How To Get The BEST Hot Dog Cart Locations.

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How would you like to set up here every day? Get that perfect spot…

I just received a great question from HDCN reader Arnold Sims :

Hello Steve,

I am sending you an email asking for a little advice. I found a location to setup at with my cart but it’s not working out.  I have been at other places for similar amounts of time and had absolutely no problem making money. I’m very confident it’s because of the  demographics.

I’m currently following back up on my research for the hot dog industry and am re-evaluating places for a location. I was wondering if you could give some advice and pointers on finding a location.

Thx a lot.
Arnold

***************************

Hey Arnold,

Cold calling on business as a way to get a location has a dismal success rate because people do business with those they know, like, and trust. If they don’t even know you, you’re usually dead in the water before you walk in the door.

Here’s how to put the odds in your favor…

Start networking with local business owners. Here is a very informal, easy, low pressure method that you can use.

Just drop in and shop around, talk to the owner, buy something if you need it, but DON’T mention your hot dog biz.

Do this a few times to build up familiarity, then one day mention your hot dog business and how well you are doing with it. You need to appear successful, not like you need help.

Then casually mention how you think that putting one of your carts out front could really help bring new customers into their business.

By this time the business owner knows, likes, and trusts you. You are not a stranger who wants something – you are a friend with whom they can partner for mutual benefit.

BIG difference, from a psychological standpoint.

Also join the local Chamber of Commerce, Lion’s Club, etc. But don’t just join, be active. Go to the meetings, help out, volunteer.

You won’t get any benefit unless you actually participate! Remember – everything is based on the “know – like – trust” model.

Think of this method as a long term investment. It takes some time but it really pays off.

Even after you get the location of your dreams, keep on visiting local businesses and building relationships. You never know when you’ll need tap into one of your investments.

- Steve

{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

cecil

excelent advice it is like doing business with a bank drive thru is convient but you have no face time with the manager if you go in once or twice a week and always say hello to the manager you’ve established a rapport and he or she is a lot more likely to want to help you .

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Steve

Cecil, I like the bank drive through analogy.

Brandon

Steve is correct. I have found that this approach works well. Unfortunately, I live in a city that has numerous restrictions as to where a “push cart” may be located. Our area requires that a hot dog cart must be located under a structured awning, adjacent to an existing building or business, and not impede foot or vehicle traffic! Talk about limiting options! Anyway, building a good relationship within the business community is a great way to get your foot in the door. Also, do not bring up the issue of rent. Let them do it. You might find that they will not ask for any rent! Remember rent for any given location should not exceed two days gross sales for that location. Suggest a trial period to see how it goes before you settle on a rent amount.

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Steve

Brandon – if street vending regs are too too tough, you can still do very well with private parties, catering, and festivals/fairs.

Debbie

Seeing Im going to start this season, this was a very helpful tip
Thanks

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Steve

Go get ‘em Debbie!

Duggs Doggs

I must be lucky, I got my first spot on a cold call. Then all the rest have come from my customers. I could set up 7 days a week but I just don’t have time. I also feel that its a two way street, one you need a customer base but you don’t want to over book the area. Being in a small town, people seem more excited when I do set up. As long as you are happy with what you are doing, it is all good. Oh, Steve, I did have to raise my prices this year but so far business has not decreased. Only had a couple looks from regular customers that knew my prices from last year, but when I explain why they seem to understand. Note about locations: My first location I had made only $35.00 in sales for 10am to 2pm setup time, the last time I set up at that location I did $150.00 in sales in 2 hours. It sometimes takes time to build a location.

Duggs Doggs
Good!! Good!!

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Steve

Michael – glad to hear you are charging what your product is worth. Good job!

Yank's Franks

As usual, great advice!

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Steve

Thanks Yanks!

Mark

Networking is a great idea – However, you need to be able to demonstrate value to the business location. What are you bringing to the party? Will you increase their customer base ? Provide a service that is needed? Add value to their business? Cash for rent is not always the motivator for a business. Show real value and you can seal the deal!

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Steve

You’re right Mark – market your biz as an asset.

Rick J

Very Good Advice! It is good to be involved with your community, You can also go to your local library and get the tapestry reports for your area!

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Steve

Good library tip Rick – thanks!

Katherine

Thanks Arnold for the question, its something that I am also kicking around at this time! I thought I had a good idea to start off my cart, but the more I think about it, it doesn’t really fit the guide lines Steve has set out, Thanks Steve for the idea’s on a better way to go about a solution! Great idea’s as usual!
Katherine
Kat’s Dog’s

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Susan and Renee

we are going through something similar and it has been tough on us mentally and finacially – we are slowly working through it – as Steve said, build relationships and stay persistant! Thanks Steve – your timing is always right on for us!
Sue and Renee

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Steve

Dog Dealers – Hang in there. You two got such great press last year!

