Starting A Hot Dog Business II

Ok so if you have been following along I started a series on how to start a hot dog biz. We we have been pretty busy at Bombdiggity Hot Dogs so I apologize for not blogging sooner. To pick up where I left off, we have been working on the interviews and will be available soon. I will post the links in this blog.

Let’s go back a step to the planning stage. You will need to check with your local heath dept. BEFORE you buy a hot dog-cart. I have seen numerous ads claiming that “Our cart will pass the toughest health dept. regulations.” My business is in California, a lot of what I see on the net will NOT pass code here in Ca. In fact some counties will not allow a steamer cart but will a griddle cart. Don’t ask me why it’s just the way it is.  This one step will save you money and a whole lot of grief.  Get your list of what is needed from the health dept. and then go to a reputable builder with the specs.

 Check out your local city laws to see if  food carts are legal. A lot of cities will not allow mobile food carts. From experience I can tell you that the county health dept. does not talk to the local city. So what may be legal in the county is not in the city or vice versa.

Ok so now you have your cart and all is legal what about insurance? You need to buy some liability insurance to cover you in case someone says they ate your food and got sick. No insurance means you could lose a lot! Liability insurance is not expensive for one or two carts. You can probably pay for it on a monthly installment program also.  

Next post will be on the food aspect:  What do you start with and where to get it.


How To Start A Hot Dog Business

In a previous post I wrote about people in America who risked their retirement or savings and bought a hot dog-cart. One thing they all had in common besides the obvious was no plan. They all did not go into business and plan to fail, they just failed to plan.  So I thought I would create a series of posts about starting and running a hot dog business.

The most important point is to plan ahead. Ask questions like will the cart I am looking to buy pass local or county health department codes? Most local or city governments do not communicate with the health dept. So what may be ok in your city might not pass with the health dept.    

Most of what I see on the internet is “Buy this cart and in a few days you too can be your own boss making money by selling hot dogs!” It simply does not work that way.  Case and point: read this post about someone selling hot dog carts on eBay and not delivering.

caveat emptor  about anyone claiming to help you make it big in the hot dog-cart business.  I have spent the last 6 years building  my business  up to where even in December and January we are busy. It didn’t happen overnight and I didn’t get it from reading some internet “Hot Dog Book”.

New this year We have teamed up with  and will be doing a series of interviews with successful hot dog-cart owners so that you can get some awesome info for free. In fact if you have a question you would like to ask contact me and I  will make sure we put it in the interview.

The Hot Dog Cart: Bringing Back The American Entrepreneur

With all the news about America in the middle of an economic crisis, unemployment currently at about 9.8% and our government trying to get it together. Out comes story after story of Americans who instead of giving up or taking a hand out from the government are starting small businesses. The business that seems to get the most news is the hot dog-cart. Most of the new hot dog-cart vendors are either casualties of downsizing, laid off blue-collar workers, or just plain lost their job.

There are stories of people like Budd and Grae Lewis in the state of Washington who took the last of Budds 401k savings and invested in a hot dog-cart. Two brothers J.T and Scott McDuffy from Maryville Tn. J.T. was laid off from his job as a butcher, both decided to get into the hot dog business. Then there is Brad Kossover from Conway AR. who has come up with the solar hot dog-cart!

My story is similar; after working in the automotive business for almost 20 years, I lost my job in January of 2010. My wife and I had our hot dog-cart as a part-time business but now we are full-time and keeping busy. Actually I have not looked back.

The hot dog-cart business is a great venture if you take the time to research and plan ahead. There are may pit falls as most of the people above have found out. There is an overload of information on the net; mostly from guys who claim to be an “expert” in the field of hot dog-cart ownership. The fact of the matter is most of these guys wanting you to by their E-books have never sold a single hot dog!  I speak from experience, I have purchased some of these books when I first started my business 6 years ago.

If you are thinking of starting a hot dog-cart business, talk to your local city and health deptartment first. Make sure you follow those guidelines to the letter. If you would like further information you can contact me.  I will also continue on this subject.

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

Couple Operate A Hot Dog Cart To Avoid Being Homeless

Here is a true story about a couple who live in Oregon, working their hot dog cart, not taking government help, just trying to get through the ressesion.

Budd and Grae Lewis, 62 and 50 years old, wake up every morning and set up their hot dog cart out onto the streets of Portland, Oregon. Since they both lost their jobs in 2008 — his as an animator and hers as a semi-conductor designer for Intel — Budd says they can’t afford one of the fancy enclosed food trucks that would allow them to work in inclement weather, so on many nights they go home with nothing but a pile of rain-drenched buns.

“We’ve spent days and days like little kids sitting glumly at a lemonade stand watching the cars go by, in the rain, huddled under our trailer’s umbrella, trying to keep our hands warm over a little grill, Some days we’d sell two or three sandwiches. Some days it wasn’t as good.”

Lewis said the idea for his Japanese-fusion hot dog business, Domo Dogs, came from a successful Japanese hot dog stand the couple came across while Grae was pursuing a graduate degree in Canada.

