6 Ways to Make More Money With Your Hot Dog Cart

You would need to sell 23.6 percent more. Thats TWELVE more hot dogs per day. How can that be?

I look up commissary and see a name for a restuarant, military official, food supplier.

Am the only dog/BBQ vendor doing the annual Boucherie down in beautiful St. Martinville. February 13th, if yall down for Mardi Gras (will be along the parade route for that too!!) Not for the squeamish or those intimidated by happy, drunk, dancing Cajuns!!

Would you consider raising your prices for one week just as a test? Maybe youre leaving a lot of money on the table and dont even know it.

More profit means more money to reinvest in your business so you can expand and serve more customers who want your tasty food. This is a lot better than just scraping by, living hand to mouth, not being able to replace worn out equipment, not being able to buy quality food to serve your customers, and worst of all denying folks access to your services because you dont have the resources to reach them.

If you sell 55 dogs a day, youll pocket an extra $5,321.25 per year (based on a 9 month selling season). Thats free money. A 16.5 percent raise which you didnt have to work any harder to get.

i like the storys every body had the prices an there location .hope to get started soon .thank steve i getting ready to build one of your carts .cant waite ron

Jim and Kay The Great American Dawg wagon

5. Be friendly.Dont be the grumpy lady who sits in a lawn chair by her cart reading Lavyrle Spencer novels until someone rudely interrupts her to buy a hot dog. Chat up your customers. Most of them spend 50 hours a week in a cube farm under fluorescent lighting with no one to talk to. Be the highlight of their day.

And most importantly, more profit puts more money in your pocket which allows you to help not only yourself, but others who are in need. There is an old saying, Its hard to help the poor when youre one of them.

O.K. Hope im not asking a question already explained and I missed it but I asking anyways. I will be starting my HD cart in about two weeks and am UP and DOWN trying to decide if I should go full fledge top quality dog or a good quality dog to start. Im losing my mind!! I want to do a top quality dog but wondering if something like Bakers & Chefs Beef Franks will do til I get on my feet. I am not exactly rich to start off top quality like Nathens and Ill lose money because Im not even sure at the moment if my location will cover the expensive dog. Are Bakers & Chefs Beef Franks good enough to start? I have a killer homemade chili and will be using real shredded cheese. I also have a homemade slaw and other fresh ingredients.

I started this gig in April with a plump polish on a bun for 2.50 and the chili/cheese for $3. I soon made the price for ANY dog $3, as I didnt want to mess with change (tax is included). Few and far between is the fool who passes me up, complaining about my prices. A few weeks ago this man paused to read the menu, and said well gee, he could get a whole package of dogs at the local store for 50 cents (I doubt this). I cheerfully encouraged him to do just that. Bon soir, cher! Au revoir! A minute later, he returned, and got the chili/cheese dog (I have beau coup free fresh condiments, all the best Cajun sauces, peppers, and spices appropriate for a dog). This crotchety sucker has since become a regular.

There you go. A half dozen ways to rise above the competition without cutting prices.

I have been asked to run a hot dog stand at a church strawberry festival. This blog has

Maybe my prices could be a bit higher. I may try raising just 50. Well see. Good to hear what others in the biz are charging around the country. I sell only Vienna Beef brand dogs and toppings. I am considering a non-meat substitute for the vegetarians out there, but I would charge 50 more, or maybe even $1 more instead. Kinda hesitant about the veggie dogs, but I do rarely get someone who asks for these.

As a semi-comparison look at what the burger, sub, and other fast foods are giving you for $5 or more, some dont even include a drink or side for that. Surely a fresh cooked quality beef dog with the trimmings, name brand drink and chips is worth $5 dont you think?

Thanks Steve, for mentioning me in the story, that was totally awesome reading it earlier today. Keep up all the good work, and lets all sell lots of hot dogs!