Nadine

Good advice Steve people tend to welcome friends and folks they know and reject competition or some one who might take buisness away
nadine
Mother Road like in Route 66 Dogs

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Steve

Nadine – I’m on Rt 66 too. What state are you in?

Dave H

This information is going to help me out when I try to find a location. Thank you for discussing this topic!

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Lucky Dawg

Print up some one time use coupons offering a free bags of chips with a hot dog and drink purchase. Include your business name, phone number and business location and don’t forget your logo. Print in color about business card size. Hand these out to all the businesses in a two block radius. Make sure to give extras so that they can be shared. You will be seeing them back real soon.

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Lucky Dawg

I also use punch cards that double as a business card. After nine purchases I give them the 10th one free. Not only do I get lots of repeat business, my customer always has my business card on them. This worked great.

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Steve

Good tips Lucky Dawg!

Jeff w w

A while back in August i remember telling everyone on this site how i lost my first location and how depressing it was,and i thought what the hell am i going to do now.Steve said its a part of business,and that i would come back stronger then ever you were right again tough guy.Just let the people know you,and serve a fresh product,be consistent with your times and days and always network your business,so people get to know you so you will have a new spot in case you lose the first one,it takes time ,but it really does work,and i love every minute of it!!!!!

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dogs on the run

Great thoughts on the first question, answered some I had thought about. I was lucky when I started last year the health dept. person had heard that the local park dist. was looking for something like I had. To make a long story short I got into working with the park dist. at non supplied food evening concerts(I can only serve coke produsts since the park dist. contract is with them!!) It works for me I get there about 5.30p and start selling by 6.15p and am done by 8/8.30p with an extra 250+ in my pocket!!! When I raise my red umbrella the people remind me of lemmings!! I also with out asking gave some money to the park dist. sports programs. I only have to drive a total of 20 miles and since the concerts are on a weeknite it does not throw off my work the next day. I will be there this year also.
I need to know if anyone out there has tried or is using a debt card reader for sales. I feel that it would be a topic to discuss sometime. I have had a number of buyers ask if I take cards(even checks!!)Let me know thanks, Jerry

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Bravo Dogs

The Square app is good for taking credit or debit cards. You need a smart phone and it’s free to sign up and they send you the cc reader devise. It has helped me to not have to turn away a lot of customers.

Terrific Tom

I live in Vegas (totally hostile to carts and even trucks) and was in the Fashion Show Mall a while back. There was a kiosk there selling retro sodas and he had a PayPal reader on his smart phone. He showed me how it worked and how easy it was. He liked it because the money went directly into his Paypal account immediately. Nice!

john

Great info for my stand which i am going to start up in about a month. will let you u know a name or maybe someone can help me when i am ready

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Robin/Lakeside lunch

All great advice!
@Duggs Dawgs,
I’m in a small town too and got lucky on my first idea. My pitch was to the town as NOTHING happens in this town without town hall permission. I got the new, refurbished beach on the first year. It took a while to start making good money, but my customer base built fast. I’m visible from 4 directions at a 4 way stop, on a lake, in the parking lot at the beach, and one road is the main way to points north.
Consider beaches, folks! My pitch was “Hot dogs and beaches go together like peaches and cream.” I got a unanimous vote of approval.

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Bill

Jerry, Check out Square for credit card processing. All you need is an iphone or a Android smart phone. Just Google for Square credit card processing.

Regards, Bill

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Tiki's Windy Dog

Steve is right about joining the various Chambers and paticipating with them. A familier face has the advantage. Cold calls! If you do cold calls, have your menu and pictures handy and be willing to leave your pictures with the location. As Ken says “a picture is worth a 1000 words.” I found that cold calls to car dealerships work well if you tell them you would like to ‘partner’ with them in any of their promotions. Also, think back to any businesses that used balloons, tents, etc. when they have sales. I found that they tend to be eager for a hot dog cart. If they have doubts due to local city hall ordnances; go to the city hall and get the answers. I was able to book a location for all of their monthly promotions this summer because I did that and returned to the location on the same day. Unfortunately, it took me from Feb to Sept of last year to be approved by the county health dept. [nightmare!!!!], so we have started late in the season. And nearly all my bookings start in April/May. I now stand in the snow on Saturdays at Sooper Lube and have booked several events for Feb. And I’m knocking on doors! So much to do. Steve, I know you asked for my story and pictures; I’m working on it. You are a wealth of knowledge and heart felt love for us newbies. Nancy & Neal

