Selling Hot Dogs Not As Easy As You Would Think

Kathy Sullivan would love to set up a hotdog stand but says she’s faced nothing but red tape and a huge brick wall in her hot dog venture.

Sullivan, 51, moved to Burnaby after spending several years working as a medic in the isolated oil patches of northern B.C. and Alberta. She’s been unable to find work since and thought she’d start her own business, running a hotdog cart.

Years before Sullivan worked in the hospitality industry and wanted something where she could have interaction with people again, after those years of being out in the bush.

“People are never angry at a hot dog person,” Sullivan said with a laugh. “They always seem to be in a good mood with them. I just thought it would be a neat way to earn a living.”

She says she did her research and learned that street vendors aren’t allowed on public property according to Burnaby (Canada) bylaws and those in most other municipalities in the region.

Vancouver allows them but the limited number of spots are allocated with an annual lottery system which is problematic because she wouldn’t know whether she’d have a place to operate from one year to the next, she said.

Instead, she realized she’d have to find a local business or property owner who could provide a letter giving permission for her to set up her cart there.

Without an actual cart, she found the businesses she approached didn’t take her seriously. So she invested $6,000 to buy the cart in July, only to still be met with all the catch 22’s.

Sullivan said shopping malls don’t want her to compete with their food court inside. Other large retailers already have agreements with fast-food franchises to operate on their premises. Still others just didn’t want the bother.

Meanwhile, her belief is that sidewalks are where people want to see hotdog vendors. “It kind of lends a human touch to the streets,” she said.

From a crime prevention perspective, “It’s another pair of eyes on the street.”

And there’s a demand. She collected 97 signatures on an informal petition calling for city hall to allow hotdog carts on city property, something that only took her two hours.

Sullivan said at one point she was so discouraged, she considered giving up her dream of self-employment and selling the cart. Instead, she decided to bring the bylaws to the attention of city council, to which she made a presentation on Monday.

It appears they were receptive.

“None of us were aware what some of the problems were” for people wanting to set up such businesses, said Councilman Paul McDonell, the acting mayor, in an interview.

Council has asked staff to look into the bylaws, and report back explaining what the rules are and whether any changes can be made.

In the meantime, Sullivan waits.

There are a lot of people in this country and I guess Canada who faced with unemployment want to start a small business. Local governments should be open to the idea of increased tax revenue.

My story is similar, not wanting to be unemployed I started my hot dog biz. I ran into the same road blocks as Ms. Sullivan. If you are thinking of a hot dog business, you can learn a lot from others who went down this road before you. If interested go to my hot dog website  and contact me for info.

Thanks to Burnaby news.com

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