Let me know if I can answer any more questions!

tastier and hold up better throughout the day under steam than say one of those roller

If you check out my webpage, you will see what I have my items priced at. I feel like Im on the low end, but for now I can live with that. However, as soon as I start getting supplied with Vienna all beef franks, Ill have to raise the price of the Chicago dog simply because Ill be using a premium frank for my staple. As far as the other prices, I will keep them at where they are. No one has complained about my prices yet, in fact, I had someone comment that they would have expected to pay at least $5.oo for a chicago style hot dog, and thats with the franks I get from Sams Club! Im excited about the future and what it holds in store for me and my hot dog business. Ive already have folks trying to hire me for the 4th of July parties!

Yes, definitely! The steam (or water if you want to simmer them) keeps the hot dogs from drying out. Grilling, whether roller, gas, charcoal, or flat top, will dry out the hot dogs quickly. Some of us grill then place the dogs in a steamer to hot hold.

Hey Guzman! what kind of franks you get from sam wholesale?

Im glad you find it helpful Christine!

Your article was great.I bought one of those silly hot dog hats last year and it turned out to be a great idea, i soon had to buy two more as my customers especialy at larger events wanted pictures with the hot dog guy wearing one of the hats.This led to a face book page with many pictures and comments. We have even attended meetings not relating to the cart in other towns, where the subject of the hot dog guy with the hat and great 1/4lb hot dogs came up. You can also list events and specials ect to all your fans.

There are advantages to making more profit and it has nothing to do with greed. Not at all.

The only way to know what the market will bear is to test it. Start out at $4.50 and see if it sells. You can always lower the price if it doesnt move.

Your pricing is fine Justin. Sounds delicious! Send me some pics of those bad boys.

Biker Jims Hot Dogs in Denver is becoming famous for his specialty sausages like Alaskan Reindeer Sausage, Elk Jalapeno Cheddar Brats, Southwest Buffalo, and Wild Boar Sausage. He even has a caulking gun loaded with cream cheese.

Its normal to be nervous during the start up phase, but it leaves you susceptible to self doubt. The temptation to lower your prices is very strong during this period because it makes you feel more confident.

Price isnt the only way to deliver value in your hot dog cart business. As a matter of fact its the very worst way.

You also need to take in consideration what part of the country you are selling in. We are in a small city in the south. We cannot sell our products at the same price that you might sell for in NY City or Chicago. You can get cheap hot dogs around our area @ 2 for $1.50 at any of the Quick Stops. So we sell our basic dog at $1.50 each ($2 at special events) but we use top end products. We can buy these top end products locally at very reasonable prices. But if we where selling in a large city, we would have to charge more.

I have a question on pricing. I have 4 festivals coming up. I charge $3 on my cart every day and that includes whatever toppings. Is that the price I should charge at a festival or should I raise my price?

1. Serve a kick ass product.Use top quality ingredients, super fresh condiments, ice cold drinks, and name brand chips. Watch those expiration dates your customers do.

2. Be exclusive.Dont try to compete with QT, Seven Eleven, and every other one-dollar-nasty-hot-dog-on-a-slimy-roller-grill-thingy operation out there. If all you offer is a green dried out no name dog with ketchup or mustard, youll get killed by the gas stations.

What do you think about this concept? Any more ideas? Lets hear you in the comments!

these are the best hot dogs in perth, and if they want cheap hot dogs they can call the competiton, coz they sell they worst hot dogs in perth. I LOVE that.


Im from the land down under and I charge $4.95 for a hot dog. I dont charge extra for extras and I go heavy on the condiments. I run a mobile food van cart set up so the guys pay for added conveniance when I come straight to their work place and set up.

The exception is fairs and festivals where you have thousands of people just looking for a quick meal. There you can get away with a plain Jane product but still dont sell it cheap.

I am thinking to start up a hotdog cart business, Im in the researching/studying-up-on-it phase right now. I agree with the $3 price point for one hot dog, maybe 2 for $4, and the $5 for a combo of one, and $6 for a combo of 2. There are two ideas of how to design my cart. One is to come up with a menu and call them unique namesbut then I would have to dress them myself. The second is to place the fixings in an easily accessible place on the cart with serving spoons that the customers dress their own dogs. The above pricing would work for the 2nd, customer-dressed dogsbut that would knock the cutesy names off the menu. Such a dilemma. And thanks for all this information and interaction in which I learn from you who are experts already.