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Campfire Grill

Steve,
Oh Man, great advise as usual! Steve, you are on the money with the Know-like-trust model. When I first started, back in the set up, test, and move on stage, no one knew who I was so it took a while to establish my self. I shook a lot of hands and treated everyone as if I knew them for years, I am really good at remembering names, I make it a point to remember your name, as time went by people started to trust me and I was then intoduced to the right people. Steve, you are so right, trust is key. I went from doing 150 a day to 500 a day because I was able to build relationships with key people, oh yea, I also deliver really great food, consistantly! All that I can say is thank you for all that you do. I am currently building 2 more carts, one to add to my business and one to sell, I’ll send you pictures. The next generation of Campfire Grill/EZ Built carts are going to be awesome!

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Kim

Hi Steve,
I know you know exactly what to do !! Help !! I’m having a problem with encountering property owners face to face. My previous profession was a receptionist and I have no problem composing a letter. Well.. I now realize I need to talk to these people in person, and I need help with the “solicitation” thing.. I’m not a born salesperson (hot dogs sell themselves). I’ve sent out so many “permission request” letters, and most were sent back because they don’t have a physical mail address. I know I have to physically get out there and talk to these people.. do you have some words of encouragement for me ?? I love people.. but I hate sales. I know this business IS sales.. but hot dogs are sooo good that they sell themselves !!! I look forward to your reply.

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Steve

Kim,

Stop thinking of it as “sales”. Think of it as making a new friend and then later talking to them about your fun and interesting business. Property owners are business people so guess what they LOVE to talk about?… BUSINESS!

Just happen to mention what you do one day and they will be so interested that they’ll start asking you all sorts of questions. The conversation just naturally flows.

Put away that plaid suit because “sales” is dead. Doing business through relationships is where it’s at.

-Steve

JEFFCRUZ

How much is the average gross profit in 6 hours for 5 days a week, Monday through Friday, can someone help me to quit my job and devote myself to this one hundred percent

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Steve

Jeff,

There is no such thing as “avereage” but a decent location can do $100 an hour realistically. Our net is usually 70 percent of that. You can do the math.

I never counsel someone to quit their job before their hot dog gig is producing solidly. That’s too much pressure and pressure makes you a bad decision maker.

If you are already out of work then go for it, otherwise start it part time. You can even hire someone to work it full time until you are ready to take it over. But by then you could just keep them on and start a second location yourself.

-Steve

Killah

I am really thinking about doing a hot dog stand; I’m just trying to get enough money built up. I would like to apply for a loan, but I need help with a business plan. Could someone help me?

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Steve

If you’ve never done this before you can find answers at http://www.HotDogBiz101.com

Tony, Urban City Foods

Thank you for all your comments and incredible information, I keep every email from Steve, and read/study when I have time.

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Lynderay-Gourmet Hotties

Hi there
You are so lucky to be in the U.S. I am on the west coast of Canada where vending is just opening up and am struggling at an auto shop. Each municipality I want to go into charges between $85-$1250 for a business licence. Obviously, the higher rates are to discourage vending.
Vancouver is opening up nicely,allowing food vendors on the main streets and now, even in parks. It is a 40-50 mile one way trip for me, so am trying to stay closer to home.
Any fairs, festivals or exhibitions charge $800-$1200 in advance to set up. It is difficult to get a good gig without lots of cash, and difficult to get lots of cash without a good gig.Talk about catch 22. I may have to bite the bullet and travel or find a new job.
I enjoy reading about all of the different ideas everyone has. I am limited to pre-cooked
and have thought of most of the toppings etc. I found that simple mustard, ketchup,relish, onions and a good barby sauce works.
Keep all the wonderful ideas coming as I need all the help I can get.
Lynda

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steve

There are always challenges no matter what kind of business you are in. I look at it as a barrier to entry for new competition who isn’t willing to work as hard as I am at navigating the obstacles. Hang in there and you will succeed!

Jessica

I just moved from Boston to Fl 2 wks ago to sell hotdogs,Im having MAJOR issues finding a location,and im at the end of my rope.Can you please give me some ideas please?

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Steve

Daily location vending isn’t the only way to make good money. Private gigs, parties, corporate functions, catering, store openings, promotions, charities, are all ways to vend without a daily spot. Good luck Jessica!