When the couple could no longer afford Grae’s tuition on their dwindling savings, they moved back to the U.S., invested the last of their 401(k) money into a hot dog cart, plastered handmade signs onto it, paid for permits and pushed off into the streets. When Portland’s rainy season finally ended and the clouds broke around July 4 of this year, Lewis said, Domo Dogs finally started to take off.

“We’re getting pretty well known.  If we had a place to set up permanently, they’d be lining up around the block.”

Lewis said he and his wife can’t afford a permanent “food pod” in Portland, which typically runs between $500 and $800 a month, so they often set up at craft fairs and holiday bazaars at schools, grange halls and churches. This month, they managed to earn about $3,000 from hot dog sales, but he said they are putting most of that money toward repairs on the trailer. In the meantime, they’re living for free in a friend’s guest bedroom, but they might be homeless soon since his friend’s house is in the process of foreclosure.

So if you make to Portland pay a visit to Domo Dogs and get a great hot dog and you will be helping out some real people.

In California?  check out Bombdiggity Hot Dogs

thanks to Huffington post for this story

“Hot Dog King” Files Bankruptcy

Self-proclaimed “hot dog king” Louie Di Raimondo has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy both personal and for his Miami-based retail business, All American Hot Dog Carts.

Raimondo was featured on Joan Rivers “How’d You Get So Rich?” TV show in May 2010 and has filed bankruptcy petitions Tuesday in Miami. Di Raimondo lists $5.5 million in debt and $1.1 million in assets, with between 100 and 200 creditors.

His business declared $1.97 million in debt and $200,599 in assets, with fewer than 49 creditors.

Di Raimondo’s rags-to-riches business story has been told and retold in newspaper articles and books, including “I’m On A Roll: America’s Celebrity Hot Dog King, Louie Di Raimondo,” which he co-authored.

According to the bankruptcy petition, Di Raimondo’s owes $1.7 million to Chase Home Finance on a home in Miami Beach, along with a couple of other mortgages in Miami.

He also declared ownership of a 2008 Ford Ranger and a 28-foot Sea Ray boat. His personal bankruptcy petition says he has a monthly income of $18,500 and it includes 27 pages listing credit card account debts.

Wait…… a 2008 Ford Ranger??? did you see the video of his claim to fame on his web site??

All I can say is business is awesome at the Bombdiggity! And we don’t own any of the “Kings”Carts, just honest hot dog sales here folks.

Thanks to the South Florida Business Journal for the info.

Hot Dog Stand Art At The Queens Museum

Depression era hot dog guy

Working Stiffs… thats one of the art collections  now at the Queens Museum in NYC through November 14th. 

 Fifty photographs have been selected from the permanent collection of the Queens Museum of Art to articulate what it is to work, cross-culturally and geographically, throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. An extensive range of images highlight contemporary artists such as Sylvia Plachy, Pedro Meyer and Dulce Pinzon whose insightful works reveal the visages of laundry attendants, tailors, servants and even Hot Dog Vendors with both intelligence and humor, to 19th century anonymous photographers documenting the daily life of the trades in Europe, the United States and the Far East.

The above photo was taken by Depression-era photographer Berenice Abbott

Times have changed! look at what a hot dog cart looks like now.

Carpinteria hot dog vendor relishes his sales-tax victory

Bill Connell

Bill Connell, 55, stands in front of his Surf Dog stand in Carpinteria. He's been in the hot dog business since he left his native New Jersey when he was 38.

As light on his feet as the prizefighter he once was, Bill Connell moves quickly around his Carpinteria hot dog stand, jabbing hot sausages, whipping Monster Dogs into buns, and boasting about the recent knockout he scored against state tax officials.

“They told me the law didn’t mean what it said in plain language, and I told them: ‘Are you kidding me? I was educated in Catholic schools! I know what the law says!’ ”

For 16 years, Connell sparred with the state Board of Equalization over the interpretation of an 1872 statute exempting street peddlers who are disabled veterans from paying various taxes. This morning, he’ll celebrate his victory by giving away hot dogs and carving up sheet cakes decorated with the Stars and Stripes. Politicians who supported Connell’s cause will speechify on a platform set up at his Surf Dog stand, a cart commanding an ocean view that would be the envy of any five-star hotel.

“This was a real David-and-Goliath struggle, and Bill never gave up,” said state Sen. Jeff Denham (R-Atwater), chairman of the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee. “It’s an emotional issue for him and it’s an emotional issue for all veterans.”

Denham sponsored a bill, inspired by Connell, allowing veterans with service-related disabilities not to pay sales taxes when peddling things such as T-shirts, tacos and incense on the street. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed it into law earlier this month.

At the heart of the new law is the notion of the state giving a boost to self-employed veterans. Connell, a former toxic-waste disposal specialist who knows his way around a law book, contended that’s exactly what the state wanted to do when it passed laws to that effect in the 1800s. State attorneys disagreed, pointing out that state sales-tax laws weren’t imposed until 1933, didn’t mention veterans and superseded rules from the previous century.

