Hot Dog Cart Success! Toby’s Hot Dogs

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Toby Brady is a customer of mine from Illinois. He purchased the E-Z Built Hot Dog Cart Video and Plans Package and proceeded to build a really nice red cart which he used to start “Toby’s Hot Dogs”.

Toby was recently written up in his hometown newspaper and I thought you’d like to read about the latest in a long line of Hot Dog Cart News readers who have found success under a hot dog cart umbrella.

Enjoy!

Dogs on the Square
Former Maytag worker opens downtown lunch cart

By JOHN R. PULLIAM
The Register-Mail

GALESBURG —

Not everyone finds hot dogs to be their breakfast food of choice. But this past week, Ray Babcock of Galesburg took advantage of a new business, Toby’s Hot Dogs, to start off his day with one of America’s favorite, low-cost taste treats.

“I’ve seen him here for a couple of days,” Babcock said of Toby Brady’s push-cart operation at about 10 a.m. Wednesday.

“I’m originally from Chicago. I’m used to seeing this. There’s something about hot dogs.”

“What’s it going to be today?” Brady asked Babcock.

“A hot dog and a brat,” Babcock said.

Brady opened Sept. 1 in the area of the Public Square. Hot dogs for $2 and brats for $2.50 pretty much complete the menu for now. He hopes to add an authentic “Chicago-style” hot dog soon and he does have chips and soda pop.

“Oddly enough, I have one or two people from Chicago that stop here every day,” Brady said. “I’m here to serve the public. Whatever the public likes, I’m going to try to serve them.”

Brady is a classic entrepreneur. As is the case with many people in this area, he was somewhat shoved into entrepreneurship when Maytag left town in 2004.

“I worked at Maytag for 12 years. From there, I went to Western (Illinois University) and got a bachelor’s degree. That bachelor’s degree somehow landed me here,” Brady chuckled.

What landed Babcock at the hot dog stand was a yearning for yesteryear.

“What attracted me is the whole nostalgia thing,” Babcock said. “I love classic cars, anything old. My dad kind of talked about how great things were in the ’50s and this sort of seemed like it.”

Babcock used a squeeze bottle to put a dollop of brown mustard on his “dog.” He also had yellow mustard and ketchup to choose from.

“I know a lot of people say ketchup doesn’t belong on hot dogs, but a lot of people around here use it,” Brady said, sounding almost apologetic. “I haven’t had anybody bashing the ketchup. Galesburg has it’s own unique tastes. I’ve had a lot of people use the ketchup.”

In Chicago, the unwritten law is no ketchup on a hot dog. Perhaps downstaters are more laid-back, preferring not to set up too many rules when it comes to how one should eat one’s food.

Asked how the brat was, Babcock said, “It’s good, I love brats.” He was even more enthusiastic about the hot dog.

“Good hot dog,” Babcock said. “Good hot dogs have to have a snap to them. Thanks for breakfast, I’ll probably be back for lunch.”

Brady said the food was from Thrushwood Farms Quality Meats Inc., including the Johnsonville brats.

Brady seems to have the knack for this type of job; he seems to truly enjoy talking with his customers and has a good sense of humor.

Brady earned a Board of Governor’s degree from WIU. He minored in manufacturing engineering, hoping something similar to Maytag would return to town by the time he finished his education. But he is by no means unhappy with the way things worked out.

“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit in me,” Brady said. “I tried selling gold-plated chains at Railroad Days one year. I had a used-records store downtown in the ’90s.”

His father also ran his own business.

“As far as the food service goes, I worked at Alfano’s off and on through the years when Maytag was slow,” he said.

Brady was asked how long he plans to keep the push cart open once the autumn temperatures begin to drop.

“As long as it’s not too cold for you to stop and get a hot dog, I plan to be out there,” he said.

What if it rains?

“I haven’t had that occasion come up yet,” Brady said. “I just haven’t crossed that bridge yet. I don’t know what the boys in Chicago do.”

Brady has a great location — lots of traffic going around the square, with a convenient place for them to pull over and order a hot dog or a bratwurst.

“I have a lot of people pull up like it’s a drive-through,” he said. “So far, I’m happy with the response. I haven’t had a million stopping by, but I’ve had new people every day.”

With the success of events like Cafe in the Park, Brady said, “I’m really surprised nobody has tried this in Galesburg before. Hopefully we won’t have 50 carts next year.”

Chris Banning and Roy Sanchez, both of Galesburg, were taking a break when they pulled up.

“We just saw something new,” Banning said. “We had to try it. Anything new in Galesburg, you’ve got to try it out.”

Sanchez, who just moved to Galesburg from suburban Chicago, wasn’t hungry enough for an early morning hot dog, despite Banning’s offer to buy, but Banning also gave Brady’s product rave reviews.

“I’m not the biggest connoisseur of hot dogs, but that’s a pretty good hot dog,” he said.

Toby’s Hot Dogs is open from about 10 or 10:30 a.m. to about 2:30 or 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. He plans to stay in the area of the square.

“If you want to buy a hot dog, I don’t want you to have to drive all over town looking for me,” he laughed.