Lew

So I own a frozen food biz and we sell food door to door. I am looking to expand my business plan and start a few hot dog stands. I plan on starting with one so I can get an idea of how to even run one, then buy a hand full of them to give me somewhat of a return for my time. My question is this.
I live in Denver, CO. And I’m looking for a good location like every body else. Have you found it more profitable to get a location downtown where all the action is? (if so is it tough to get approval from the big buildings, etc…) Or is it better to go to a surrounding town into a Home Depot or something like that? Or for that matter the downtown area or “old town” area of a surrounding town.
It seems to me that a downtown location would be the best simply because of the flow of people, so this is where I want to be, the only concern is who do I need to ask to do so. They other idea is to just have it during the hot nights (Thur, Fri, Sat) when people are out parting. Does this tend to be a better return than the lunch crowd?
Tons of questions, but thanks for your time in advance!

Lew

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Steve

Hey Lew,

Foot traffic is always good as far as locations are concerned. Some places are difficult to get approval from, others are not. You’ll have to ask and see.

Home Depots can be good buy they usually contract through a concessions management company called Street Eats Ltd. Talk to the manager first and see if you can’t deal with him directly.

Old town could be really good too. Outside of the bars at night is really good.

As far as commissaries, permits, locations, inspections, and all the other details required to be successful, I’m going to give it to you straight.

Here’s what I recommend:

If you’ve never done this before, you need to get my course “Carts of Cash”. You’ll learn more there than you would in a month of expensive and stressful trial and error at the job site.

It’s really an investment in your success. Go ahead and order it today. I’ll ship it to you via Priority Mail so you’ll get it in 2-3 days.

Read it through and if you decide it’s not for you, just send it back and I’ll give you your money back

Think of it as a risk free trial.

You can get it at http://www.HotDogBiz101.com

Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you Lew!

-Steve

joe

hi my name is joe me an my wife are real close on starting our hot dog cart buisness do you think home made chillie beef jumbos and brawtwarths is a good start up. and pickles,avacados, onion, relish, cheese, home made chilli, we were putting a meal for 550 for a soda brand chips, and the hot dog with what ever topping the customer wants on it. were waiting for the location downtown denver. what do you think thank you

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Steve

I think you just made me hungry Joe! Sounds great.

TWISTED DAWG

Hi Steve well it’s that time of year to get the best spot in the area. Guess what, I got the bluff! Hope to see you and your family (PS bring the kids) I know they will love the twisted dawg (and the canon) Marge Rivera

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Steve

Awesome. I asked my kids where they would rather vacation this year, Disney or St. Joe. They said St. Joe. No kidding.

We’ll see you this summer Marge. Can’t wait for my annual Twisted Dawg!

Jim (Weiners On Water)

Ahoy matey !!
Thar be a standing offer fer ye lunch @ Weiners on Water !!
Ye can even do Dixie’s Lakeside Lunch when the tide goes out….
Har har har !!
1St Mate Jim…

Dennis,Hillbilly Hots

Well one good way is real simple.Find a location that looks good.Talk to owner about allowing you to setup for 2 days to benefit the local food pantry.Give Him/Her the credit with sponsored by their business.Thank them when your done And if it was a good location ask them if you can stay.If not a good location you can leave.You will have made contacts either way.KEEP IT SIMPLE!!

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Steve

Great tip Dennis!

Sam Oerly

Excellent advice as always Steve. A good example of this is our situation. My partner and I started volunteering for our cities 4 day art & music festival last year. We continued this year and at the first volunteer meeting we were asked to anchor the main stage area. This is not the food court. There are not any other food vendors within a block. We never would have had this opportunity if we hadn’t gotten involved and given something back first.

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Steve

You guys are rockin’ it north of Knoxville! Good for you!!!

Bobby

Hi Steve, am a subscriber and its true what you say a lot of times I have been kick out of a lot of places but now I have found a very nice place am setup next to a car wash here in Miami (Kendall Car Wash) at first it was very slow I was getting a little discourage but I hanged in there and slowly I have been building up my clientele, I have a customer who is designing a web page for me and a bar code, that will help my business flourish, Steve am so happy and my advice to hot dog cart owners to please don’t get discourage it takes time to build up a business, Thank you Steve.

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Steve

We all want instant success but most times we have to have patience. Thanks for the encouraging words Bobby. Send me pics!

Ed Forbes

Great topic. I am right in the middle of my town, next to the train station/ bus station. Across from a farmers market. Good walk up, just need that extra something to get more people.

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Steve

Getting attention is the first step. What can you do to make people stop, even for just a split second as they walk by?

