QUESTION ON Starting a Hot Dog Cart Business
I run a hot dog cart business on weekends. I am really interested in putting the exact same concept indoors, i.e. the local fries truck could now be compared to New York fries. I want to take the hot dog and sausage cart operation and put it in a mall or small unit. I see a small order counter like Harvey’s, the customer gets their delicious spicy sausage for example at the opposite end, then proceeds to the toppings counter where they can choose from about 30 different toppings (this is the number I currently have on my outdoor weekend cart) what ideas/advice can you offer.
Advice by Yvonne Buchanan
Have you chosen a location yet? What appeals to customers you have now is that you’ve come to them. You’re there on their way from work to home, meetings to work. You’re easily accessible, and your customers like that. Moving your operations into a mall makes sense only if you expect the same or better foot traffic than you currently enjoy. You’ll be paying rent for a space, which will cut into your profit margin. So pick a place with high traffic, near an entrance/exit if possible.
Before the move, hand out coupons for a free hot dog to your sidewalk customers to be redeemed at your new place of business. Once they’ve sampled your dogs at your new place, they’ll know where to find you when they want more. And don’t forget mall employees: hand out several half-off or buy-one-get-one free coupons to each store in the mall.
Jenny Fulbright outlined a list of factors that you need to consider when moving your business to the mall. According to her article Are You Ready to Move Your Home Business To the Mall?, you need to look at the following:
- Adequacy of traffic
- Quality of traffic
- Ability to intercept traffic
- Your store’s location within the mall
- Complementary nature of the adjacent stores
- Ease of entry and exit into the premises
- Fit in the retail mix
- Responsiveness of landlord to tenants’ needs
- Facilities of the mall
- Potential for expansion
- Acceptability of the lease
Also, look into the mobile food business to see how you can take advantage of this growing trend in urban areas. I suggest you read the article How to Start a Mobile Food Truck Business for ideas how your hot dog business can turn into a mobile food truck business.
Good luck, Andrew. We hope your new customer base does “ketchup” soon to your current one.
Recommended Resources on How To Operate a Food Cart/Stand
- Food On Wheels: The Complete Guide To Starting A Food Truck, Food Cart, Or Other Mobile Food Business
- Food Booth, The Entrepreneur’s Complete Guide to the Food Concession Business
- Food Trucks: Dispatches and Recipes from the Best Kitchens on Wheels
- Start Your Own Food Truck Business: Cart, Trailer, Kiosk, Standard and Gourmet Trucks, Mobile Catering and Bustaurant
Article originally published in January 2001. Updated by the editors on March 9, 2012
Yvonne Buchanan is a 20-year veteran of public relations, marketing and advertising. She teaches public relations courses online for career changers, freelancers and students through The PR Academy www.learnpr.com and is co-founder of Real-World PR www.realworldpr.com , a public relations information provider for small businesses. Real-World PR offers public relations toolkits (manual/CD combinations) that allow small business owners to create and maintain their own public relations programs.