AWSI: Hot Dogs are Hot…

It seems to us that these days, menus (from ball parks to fast food / fast casual) have gone to the dogs — hot dogs that is. You figure that if The Wall Street Journal is covering ball park franks (Get Your Hot Dogs Here! A Ballpark Tour) and “The Home of the Whopper,” Burger King made them the cornerstone of their 2016 promotions, something’s up. Are hot dogs going to supplant food truck cuisine as the next big thing in eating? A ponderable for sure.

Let’s start with what we learned in the Journal. The article by Ellen Byron opens with some quotes from Ron Krivosik, vice president and regional chef for Levy Restaurants about the popularity of hot dogs.

“It’s such a comfort food for so many Americans because it reminds them of when they were kids.”

WSJ features "dogs"

WSJ features “dogs”

Uh… Annie says the pictures from the Journal are a far cry from what her family ate when she was a kid — the “plump when you cook ‘em” ball park frank usually with ketchup.

She also noted how she later learned from Dirty Harry (Clint Eastwood in the movie, “Sudden Impact”) that:

“Nobody… I mean NOBODY puts ketchup on a hot dog.”

Nobody puts ketchup on hot dogs...

And for some folks, hot dogs bring to mind the famous ear worm song for the Oscar Mayer wiener.

But we digress. The Journal is on about fancy dogs found at stadium concessions. For example:

  • The Sonoran Dog (Chase Field in Phoenix) is grilled, wrapped in bacon and topped with pico de gallo, pinto beans and a little mayonnaise—a southwestern twist.
Hawaiian Dog c/o Levy

Hawaiian Dog c/o Levy

  • The Hawaiian Dog (Dodger Stadium): The quarter-pound hot dog (wider than the usual ballpark dog) is topped with pineapple salsa and served on sweet buns made from King’s Hawaiian bread.

“It’s all about trying to get something that brings extra sweetness to the salty garlic of the hot dog,” says Mr. Krivosik.

This is a far cry from the Farmer John Dodger Dog for sure.

The Famous Dodger Dog

The Famous Dodger Dog

  • Both Wrigley (Cubs) and Cellular (White Sox) ball parks will have “The Chicago Dog” — a Vienna Beef hot dog served on a poppy seed bun, and both are steamed rather than grilled. Toppings include onions, tomato wedges, a pickle spear, peppers, celery salt, yellow mustard and bright green relish.

These are all very creative menu items tailored for the region where the ball park is located.

But what about the Home of the Whopper and their dog endeavors?

Honestly, we thought hot dogs at Burger King were going to be a seasonal thing like Shamrock Shakes are at McDonalds.

Old school promo for the famous shake.

Old school promo for the famous shake.

Well, what we do know is that there are two hot dog SKUs (as in Stock Keeping Units) thanks to this post from The Verge)

Burger King's hot dog SKUs.

Burger King’s hot dog SKUs.

  • Classic Grilled Dog – a flame-grilled hot dog made with 100% beef topped with ketchup, mustard, chopped onions, and relish and served on a fluffy baked bun.
  • Chili Cheese Grilled Dog – a flame-grilled beef hot dog made with 100% beef topped with warm chili, cheddar cheese, and served on a fluffy baked bun.

The web page seems to have a placeholder for a “dog to be named later.”

If you search, you’ll find reviews of their dogs to be mixed, but we sense that’s not the point. They needed something different to get people to add Burger King to their rotation of lunch / meal destinations.

Ashley Lutz’s piece (Burger King’s polarizing hot dog is the most successful menu item in years) at Business Insider pointed out how “…hot dogs are also good for driving profits because they are relatively small, leading to many customers ordering additional items such as french fries or chicken nuggets.”

So the truth is out there in the form of earnings. That’s a “wait and see” story.

Which reminds us… Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway has a stake in BK — providing $3 billion of financing for Burger King’s takeover of Tim Hortons.

Warren Buffet has a stake in Burger King.

Warren Buffet has a stake in Burger King.

Knowing Warren Buffet likes hot dogs (or so it has been written), we Googled around and found that indeed there is a connection. The post notes:

Burger King didn’t have to look far to find a supplier. The hot dogs are coming from Oscar Mayer, which, like Burger King, is managed by 3G Capital, the private equity firm founded by Brazilian billionaire Jorge Paulo Lemann.

That wasn’t what we were thinking. Rather, it was this investment of Mr. Buffet’s: Portillo’s restaurants.

The Dog House.

The Dog House.

Per their website:

When it comes to hot dogs, Portillo’s is King. We’ve been making the perfect hot dog since 1963. Our Founder, Dick Portillo, originally invested $1,100 into a hot dog stand he called “The Dog House.” The Dog House didn’t even have running water, but Dick made it work. With hard work and a great tasting hot dog, Portillo’s — as it came to be known — thrived. This year, we’ll expand to Florida and Wisconsin — our fifth and sixth states. And we don’t plan on stopping any time soon.

There’s got to be a connection, right?

Or not. I guess the point is, in an “idea, energy, power” sort of way, new menu items, new businesses, new ways of doing things all have a similar starting point ideas energizing more ideas creating momentum which powers the transformation into something — in this case, hot dogs — that people will clamor to buy… and maybe be inspired to create their own regional version at home.

Lengthy but… yeah that sums up AWSI.

That do you think?

As always, stay curious my friends (#SCMF)!

– The Gang


Bonus Content

You can learn about “the Whopper of hot dogs” in this piece.

And now for your ear worm…

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  1. Lucky Peach has an interesting related post on “dogs.”

  2. Read somewhere that Burger King is claiming that Americans eat 20 billion (yes, billion) hot dogs a year.   Whoa!

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