Hot dog stands are nothing new. But the team behind Dat Dog, Enterprises set out to put a new spin on the popular concept, with unique recipes and a vibrant atmosphere. The company has since grown from one small stand to multiple locations throughout New Orleans. But it still maintains that unique vibe. Read more about the business and what makes it stand out in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.
What the Business Does
Sells gourmet hot dogs and sausages.
Offering an unconventional menu and atmosphere.
Bill DiPaola, President/COO of Dat Dog, Enterprises told Small Business Trends, “We have garnered a cult following of customers drawn to the brand’s vibrant atmosphere, local beer, late-night hours and, of course, its hot dogs. The menu features a slew of gourmet sausages made from crawfish, alligator, chicken, hamburger, and duck, in addition to the traditional beef wiener. The more than 30 toppings available at no extra charge – including unconventional options like blackberry sauce, guacamole, Sriracha mayo and crawfish etouffee – allow customers to create their very own “jazz improvisation in a bun.””
How the Business Got Started
As a small hot dog stand.
DiPaola says, “Our founder, Constantine Georges, a New Orleans native and former federal prosecutor who served for 22 years, had the idea to open a hot dog stand. He knew it was already a gamble, but perhaps even more so considering the location he settled on in 2011: a shack in a traditionally economically depressed New Orleans neighborhood on Freret Street. Constantine opened the doors to Dat Dog in 2011. He set up benches and colorful umbrellas on the sidewalk and painted a bright hot dog in the shape of a smile, expecting maybe 50 customers on the first day. An hours-long line out the door proved he was onto something. Dat Dog is a place where amazing and affordable food, fun-loving staff, and bright colors provide you with a sanctuary of joy from the moment you cross its threshold.”
Gradual, constant growth.
DiPaola explains, “We are grateful for every win that comes our way. Whether it be the development agreement with B&G Food Enterprises, LLC to open 25 locations throughout the Houston metro area or our appearance on Food Network, we’ve had multiple wins throughout our business history that we are extremely proud of. From a consumer, franchise development, and national standpoint, we are thrilled with the success we have seen thus far. These accomplishments not only help us expand our footprint nationally, but also increase brand awareness.”
Getting off to an unconventional start.
DiPaola says, “Our biggest risk was building the original Dat Dog location on Freret Street. We took a gamble by building our brand on a 475-square-foot shack in a traditionally economically depressed New Orleans neighborhood on Freret Street. We learned that you must take chances in order to reach your full potential. Despite the size of the restaurant, the location, and the circumstances, we were still able to thrive and garner a faithful following of awesome customers.”
Don’t wait to take advantage of growth opportunities in new markets.
DiPaola says, “While hot dogs are just beginning to penetrate the marketplace, there is tremendous room for growth for our unique concept and menu items. I believe we would have gotten further, faster if we would have noticed that opportunity earlier. However, now that we see this room for growth, we are going after it.”
How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000
Improving employee morale.
DiPaola explains, “I would make sure they have better healthcare and benefits. I would also have better employee outings. Your employees deserve to be able to blow off steam after a long day at work. Staff morale is the best money spent because the closer we are the better we serve.”
Relaxed and fun.
DiPaola says, “From penalty flags, to nerf gun wars we like to bring our entertainment to the office. When employees are uptight and unhappy, they won’t want to work hard. You have to plan and give your employees freedom. Service is also in our DNA. We strive to make a difference by partnering with several local non-profits to give back to the community.”
“Happiness is a choice. You choose to see what you believe of the world.” – Annie G. Stutley
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Images: Dat Dog, Facebook/small>
This goes to show that you don’t really need a fresh idea. You just need to build upon an existing one. You need to put a good twist to it for it to succeed.