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Let’s hear it for Toby in the comments everyone!!!

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Dale

Good job with your new business Toby. I myself have just recently started a hot dog cart here in Reno NV. One of these days I would like to quit my casino job and do this full time. I, like yourself, need to get through a winter to see how it is. Are you planing on doing some weekend work with your cart? I want to do scheduled events myself. Wishing you the best of luck.
Lucky Dawg

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Andy

Hi Dale.

I just moved to the Reno, NV area. I am considering opening my own hot dog cart stand. I was curious if you are still running your stand? And, if so, would you happen to have any advice?

Thanks,

A.Cadge

Mike in Kansas City

Nice job on the cart! Great eye-catcher and CLEAN! Good luck!

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Jeff

Toby,

Great job! The cart looks great, you already have a few regulars and your getting FREE press. WOW! It’s a home run buddy,,,GO FOR IT! (FIELD OF DREAMS) “IF YOU BUILD THEY WILL COME.” I agree Ketchup is a sin,,but I’m the guy who puts Cream Cheese,Mayo, and Mustard with a dash of Celery Salt,,,what the heck do I know.

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Big D's Dog House

Here is wishing you good luck with your cart and may you be blessed with great customers good weather and a love for both.
P.S. SELL SELL SELL them DOGs

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Mark

Toby and Dale -
That brings up a good question – working festivals and events on the weekend. What are folks doing? I understand that at some festivals vendors are selling 2000 dogs in a 2 day event. I don’t know if I could handle that volume with my carts.

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Jeff

Mark

Call the event or festival coordinator, Ask what their attendance numbers are? Then calculate about 3-5% this will give an idea of how much inventory to have. (Example-10,000 people expected to attend subtract 5% =500 dogs.) Also find out if you are the only food vendor. This will help with calculations. (This is a tip from Steve in his book) The worst that happens is you sell out…that is O.K. have a runner who can go get more product or call it a day. The big thing is mind set! If you think you can or can’t your right! Just go for it. If your worried about keeping up you will get faster and figure out what works and what doesn’t at the festival.

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ben

Hey Steve, just a quick question, what sells better a skinkless hot dog or a hot dog with a natural casing ? Thanks

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steve

Bennie,

I’ve never eaten a dog with the skink still attached…

(I love typos – they clack me up sometimes)

Just kidding – It depends on where you are. If you’re in NY City you better serve a “snappy” natural casing dog.

In the midwest people aren’t so fussy and you can get away with skinless.

-Steve

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cecil sutton

great story small town usa is great i’m trying to put together a cart business of my own i would love feed back about the build your own cart i’m not very mechanicaly inclined

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Carl

Thats a nice cart, here in Detroit there must be a thousand good spots to put a hotdog cart as long as you don’t block pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks, and also people from Chicago come to Detroit all the time, its about a 3 hour drive. Keep slinging those dogs man!

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joanne

GREAT JOB !!! I’m researching my business right now & hope to open in the Spring. Thanx for the encouragement!!!

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Toby

Thanks to Steve and everyone else’s words of encouragement. This last week has been good thanks to the great newspaper article. I was a little late today because my supplier had run out of dogs. To make things easier on my commissary, I purchase supplies daily. If things keep looking up, I plan to build my own commissary next spring so I can purchase bulk.
I ran a small retail shop about 7 or 8 years ago. One of the biggest mistakes of my life was giving up too easy on that project. I learned that quitters never succeed from that venture. I plan on running my cart as deep into the Midwest winter as I can. I tell customers that “If it’s not too cold for you to stop, it’s not too cold for me to sell”. I might try our local mall around the holiday season. I would love to do weekend events, but have none scheduled. My insurance company has asked me about passing out dogs for a customer appreciation day’s event they are planning, but no final word yet.
My town seems to love me selling so far. I greet each customer, try to inject some small talk, thank them, and invite them back each visit. Today at lunch I had around 12 people hanging out, eating, ordering, and talking. Some of them are important town folk. My goal is not only to sell a great dog, but to create a friendly hello for lunch whenever you need it.
Thanks again
Toby of Toby’s Hot Dogs

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Cindy

Great article these tips help so Much!!!

Toby ,I’m with you out of work and over qualified for most things out there right now. Also, pushing up on age so youngins who will work for much less are getting the jobs.

I say KISS my Grandma LEE’s A_ _ aka America’s got talent!!!!!!!

I just picked up a Ben’s Big Dog cart. I am finishing up the business plan and applying for WI womens small business initiative loans.

ROCK ON Everyone, I hope that doesn’t date me MUCH!!!!!!!!

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Timothy Yeargin

Thats awesome Toby, and nice cart!!! All of you guys inspire me!!! I hope to be operating here in NC very soon. Great job Toby, and keep’em comin’.

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Leonor

Love the cart..great story!!
Blessings to all

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steve

I’m noticing a lot of new faces here in the comments section. I love it!

To everyone who comments here – THANKS!!!

Your input is an encouragement to me and all the folks who come here for inspiration, tips, and hot dogger camaraderie.

Welcome aboard everyone!