“It really galled me terribly,” said Connell, a 55-year-old Vietnam-era veteran who partially lost his hearing when he was boxing for the Army in Germany. He said a vet in San Francisco who peddled decorated seashells and a fellow hot dog vendor in Northern California were unfairly put out of business. “I was just the last one standing,” he said.

Mid-life crisis drove Connell from his native New Jersey and, at the age of 38, into the hot dog business. Since then, he has testified before the Board of Equalization, a state tax agency, 18 times. By his estimate, he has spent 1,000 hours in the law library at Santa Barbara’s courthouse, poring over case law and thumbing through dust-laden statute books. Along the way, the state briefly shut down his business for nonpayment of taxes.

An animated man who talks death, taxes and local politics with his regulars, Connell fumes over some of the lawyerly tactics used against him.

“A comma!” he sputtered. “For years, they tried to tell me I was wrong because there was a misplaced comma in the law.”

The 1872 legislation says veterans may peddle “without payment of any license, tax, or fee whatsoever.” Connell said his opponents claimed the comma after ‘license’ was a mistake.

Bill Leonard, a Board of Equalization member since 2002, agreed with Connell.

“I argued on his behalf and lost,” he said. “I tried to get our regulations changed and lost. But he made such a good argument that we should honor our veterans — and that itinerant-peddler-veterans didn’t represent a huge drain if they were exempted — that the board agreed to meet him halfway and support legislation to clarify this conflict in the law.”

The state figures the new law will cost it about $25,000 a year in foregone sales taxes. Only disabled veterans who have no employees but themselves are eligible.

“It’s a very limited business opportunity in the 21st century economy,” Leonard said.

That may be, but it suits Connell just fine.

One afternoon this week, a customer dropped by with a framed line drawing of the Surf Dog stand and the inscription, “Thanks for helping our veterans!” A couple of drywall installers ordered end-of-shift hot dogs. Regulars such as contractor Jon Jorgensen asked Connell about plans for the celebration.

“He’s an individual,” Jorgensen said. “In Sacramento, they hate people like him.”

For Connell, all is well. He claims the state owes him $30,000 in sales taxes he paid over the years, but his pending lawsuit is a fight for another day.

“I love California,” he said. “The people are great. The attitude is great. I love it — except for the tax lawyers.”

Thanks to Steve Chawkins @ the LA Times for this post.


Hot Dog Vendor bites back with petition

Controversy is heating up over a Yuba City, Ca. hot dog stand.

Until Monday, Paul Kaiser had sold a variety of hot dogs from Fat Daddy’s Frankfurters near the Town Center for about a month. But Yuba City revoked his permit after a series of complaints that led to the re-examination of city codes.

“What’s happening is archaic, that someone can call and stop free enterprise,” Kaiser said.

The underlying issue is whether that type of use is appropriate in the downtown, said Aaron Busch, director of community development. Fat Daddy’s Frankfurters’ permit was issued in error because the use is not consistent with the Central City Specific Plan. The plan, which was last updated in 1992

and is specific to the general downtown area, states that food services are conditionally permitted and only within enclosed buildings.

But the vendors section of the Municipal Code gives an exception when a permit is issued by the Police Department. That is how Kaiser obtained his permit.

“Is that our fault?” Busch said. “Absolutely. We had an old ordinance in place.”

One call to the city came from Willem Vonk, the owner of nearby Has Beans coffeehouse. He, like others, inquired about the legality of Kaiser’s cart when other vendors’ requests had been denied. Vonk also sees Fat Daddy’s Frankfurters as unfair competition.

Hot dog vending has helped alot of people survive this resession, Me included. Here you can find out more about hot dog catering.

For the complete story go to the appeal democrat

To help Paul keep his business sign the petition

The Hot Dog Guy, And The Recession

The Hot Dog Cart

The Hot Dog Cart

Once upon a time, not long ago there was a guy, who had worked a good many years as a car salesman. Lately he had come to dislike his work.  It was not rewarding, his boss was never happy, and there was always pressure and stress. But he stayed with it because the money was good, and he had a family to support.  Until, one day, this man decided he had had enough. Because of hard economic times people were not buying cars and so his paycheck got smaller and smaller and he quit.

He took some money out of his retirement, and of all things bought a hot dog cart. Most of his friends and former co workers were not too sure about his decision, but his wife and family supported him and he went for it. He did all the research he could and got the best hot dogs he could find. He always made sure they were fresh and hot and he always had plenty of fresh ketchup, mustard and onions. His cart was new and clean and he kept it that way.


From day 1 his business grew, it seems with the recession people were looking for a good deal; they no longer went to the fancy places for lunch, they liked going to the hot dog cart because it was clean and easy to get to, and they always got  their order fast and hot. It didn’t take long before he was making the same kind of money he was at his job. Only now he had no boss, no stress, and best of all he didn’t have to dress up for work!


Now the hot dog guy has a couple of carts; one for catering and one for his home town location. Who would have thought you could make living selling hot dogs! The morale to the story is you can live with a recession or create your way out.

To see how the hot dog guy is today check out hot dog catering