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Ummm… A little too big…

Hey Hot Doggers!

Last week we started a series on handling the money you make with a hot dog cart.

Today we’re continuing our lesson by covering hot dog cart cash registers.

Like I said last week, I prefer to work from a money roll now that I’m fully mobile again, but when I owned a permanent hot dog stand I used a cash register.

kwstand(Here is a picture of my permanent hot dog stand. It was actually based on, and built around my hot dog cart.

I give detailed instructions on how to build your own permanent stand in my Hot Dog Biz 101 course.

Cash registers have several advantages:

1. A cash register allows you to process complicated orders easily. You don’t have to do any math in your head. You can let the machine total it up.

2. You can use odd dollar and cents amounts without any problems. Want to sell a dog for $2.99 and a Coke for $.88? No problem. You don’t have to do the math, so you are free to charge what ever you want to.

3. Most cash registers are programmable. I set mine up so that I had one button for hot dogs, one for chips, one for sodas, one for combos, etc.

4. Save your daily transaction history. At the end of the day you can “z-out” your register and it will print a detailed list of the day’s sales. You can easily see how much of which products you sold. This can be very helpful in tracking inventory.

5. Print a paper receipt.  Besides the obvious benefit of being able to offer your customers a receipt for their order, you can use it for food prep also. This is especially helpful for large orders. It is said that the human brain can only store seven items in short term memory at one time (my brain is rated at about three). With a paper receipt, you have the entire order at your fingertips.

6. You can have the machine calculate sales tax. This can really increase your sales if you price your products under the dollar mark. For instance, pricing your dogs at $2.97 instead of $3.00 can psychologically induce more people to buy. Then your register will add the tax  – after the sale has been made – bringing the total past the $3.00 mark. Plus, you’ll add about six percent to your bottom line because the customer pays the sales tax instead of you having to eat it on every sale.

Cash registers also have some disadvantages:

1. Cash registers are pretty bulky for hot dog cart use. This is a biggie for me.

2. You have that many more supplies to stock, specifically register tape and ribbons for receipts and batteries and/or power cords.

3. As with any technology, once you become reliant on it, you’re reliant on it. Be sure to have a back up plan (like working from a wad of cash).

4. Your money is not on your person. It’s in the cash drawer. Newbies frequently ask about keeping their money safe, and I’ll be honest – in all the years I have been street vending (and hearing stories from thousands of my students) I have never felt the slightest bit unsafe at the cart, lost a dime, or even heard of anyone who lost money. It just doesn’t happen. That said, I still like the feeling of having big rolls of cash in my pockets. It just feels good, 😉

Hot Dog Cart Cash Register Recommendations

If you want to use a cash register on your cart, here are some features to look for:

1. Battery power option. Even if you have access to 110 volt electricity, get a register that can run on both 110V and batteries. At the very minimum you need a register with a 12V DC power adapter so you can hook up to your deep cycle marine battery in the event of a power outage.

2. Paper receipt printer.

3. Programmable memory. This allows you to dedicate a specific key to each product you sell for one touch ordering.

Here is a portable cash register that would be perfect for our needs:

hot dog cart cash register


P.S. If you use a register on your hot dog cart, tell us how you like it in the comments below.

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