Michelle Bell

Hi Steve, I have been visiting your site daily, I used to own a furniture store and closed it. I am now working full time but I have a desire to get back to working for myself. I’m about to order the course but I want the online access and the hard copy of the book too. Can you help me out on this.
Thanks, Michelle Bell

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Steve

Absolutely Michelle.

If you join my online membership (HDP Premium) you get the option to order the hard copy book “Carts of Cash – The #1 Hot Dog Cart Start Up Guide” for just $15. And I come with it. If you need any help I’m only an email or phone call away.

Http://HotDogCartPremium.com

Thanks!

Russ "Grateful Dawg' Hiltz

Yes! There is one other hot dog cart vendor in this city of 130,000…and she and her husband are misanthropes…She often complains about having to serve people she doesn’t like, who don’t like her. I have brought my skill of relationship marketing to my hot dog cart business. Before I initially set up downtown for the lunch crowd, I went to every downtown merchant and made friends. From the get-go, I have had no problem having prime locations offered to me. Over 1800 of my Facebook friends are my customers. Many of them follow my promotions…loyal customers have started a FB Hot Dawg Man Fan Club, as well…Last Fall, 4 great gigs fell in my lap at local craft fairs that were very lucrative, all through word of mouth…And those gigs are annual…From the ingredients I use, to the love that goes into the prep/cooking/serving, and the way I treat all my customers, it’s all a big love fest, with great food!! A fun way to make good $!!

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Steve

You are doing it right Russ.

tom g

hi steve 1 week from opening my cart and some one would like to by it for 16k i have 7k in it what do you think ?

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Steve

I can’t make that decision for you Tom. I might do it as long as you don’t have to sign a non-compete agreement. Then you could just start over with 9 grand to play with…

Terrific Tom

Wow! So many great comments I wonder if anyone will ever see mine! That’s o.k. Just casting bread upon the waters here.

I, too, have been stressing over the challenge of locations and a comment above clicked for me. Duggs Dogs mentioned that after his first location he got all of his locations from his customers. So it occurred to me, why not put up a sign on your cart that says something like:

Would you like to see me and my cart at YOUR next event or favorite location? Let Terrific Tom’s Zazzy Dogs add excitement and color to your venue or event. Ask ME How!

Customers will see your sign and your prospects will think how cool it would look if you came to their event or some other location they frequent. I can’t wait to try it out.

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Chad

Hey Steve,
Not sure if you are still responding to these comments, but, if so, I have just a few questions. BTW (i will probably buy your book so these questions might be answered by then). But, I am just starting out and havent even bought a cart or have a business license yet, just been doing ALOT of research. I am hesistant to buy anything before I have a few locations that an owner has already agreed upon. Here’s the kicker, I work during the day and want this to be a NIGHT BUSINESS near the clubs and bars. BUT, I dont know how to get in contact with the bar owners or property managers. With that being said, here are my two questions:

How do I get in contact with these “owners” of bars or clubs, AND do you think it is a good idea to do solely a nighttime hot dog business?

THANKS STEVE

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Steve

Hey Chad,

Selling at bars and nightclubs at night can be a real goldmine. You are on the right track. Don’t call the owners, stop in an meet them in person. Then pitch them on the idea using the techniques that I just emailed you.

(If you are reading this and want my location and commissary getting secret method, contact me and I’ll email them to you no charge.)

As far as rain goes, get a couple big market umbrellas and stands. Set those up around your cart so customers can stand in line without getting poured on. We have a saying about weather. If you can stand it, the customers can stand it. What we’re really saying here is that if you can stand to be out in it for three hours, the customer can certainly stand it for three minutes.

Good luck Chad!

-Steve

Frazer

I have a crazy idea. (well it was my brothers). I want to sell only veggie hot dogs and keep it simple with no condiments and only sauces, with low prices (maybe caramelised onions). I would love all your feedback, whether you wouldn’t give it a second look or if you would totally try it and if you are veggie or not. Would carnivores buy these dogs????? Location seems to suck… I was thinking local car boots, night clubs, festivals and hopefully finding a regular pitch. I live near a high class city but trading consent is proper expensive (not sure if I need that though, on the site says pedlars or street trading consent. On another forum it was saying that you may still need consent)
Thanks in advanced
-Frazer (Also I’m from the UK if that matters…) <3

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Steve

Hi Frazer,
I don’t think carnivores would even look at a veggie dog. You would need to offer both veggie dogs and beef dogs to make money – unless you are vending in a super trendy, young hipster type area.
Cheers!

Frazer

I just thought… My mates dad owns a pub right next to a bus and train station with the car park crossing over the public foot path. Could literally set up in the car park and hand over to the path.

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Steve

Sounds great. Any port in a storm swabby!

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