If your health department wont allow you do do anything more than basic condiments, at least use a premium bun and kettle chips to brand your business as a premium operation. It works.

steve the price makes alotta sence now tell me about the up sell 2 dogs soda and chip $?

Math is cool. Competing on price isnt. You dont have enough volume to make up the difference.

Dont join in the race to bankruptcy just because youre a little nervous at the moment.

Steve, you are so right about pricing. I got a late start with my cart. I did my first event during the third weekend last September. I had only been out with my cart two other times that month, and sold 40 dogs each day for 3 bucks a piece. Chicago style dogs..Quality all the way too.

Steve makes good sense to keep your products at their current price point. If you are using quality meat-let your customers(clients) know-if you are using quality buns-Let your customer(clients) know. Next to your product you are the best advertisement for your product. It is your job pass that information on to your customer(clients) Clients is in parenthesis because I believe the term Customer implies a one time transaction. We all know how important our clients are. These repeat Clientele can help you deliver the concept of value to future clients. Take care of them and they will return the favor.

A lot of slingers use Bakers and Chefs and turn a good profit with them. Try them on your customers and see

Thanks Steve and all for the great article!! I am almost done with The Rte 66 Little Red Wagon!! Will be opening soon!! What do you think about a Southwest dog? (roasted corn, tomatoes, and green chilis?????) Cant wait for the Big Foot movie to come out, you had better believe Ill be taking advantage of that!!!

You think its a competitive advantage, something you have control over. In reality this terrible strategy is based purely on your fear of failure.

The key to pricing is to not underprice your products. Come up with some unique menu items, serve them with a great presentation, and dont be afraid to charge for it.

When people walk by and ask is it a Lucky Dog (the carts in the French Quarter), A Coney, a Chicago style, I always say, in the local patois, Mais, cher, dis is a C******s Dawg, using a local loving word for Cajunthat is not cool to say unless you are one!

been a great help. But I have one question. I am assuming that steamed dogs are a lot

Congrats on getting started in the hot dog biz! We shoot for a combined profit margin of 65 to 70 percent on all consumables. That includes dogs, chips, sodas, buns, condiments, etc.

As in all things test, test, test. Try different price points until you meet some resistance, then back it off a notch.

BTW, I totally respect you for posting an opposing opinion.

Better yet, get hooked up with a commissary so you can serve more creative options.

When you charge the base price, 30 percent of that price is eaten up by your costs. You only keep 70 percent of it. See the leverage you get by charging a premium price? Its exponential.

Any decent all beef hot dog will work. Stay away from the pork and turkey filled dogs. You will find that your location will support the brand name dogs as long as you give you customers a unique experience to go along with it. This business is more than just the food! Good luck Christine!

I have been in the entertainment business for 20 plus years and have concluded that you are only worth as much as you charge. I have worked for clients that chose me because I charged considerably more than other entertainers.

6. Be findable.Its a new decade. If you dont have a website, make it a priority.  Hot Dog Profits Premium members get a free one that we build for them. Its easy. All the major street food dudes are using it.

What about Bison Dogs? Anyone doing those? I live in Montana so it is readily available, and not too expensive. I can get a 1/4 lb Bison Brautwurst for $2.25 each and 1/5 lb. dogs for2.19/ea. Do you think these would cost too much if I sold the Brats at $4 and the dogs for about $3.25? I would also use a high quality but reasonably priced bun from our local big bakery (Wheat Montana).

