Several times a night I have people ask me, “How do I start a Hot Dog Cart business?” or mention to me that they have often thought about starting their own Hot Dog Business, and follow up by asking me what it takes to get a hot dog cart working and on the street. Let me tell you right now, without all the fluff and success stories other websites are going to share with you (because they want you to buy their cart, or their ‘How to” book) that unless you have either an inherently unique product that will inspire viral ‘word of mouth’, or a much larger than expected financial commitment to help cement a degree of success (or both) turn around now, and go figure out how to sell your baseball card collection instead. Either that, or click on the ads to the side and read the guides that are most assuredly there, because I’m not gonna blow smoke up your ass and tell you that what I do is the path to easy street and riches. It’s not.
With that said, I can tell you what I did to get my own cart going in Columbus, Ohio. If you’re not in the Central Ohio area, take things with a bit of a grain of salt, and again, you might be better off clicking on the ads to the right.
Buying A Cart
There is no reason what so ever, that you need to buy your Hot Dog Cart locally, though local vendors will try and tell you that you should. They will tell you that in the event you need repairs, you will have them right in your backyard… and though that may indeed be true, don’t fool yourself- there are plenty of places that repair trailers and Hot Dog Carts around town. Your best bet is to do what I did, shop around on the internet, and find yourself the best price. They can ship the cart to you, and even with shipping, you can still possibly be below the costs you’d pay if you caged yourself into buying locally only. If buying new isn’t important to you, (and it should be, because then you get at least a one year warranty) there’s always Craig’s List, Facebook Deals, and your local newspaper. I preferred to buy new, but that doesn’t mean you have to. The only thing you do need to be sure of is that you buy a cart that is made almost entirely of stainless steel, especially the chassis. Rust begins almost immediately, trust me.
With that said, here are some links to online vendors. (Keep in mind, Willy Dogs, Carts of America, and World’s Best Hot Dog Carts are all the same company. I bought my cart off of one of the three, and I have mixed reviews about their customer service. Sometimes it was great, sometimes it was not.) Links will open in a new tab.
Transporting The Cart
Didn’t think about that one did you? Though it’s indeed sad that we don’t live in the world of Star Trek where you can magically beam your cart to the location you want, the fact of the matter is, ya gotta transport it. For that reason and that reason alone, I bought the smallest cart possible. The downside is that I don’t have that fourth steam well to carry chili sauce or something else. The upside is that by adding a trailer hitch to my Mitsubishi Eclipse I can now transport my Hot Dog Cart with ease. However… keep in mind, my Eclipse is a hatchback meaning that I can indeed transport the umbrella, supplies, and all of the food products. If you don’t have a hatchback at the very least, you’re screwed… and you’ll need to think about buying a vehicle solely earmarked for the transporting of your cart. If you’re already set there, then you’ll need to add a trailer hitch to your car. This is gonna cost you around $250.00 at U-Haul or somewhere else, give or take fifty bucks.
Products & Cart Specifications
Yes, more stuff to think about. I find that boiling the hot dogs locks in all that flavor. But you might prefer that grilled taste and be dead set on providing that to your clientele. These are things you need to consider. You also need to consider how many steam wells you will want. Are you going to carry sauerkraut? Chili sauce? What about refrigeration? Will you carry toppings like tomatoes and onions? These are questions only you can answer, but things you need to figure out before you dive in. Also think about, will you be carrying taxable items like soda pop? If so, then the State of Ohio requires you to have a Transient Vendor’s License, which is good for a lifetime, but is going to cost $25. The license is issued by the Department of Taxation and valid throughout the state, and depending upon the type of business you’re going to be (LLC, Sole Proprietorship, etc) you may also need to have a Federal Employer Identification Number first. Don’t forget, you will also need to obtain a Peddler’s License from the City of Columbus, and this will need to be renewed every year for $55. In order to get your Peddler’s License, you will have to show proof of your Health Inspection ($353.00), Fire Inspection ($35.00) and Proof of Insurance, all of which need to be reinstated yearly. Your car will also need to be registered as a business vehicle, so you can expect your auto insurance to increase as well.