-Steve

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AJ Ramos

Great job Toby, wishing nothing but the best.
To everyone else thanks for commenting, there are always something that can inspire someone from the comments that are posted.
I have a question, has anyone ever tried steamed or boiled sausages instead of grilled. I don’t have a grill on my cart, and folks are always asking for sausages.
Thanks
AJ
City Doggz

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Kath

Way to go Toby…inya face success to jobloss!

AJ, We’ve had a lot of requests for sausage from our cart too, but we can only use steamer carts where we are. We found a product from BILINSKI’S that comes as close as I have found to that, MILD ITALIAN CHICKEN SAUSAGE”…fully cooked. We’ve had rave reviews with them so far of course we don’t serve them as hotdogs…but think outside the hotdog bun, and get creative!
Also, we live 6500+ ft in the mountains where winter and freezing temps are quickly approcahing. We don’t want to put the cart up until we absolutly have to. Has anyone ever “winterized ” a cart so the inerds don’t freeze? Sounds like a nightmare of a job, but I love pushing the envelope!?!

Kath
Ike’s Rockin’

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Dabber Dave

As far as winterizing a cart…i’m going to try out a couple different things. I’m almost done with my cart…its a E-Z cart using Steve’s schematics but I made some modifications to fit my business plan. Anyways its looking good with a full solarpowered recharge system for the marine 12v battery I have setup inside the cart. I was thinking about using a low wattage warming lamp (like they use for reptiles or baby chics) inside the cart by the water pump/jugs if the steam table itself doesnt keep it warm enough inside…I’ll let you guys know how that works. Or if anyone else has better ideas about winterizing let us know!

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Dick Barmann

I was at Ben’s last Thursday and a young lady from Wisconsin was picking up a Big Dog. We were looking at the one she got to decide on what we want. I guess it is going to be a Big Dog with a Grill like the one she took to WI. Good luck Cindy. I hope the weather does not discourage you. I delivered fuel oil in WI when it was 35 below and after you get below it does not matter. HaHa

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Teri

Congrats to Toby, I just love hearing all of these sucess stories. I’m building one of Steve’s carts and my inspection is scheduled for bright and early Monday morning. Hopefully, this time next week I’ll be sending Steve an email declaring success! (At least for that part of it.) Celia-I’d be happy to tell you about my experience building a cart (It’s ok Steve-nothing bad) :-) )))) Maybe Steve can connect us.

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Louise

Congratulations on your success Toby! Great article!

I have finally all my permits which took forever, and am ready to get started. Well, ready legally, but maybe not psychologically, LOL…

I feel I need a bit more practice operating the cart and build more confidence before I face real paying customers. However, not much time left. I have an event schedule for this Saturday, and I was told it was going to be busy. YIKES!!!

Talk about getting bapbtized!

I’ll also be selling up north in VT. It would be nice to take advantage of the skiing season, if only the water lines wouldn’t freeze, not to mention the ketchup (Yeah, I love ketchup)

I fear that anything below 20′F, we best wait for it to warm up. We’ll see….

Louise

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Louise

Oops, I forgot. I have one question about cheese dogs. How do you prepare it?

I will NOT be steaming buns or dogs. I have both a griddle and a charbroil grill. Up here, people don’t like steamed dogs.

So, do you use melted cheese sauce in your warming pots? If so, doesn’t that get really messy to clean?

Do you use ‘easy cheese’ in a can? Easy, but rather expensive..

Do you put a slice of american cheese on the bun and then add the dog, hoping it will melt?

Or do you sprinkle grated cheese on top of your dogs?

There are so many options, it doesn’t take much to confuse me. :)

Thanks, Louise

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Dabber Dave

Grats to Toby and I wish him well! Louise….on your question about cheese…I have to use prepackaged graded cheese. Oklahoma doesn’t allow use of “liquefied cheese” on carts…also chili which blew my mind! So I plan to use a chili sauce that I will prepare in my commissary…with no meat : ( we’ll see how it goes. The health department here said that they recommend the use of a “vegetarian chili” to be used but not sure how these Oklahoma cowboys/girls would go for that!

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Louise

Thanks Dave…

Some HD regulations can be difficult. I’m dealing w/ 2 states, so a bit of a headache.

Meatless chili… Huum. The grated cheese sure seems to be the easiest method.

Back to Toby’s success story, I have hyjacked the thread, once again. :)

Louise

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DON

HI STAVE AND ALL YOU OTHERS OUT THERE when I was small boy in whitefish Mt we had a winter fair and there was a guy I helped on his out door cart and all of his pipes had motor heat tape on them and were powered by a 12vt batter that he used in his boat in the summer time and for his feet socks that were heated to with D SIZE battery that you can get from http://www.REI.com as i love to hear all of your info as am all new to this and just starting to make mine here in sac, ca, soon I hope to be telling all of you of my first Dog I sell I plan on sending a picture of the first one to buy from me and give him a free one for the rest of that week giving away some. and make some word of mouth free press thanks for all of you that have helped all of us new dogers
thank you Don in ca

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Dan

I’m really thinking of doing this,I’m in dupage west burb of chicago .do you know if they’ll pass me? What material did you use ? and lastly ,what was the damage best of luck Dan

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