John, absolutely, especially if you offer top end hot dogs and fresh toppings, 5 dollars is very reasonable! Ive changed up my prices a bit because Im now offering Vienna beef franks for my chicago style hot dogs but its worth it. I still have the Bakers and Chefs franks for my other offerings, but I wanted Vienna for my chicago dogs to be truly authentic. I can tell you what, people down here in Central Texas who have never tried a chicago dog are truly raving about my hot dogs and Im excited! Ive also added more items to my menu without actually adding to my overhead. Ive already had the food, I just decided to be a little more creative on how I serve it. Good luck to everyone, hope its a great year for everyone!

oh wow, this is all great. I am starting a HD business and so excited. In reading some of the posting i see that we are just talking about the price for the HD. I will be using Nathans and Hebrew Nationals, with assorted buns. My question is that, i do want to add a soda and chips, but not sure as to, what to charge as a bundle. Recently, i was at flea a Market and the gentleman sold 2 hot dogs, a soda and chips for $5.50. Also, what do you think of the customer serving themselves with toppings. Should my specialty sauces sell for more. Thank You for your response.Oh i live in NC.

Well, I guess I need to go up because I get $3.00 for a hotdog, chip and 12 oz coke all name brand and $4.00 for a all beef sausage dog, chip and 12 oz coke, expect when I go to a fesival where everything goes up $1.00. I have been real happy with my profits at this point but I guess you need to understand I have no cost to spot my cart, no city fees and just health department and Serve Safe fees to pay. Maybe I will go up in the summer. Duggs Doggs Good!! Good!!

Have had some managers complain and Ill tell em straight up that these are the best hot dogs in perth, and if they want cheap hot dogs they can call the competiton, coz they sell they worst hot dogs in perth. I will NEVER lower my priceEVER!

Hi Steve- Im a teacher, and have been thinking about running a hot dog stand here in CT during the summer (mid June mid Sept.) I grew up in the restaurant business, so I know about food. Do you think I can make a go of it during the summer?

Thats exactly what I did. Thanks George!

Lets say you have been selling your dogs for $2.50. If you charge an extra fifty cents for your dogs heres what happens:

I started selling dogs .25 cents more than my competition a block away. He was outselling me for the first three months. Eventually the word spread that my dogs were much better, now he complains to me that I am running him out of town. I also heard he complains to customers if they use too much ketchup. Be friendly, sell a good product, and make your money on quantity. I also have more condiments than anyone in town. Chili, Cheese, Sauerkraut, Stewed Onions, Raw onions, Relish, Hot sauce, ketchup, Mustard, Honey Mustard, and Spicy Brown Mustard. Oh yeah, i also have a styrofoam container for customers that want it to go. Costs more, but they keep coming back day after day. Happy Dogging

I never really had a chance to read through this whole blog and now realize most of what im worried about here the answers are.

Having some problems with setting up with a commissary, if anyone out there is from southeast, NC and have any suggestions, pls email me

I teamed up with a local bar owner at the event, and set my cart up next to his bear trailer.(Doing this got me in the event right away, and with no event fee). The event was held in an upper class small city. The bar owner was selling beer for two bucks, and said we would make a killing if I sold my Chicago dogs for two bucks, too. I sold 150 dogs the first day. Hundreds of people passed by and turned their noses up at my 2 dollar dog. I actually heard one guy say to his family,thats just a 2 dollar hot dog. Cant be anything special about that. That hurt, but I learned that a low priced hot dog can make it suspect. I raised my price to 3 bucks at the beginning of the next day, and sold over twice as many dogs with a smaller crowd. I sold 580 dogs in all, and I will never lower my price again. Im glad I learned this lesson right out of the gate!

Now to raise my prices and send out more Tweets!

Dont sell your dogs too cheap. Youll be out of business in a year. Sell a high quality product and dont be afraid to charge for it.

Its not unusual to have customers waiting when you pull up.

Have the courage to be the best. It pays.

Ken try a church they seen ready to help maybe you could make a deal with them like you vend for one of there girls group or something like that Im trying to start a vend cart bizz In angier nc myself good luck

Oh yes, the only reason I got Bakers and Chefs is because the great reviews. Typically I try a dog first but didnt this time. Wont to that again, that was dumb lol!

Thank you! I finally got a straight answer from someone I was on road foods for a while in the professional hot dog part and all i got was people screaming how dare I not use a Nathens or some other expensive dog made me feel as if I was going to food poison someone lol! I eventually want to use the expensive brand but Im just starting new. I have never done this before so I dont want to dig my self a hole til I get grounded. Im thinking of chefs and bakers for now with a good quality bun.

