the licenses, inspections, distributors, commissaries, insider tricks and the perfect formula for success.  You have been through it before, you just need to duplicate it. But before that, you need to find someone reliable and competent enough to generate the same kinds of sales and offer similar dedication to work. And even before that, you need to be a good manager.

 

Leadership requires understanding, management skills and more than that a diplomatic approach to tackle your employees.

 

Hot-dog business is a lot like real estate: location, location , location.

surveyor

STAKE OUT YOUR ‘HOT-DOG” REAL ESTATE!

Top location ideas for top earnings:

 

üChoose a location that has a lot of foot traffic and is spacious enough to make room for the cart, yourself and of course a line of customers.

 

üMake sure the location of your choice is easily accessible and visible.

 

üTry out a few locations to test the waters.

 

üPublic vending is free and only requires a permit.  Areas like city streets, golf courses, sidewalks, school district property, churches and flea markets all make up public vending.

 

üPrivate vending offers exclusivity but you may need to pay a rent.

 

üFestivals, carnivals and special events are very lucrative and can generate hefty profits in a single day or night.

 

üSpecial events require special training and you may also need to hire helpers.

 

üYou can go for a mix of special events and public and/or private vending to keep it interesting and generate higher profits.

 

üCatering is also a great option. You can cater to special occasions like grand openings and birthday parties. The biggest advantage of catering is that you already have a good idea of how much money you will be earning in a single day or event.

 

üYou can also offer services like magic shows, clowns and bouncing castles and charge extra. All you need to do is hire the services yourself and offer them to the guests for extra cost. The clients would be pleased by the convenience and would refer you to their friends and family.

 

üNight Clubs and Industrial Parks are great options. They offer and eager and willing crowd and low competition. These are some of my favorite and most lucrative venues.

 

 

Hot-dog carts: keeping start-up costs low. Part #2

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So where do you find used carts?

EBAY: You will definitely find good used carts on ebay. Study the market a bit and find out just what they are selling for on ebay. Read the listings closely to be sure what is included. Find out if the cart is fully functional, that is, operational. Ebay, of course, is a national and international market. Still, in my view, for a good deal, it would be worth driving 1-5 hours away -to another state even- to get a good deal on a good used cart

CRAIGSLIST: This online classified market place will also have used carts. And like ebay, don’t limit your search to just your area. Expand to a national search to find the best available options for your needs.

LOCAL CLASSIFIEDS: With a smaller search area there will be less options, but it is certainly worth exploring.

CHURCHES/SCHOOL: Many churches and schools may have purchased a hotdog cart at one time for a fair, carnival or fund-raiser – and they simply no longer use it. This will take the extra-effort of calling around, and lots of ‘no, sorry”. But if you find one, you will likely get a great deal!

(Used) RESTAURANT DEALERS: These guys know what things are worth. It’s their business. So you might not get a great deal, but you’ll likely get a fair deal. Moreover, they likely either have a used hotdog cart or they can get you one.

SCRAP METAL YARD: Again, I was lucky. So, I consider this a bit of a long-shot, but it is worth a try. I think if you were looking for a very extended period of time, it is more likely you will find one super-cheap. But, again, please keep in mind lost opportunity cost from not having a cart.

We will cover what to look for in a good used cart in an ‘up-coming’ post. Of course, if you can’t wait — all of these details and more are in our tell-all course “Hot Dog Carting Cash”.

 

Picking the Right Hot-Dog Product; Prefecting the taste

hotddg

A lot of people experiment with adding more spices to the ketchup or relish or get a special kind of mustard, but that will greatly limit your customers to those that prefer your ‘special taste’. Your objective should be to perfect the simple taste. Yes, we come back to the simplicity clause again.

 

One trick that I learned down the road is that rather than spending too much on big brands or expensive alternatives for mustard or ketchup, I could greatly increase the quality of the taste by purchasing better quality buns and hotdogs. As it turns out, mustard is just mustard, and hardly many people ask for ketchup anyway. As for relish, unless you are serving Chicago style, a decent quality relish would do the trick. Again, experiment with a few sauces before you find a quality product at a decent price.

 

As for hotdogs, the most expensive aren’t always the best, and the cheapest wouldn’t necessarily save you the most money. Low priced hotdogs have high contents of fat that can easily burn and turn a dark brown and while they are still servable, the chances are they wouldn’t really go well with your customers.

 

Next come the buns. The good thing about buns and hotdogs is that you don’t necessarily need a branded product, as the customer would never really see the brand name. However, a customer will easily identify poor quality. Look for buns that will hold up better in the steamers; again experiment with a few products until you find the right one.

 

Fast and Easy Money Myth . . .

runner

There is NO Free Lunch . . .

My dad used to always say this to me . . . and now I know what he means.

We are not pushing the fast and easy money myth here. We are talking a real business, with real work, real effort  . . . and, in the end,  . . . real money.

Stay in it for the long-haul and have the mentality of a long-distance runner.

At times, it can take weeks or even up to a month or two to find the right location, and the only way to find it is through hard work. A lot of hard work. There is nothing that can align your stars the way hard work can.

 

Why am I telling you all this? I want you to prepare yourself for the hiccups. Know that you will come across times when a catering gig may run longer than you had expected, you may face difficulty collecting payments after a private party or you may have days when you just don’t want to open shop.

