Price isn’t the only way to deliver value in your hot dog cart business. As a matter of fact it’s the very worst way.
It’s normal to be nervous during the start up phase, but it leaves you susceptible to self doubt. The temptation to lower your prices is very strong during this period because it makes you feel more confident.
You think it’s a competitive advantage, something you have control over. In reality this terrible strategy is based purely on your fear of failure.
Man up (you too ladies) and plan to charge a price that will return a decent profit.
Why you should charge more.
Let’s say you have been selling your dogs for $2.50. If you charge an extra fifty cents for your dogs here’s what happens:
If you sell 55 dogs a day, you’ll pocket an extra $5,321.25 per year (based on a 9 month selling season). That’s free money. A 16.5 percent raise which you didn’t have to work any harder to get.
That’s great, but check this out.
If you don’t charge that extra fifty cents, you would need to sell 16.5 percent more hot dogs (about nine) every day to make the same money, right?
You would need to sell 23.6 percent more. Thats TWELVE more hot dogs per day. How can that be?
When you charge that extra fifty cents, your costs have already been covered in your base price so you keep 100 percent of that extra fifty cents.
When you charge the base price, 30 percent of that price is eaten up by your costs. You only keep 70 percent of it. See the leverage you get by charging a premium price? It’s exponential.
Math is cool. Competing on price isn’t. You don’t have enough volume to make up the difference.
Don’t join in the race to bankruptcy just because you’re a little nervous at the moment.
Here are six better ways to deliver value:
1. Serve a kick ass product. Use top quality ingredients, super fresh condiments, ice cold drinks, and name brand chips. Watch those expiration dates – your customers do.
2. Be exclusive. Don’t try to compete with QT, Seven Eleven, and every other one-dollar-nasty-hot-dog-on-a-slimy-roller-grill-thingy operation out there. If all you offer is a green dried out no name dog with ketchup or mustard, you’ll get killed by the gas stations.
Do the regional dogs. Coneys. Mexicans. Slaw dogs. New York red onion sauce. One of your fellow readers Esteban Guzman (Stevie’s Red Hot Weenies) is killing it in Texas with his Chicago Style Dogs.
3. Be creative. The hottest trend in the country right now is “street food”, which usually refers to non traditional or gourmet offerings served from street carts. Jump on this trend by offering gourmet hot dogs. Try unusual toppings like avocado and sour cream, cilantro and tomato, crumbled bacon and chopped dates (try it – it’s good!).
Biker Jim’s Hot Dogs in Denver is becoming famous for his specialty sausages like Alaskan Reindeer Sausage, Elk Jalapeno Cheddar Brats, Southwest Buffalo, and Wild Boar Sausage. He even has a caulking gun loaded with cream cheese.
To see how creativity can get you a ton of attention, just google Biker Jim’s Hot Dogs. He owns the first 40 or so search results!
If your health department won’t allow you do do anything more than basic condiments, at least use a premium bun and “kettle” chips to brand your business as a premium operation. It works.
Better yet, get hooked up with a commissary so you can serve more creative options.
The exception is fairs and festivals where you have thousands of people just looking for a quick meal. There you can get away with a plain Jane product but still don’t sell it cheap.
4. Deliver an experience. Have some music playing (not too loud). Decorate your cart. Have a theme on certain days like “Hawaiian Fridays”. Run a little contest every now and then.
5. Be friendly. Don’t be the grumpy lady who sits in a lawn chair by her cart reading Lavyrle Spencer novels until someone rudely interrupts her to buy a hot dog. Chat up your customers. Most of them spend 50 hours a week in a cube farm under fluorescent lighting with no one to talk to. Be the highlight of their day.
6. Be findable. It’s a new decade. If you don’t know how to use Twitter, make it a priority. It’s free. It’s easy. All the major street food dudes are using it.
For those who don’t know, Twitter is a “micro blogging” service. It’s like texting but you only get 140 characters to say what you want to say, and it goes out to all your “followers” at once.
In the old days you had to be in the same place every day so your regulars knew where to find you.
When you start using Twitter, it sets you free from being tied to one location because you can “tweet” out your location each day. Your “followers”, better known as customers, always know where to find you.
If one location isn’t performing that day, just pack up and move to a different spot and tweet it out. It’s not unusual to have customers waiting when you pull up.
There you go. A half dozen ways to rise above the competition without cutting prices.
Have the courage to be the best. It pays.
What do you think about this concept? Any more ideas? Let’s hear you in the comments!