I am very interested in starting my own cart with Chicago style dogs. Im nervous and excited. Ive been trying to get an idea of the over head cost. Beside the cost of the cart . I tried contacting a sales rep. In texas where I live with no luck. Can you guys give me a ball park figure?

O.K.I tried Bakers and Cheifs from Sams Club and they were horrible! I bought the box of 80 and wished i hadnt now. Maybe they will let me return them lol! Im back to square one again trying to find a good dog thats not going to break me. Maybe I should just buy the Nathens and just charge more. I just dont want to scare off customers with expensive hot dogs. What do you think? Also, I tried the Skyline chili and cant figure out what the fuss is..it tastes like pumpkin. Ill stick with my own chili recipe if the HD lets me do it. Still waiting on them to approve my menu.

After figuring all the costs including meat, The bun,condiments propane, insurance. we sell our dawgs 2.50 sausages 3.00 and work on a 78% markup dont see any reason to go up we are in a small town and sell between 55 and 100 dawgs a day during the winter and double or more when the tourists show at the diamond mine.

Now your referring to a church and that makes me think the church is being referred to as a commissary due to the fact it may have a food bank.

Any other recommendations would be great

Im wondering if by commissary your referring to?

Thats the only true way to determine how high a price your local market will bear.

ok great blog, im looking to sell at my sons football games and i was wondering if since mainly high school students and parents will be there would a all beef frank be a good way to sell lots of dogs at a 1$ a piece.

No worries. What you encountered is a real problem, especially for newcomers to the industry. We try to create an atmosphere here at Hot Dog Profits where you dont have to be afraid to ask even the simplest questions.

What part of Montana are you selling in? I only ask because I am starting up in the spring in Western Montana. I was also thinking of bison dogs, or even elk. Those would definitely be a specialty and I would probably only do those a few days a week. I would like to talk and run some things by you and see what you think.

I have a old school circus looking food truck. I sell Dogs, Chili, Fries, Soup, Chips, and Hot Chocolate at a Farm stand/Fall festival(Pumpkin patch,hay rides..etc) on Long Island. Just added the soup to the menu (New England Clam Chowder) and finding that it is expensive to produce. Not to mention the cost of soup cups, the ingredients (Clams,Scallops,Pancetta) are proving to be pricey, but the soup is very hearty!!. I was thinking about charging $3.50 which would yield about a 50% profit being that it cost roughly $1.50/Cup. Am I wasting my time. Should I increase the price? It is already the most expensive single item on the menu, can you see me getting $4.00 or $4.50 for a cup? This would be more like 65-70% profit which is roughly where I have set all my other prices.

Do You Have The Courage to Make More Money With Your Hot Dog Cart?

Think of dollars as certificates of appreciation that customers gladly give you in exchange for providing something that they enjoy. Thats what money really is.

Not if you want to make any money. Sell an all beef frank with awesome condiments and a unique experience and you can charge $3 or more. Good luck!

4. Deliver an experience.Have some music playing (not too loud). Decorate your cart. Have a theme on certain days like Hawaiian Fridays. Run a little contest every now and then.

If you are going to see any of your regular customers there, dont raise your price. If the festival is far away then raise prices two to three dollars.

Too cheap on the single combo. Charge $4 for that.

Sorry but thats like asking what a car costs. You can pay $1500 or $150,000. It depends on what your goals are. The very least expensive way to get started is to build your own cart. I have a video series that shows you how to build your own cart using hardware store parts for around $800. Its included in my Premium training.Check it out here. I look forward to helping you get started Sandy!

Man up (you too ladies) and plan to charge a price that will return a decent profit.

When you start using our free website, it sets you free from being tied to one location because you can post your location each day. Your customers will get an automated email from you so they will always know where to find you.

Do the regional dogs. Coneys. Mexicans. Slaw dogs. New York red onion sauce. One of your fellow readers Esteban Guzman (Stevies Red Hot Weenies) is killing it in Texas with his Chicago Style Dogs.

If youre already making a killing congratulations! Thats awesome.