 

All this is as natural as the daylight that shines on us every day. The idea is to keep going at it, to keep on working hard and to stay disciplined. Motivation will push you on through.

 

The fact is, an athlete running a marathon will get tired, will get thirsty, he might even have difficulty getting water, might fall, feel weak and lag behind. But the only way the athlete can make it to the finish line is to keep on running. And no, there is no reason why he can’t sit down and enjoy the sunset every now and then, only to get up one more time and to keep on going. 

 

Make sure you remain focused and constantly try to learn new things, new tactics and news to add value to your life and your business. The more defined your goals are and the more focused you are on them, the more small will almost seem insignificant.

 

Hot-dog carts: keeping start-up costs low. Part #1

 dogCart1

Carts and Startup Costs

 

Start up costs can vary depending on a number of factors. For instance, if you purchase a hotdog cart, it can cost you somewhere between $2,000 up to $4,000 for added equipment.  A kiosk on the other hand will cost you around $5,000 – $7,000. If you purchase a used hotdog cart, it can cost you around a $500 to $1,500 depending on the condition.  

 

OK. I know. Money is always tight starting out. So, let’s talk used carts.

 

Yeah, you might even get lucky like I did starting out. I was scouting around for a used cart and I had so little money even starting a hotdog business seemed out of reach to me. But, sometimes, the universe works in your favor. My friend was at a junkyard getting a used part for old clunker of a car, and there it was – my baby. I saw it in the distance – off to the side of the building, a very dirty, dented, and generally beat-up hotdog cart with flat tires. While for most, it was no prize, for me I saw its beauty in the form of potential dollars signs. To make a long story short, after much haggling, I went home with my first used hotdog cart for just a little over $200. To be fair, I had to spend almost $150 to replace missing or broken parts, and I did put a fair amount of elbow-grease in and labor time to get it back to “running” condition.

 

Will you find a $200 cart? Maybe. But it could take a long time. Remember: there is also lost opportunity cost in NOT having cart. How many $500/days will you miss out on in waiting? Don’t be penny-wise and pound foolish. So while it would be super to find such a deal, it is not altogether likely. The real range you should seek out is the $500-$1500 range. And the sweet spot in this range is likely closer to the $750-$1000 range. In other words, try to budget this amount. You will still be getting a good deal on a used cart, and you are likely to find numerous carts in this price range.

 

Big money hot-dog business locations!

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Why I love Industrial Parks!

Most people clamor for the down-town areas of the city center. And while these could be lucrative, there also tends to be lots of competition, and licensing can also be stringent and expensive. That’s why I prefer suburban industrial parks. Why?

ØLarge Hidden Population: You may not realize it, but an industrial park with 20 businesses might have 100 employees each. That’s 2000 potential customers! These business parks tend to be hidden out of the way, so many vendors never think of them.

 

ØHigh Dollars per Hour: Let’s not mince words. We’re here to make money. And no one wants to stand around for eight hours and have only two hours worth of serious business. And that’s why I like industrial parks. You know just when the hordes of people will coming running to your cart to eat. At lunch-time! No need to waste your time wondering when business will come. Go there from roughly 11-1pm. (You can figure out their exact schedule from a few days experience). You will get a crazy steady stream of people during set, limited hours – and you may wall make your $500 a day in just two hours! $250 an hour? My heart surgeon barely makes that!

 

ØCaptive Audience: Your customers are stuck out in the middle of an industrial park at lunch hour. Sure they could drive 10 minutes each way to a restaurant, but with a 30 minute lunch hour, and 20 minutes of round-trip driving, that would leave them only 10 minutes to eat lunch. Sound awful. And they know it. So they would much prefer to relax and have food offered on site. This is where you come in! You are offering convenience and smile and they are lined-up throwing their dollars at you!

 

ØLess Competition: there is much less competition here than in the city center. Why? There are multiple industrial parks, many hidden out of the way. Sure there might even be another food vendor, but with hundreds of potential clients, there is still no real issue. Much better to compete with one or two other vendors and 80!

 

ØLess Regulation: there tends to be very little licensing regulation for serving at industrial parks. Well, far less than is involved in working city centers.

 

Standout : Be Unique, Be Yourself

hotdog history

 

Do you know who served the first hot dog?

Who created it? Or who were the first god blessed people who created the hot dog or the frankfurter? It turns out, German immigrants are believed to be the first people to serve sauerkraut from pushcarts during the 1860s in New York City’s Bowery.

 

This little piece of information adds so much to the personality of a hot dog. Surely next time you eat a hot dog, you’d probably think about the Germans, or more likely thank the Germans. The fact is, as humans, we are always trying to find connections and links that bind us together. For me, hotdogs remind me of my childhood days. My dad would make hotdogs every time he took my brother and me for camping, so for me, hotdogs mean camping.

 

I have a small picture of my dad making hot dogs for us on my cart. And even today, my regular customers ask about how my dad is doing. For them, my hotdogs mean more than just meat and bun, for them too it has become an association. I think you know what I am getting at. People want experiences and they want connections.

 

You don’t necessarily need a story to get you going. So if there is no hotdog association, don’t create it. Believe me there is nothing worse than a made up story that needs to be constantly revised. Let your personality shine. If you like football, then brand yourself accordingly. You can offer deals during the NFL season or the World Cup, and before you know it, the only thing people would remember before every football game would be the television and your hotdogs.