When you charge that extra fifty cents, your costs have already been covered in your base price so you keep 100 percent of that extra fifty cents.

steve i think you are doing it right could toy send me a photo when you are finish with it and how you put it together thanks alot if i need to pay you auy thing please le me know thanks tony

New here, Not sure how old this Blog is. But I disagree with the pricing theory. I Charge according to the event and clientele. I run a trailer from early May to late October along the Northern Ohio border / Lake Erie area. May brings out the fisherman eager to score in the annual Walleye-White Bass run. I bring out the Cheaper dogs and char

In a daily vending setting I dress the dogs myself. In a mass feeding setting such as a fair, festival, etc. I put up a table with condiments on it and let them have at it.

Click here for free hot dog cart lessons by email.


Steve, The story goes like this. A customer walked into a propane company and asked how much they charged for a furnace cleaning. Seeing that it was summer and they were slow they replied $20. The customer asked if they could do it now. They replied yes. Cutomer asked if he could ride with the service man to his house. When they arived the customer paid the service man the $20 and said, Dont wory about cleaning my furnace. Service man asked why he did not want his furnace cleaned. Customer replied, Cab fare out here is $25.

To see how creativity can get you a ton of attention, just google Biker Jims Hot Dogs. He owns the first 40 or so search results!

During the current recession, that is currently being dragged into the new year by Obamanomics, it is very important that we deliver value to our Customers(clients). Delivering value is not a survival tactic but one that lends growth to your Food Cart business. The good decisions you make in bad times will be great decisions in good times. Do not wait for the bad times to make good decisions.

We are not taking money away from people. People buy what you sell only if they feel they are receiving a greater value than the value of the currency they exchange for it. The customer makes that decision, not us. If the food and experience you offer isnt worth what you are charging you will know it very quickly. The customer will take their certificates of appreciation elsewhere and happily give them to someone more worthy.

Hey guys if anybody out there Im in process of buying cart was planning on doin 2 dogs chips & drink for $5 my friends say do one with chips & drink for $3 any suggestions?

Great read, thanks so much. As we continue to develop the best Hot Dog possible at Boner Billys Famous Hot Dogs we are always looking for great ideas to market, and provide the best for our customers. Thanks so much.

A commissary can be any facility with a health department approved kitchen. The health department does not want you to prepare food in your own home.

Mark from down under kinda helped me with my dilemmaThanks MarkI agree

Just wondering any one have good luck making and selling your own brand hot Dog?

Thatll work. We try to run a friendly joint here Christine welcome aboard!

I just re read what i saidI dont want to dig my self a hole til I get grounded huh???? lol! THANK U

If you dont charge that extra fifty cents, you would need to sell 16.5 percent more hot dogs (about nine) every day to make the same money, right?

Thats great, but check this out.

The Frito Pie sells briskly at $3. No, I do not need to feel like I hafta compete with the dollar dog at Walmart!!

Here are six better ways to deliver value:

The really important criteria is whether the soup makes enough profit to be worth the effort. Calculate the cost of ingredients plus your time to prepare it at $25 an hour. This will give you your true cost of goods sold for that product. That is your break even point. Anything else is gravy.

3. Be creative.The hottest trend in the country right now is street food, which usually refers to non traditional or gourmet offerings served from street carts. Jump on this trend by offering gourmet hot dogs. Try unusual toppings like avocado and sour cream, cilantro and tomato, crumbled bacon and chopped dates (try it its good!).

In the old days you had to be in the same place every day so your regulars knew where to find you.

If youre happy then Im happy. However think about this

If it cost a buck-fifty to build your dog and you sell it for a dollar its only worth a dollar. On the other hand, if you sell it for 4.50, the customer will perceive a greater value in your quality product. Sales and pricing is ALL about perception. Like Steve has said be unique!

Can you hear me clapping my hands, Mark? Im whistling too! Right on mate, profit margins are everything to small businesses such as ours.

I never promise specific income results because like any business, so much depends on you. But if you follow the training in my bookCarts of Cashyou have an excellent chance. The proof is out there there are so many folks making great money in the hot dog business. Why cant one of them be you?

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