The new location is part of the chain's efforts to move beyond shopping malls
Hoping to break out of shopping mall food courts, the 66-year-old Hot Dog on a Stick chain last week opened its first drive-thru location, one of a number of test initiatives to spark new growth.
The Hot Dog on a Stick drive thru opened in West Jordan, Utah, in the corner of a shopping center parking lot, said Dan Smith, the Carlsbad, Calif.-based chain’s president and chief executive.
Though the building is not much bigger than a typical coffee kiosk, Smith said that during its first week open, the new location saw about 300 to 400 cars per day at about double the average ticket.
Known for its simple menu of corn dogs, fries, funnel cake sticks and freshly squeezed lemonade, Hot Dog on a Stick has an ideal menu for a drive thru location because everything can be eaten with one hand, said Smith.
The drive thru is also testing amenu, which would be the chain’s first. Dishes include French toast sticks, hash browns and batter-fried sausage on a stick, which can be dipped in syrup. Coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice are also on the menu.
The tests are part of an ongoing effort to shift the brand’s focus away from malls, where the chain’s 100 locations have traditionally been located. Smith said Hot Dog on a Stick is increasingly being pushed out of malls as developers look for more upscale brands for their food courts.
After reaching as many as 130 locations in the late 1990s in a growth effort that Smith said was “unsustainable,” the chain has been stalled at about 100 units for almost a decade. Now Hot Dog on a Stick is looking for more nontraditional locations, such as sports stadiums and casinos, and the company recently launched a domestic franchising program. The first U.S. franchisee is scheduled to open a 24-hour Hot Dog on a Stick later this summer in the Excalibur Hotel Casino in Las Vegas.
The chain’s first international location to open in years is scheduled for Dubai in December, and the company has signed a franchise agreement for Saudi Arabia. Hot Dog on a Stick has locations in the Philippines and Venezuela, but Smith said the company is also in negotiations for locations in Brazil, China, Korea and Guam.
Smith said the chain still has a lot to learn about operating outside of shopping malls, where there was little need for marketing to drive traffic.
Last year, the company tested a street-front location in an in-line shopping center that Smith said only had “marginal” success because they hadn’t done enough local marketing.
Meanwhile, what has worked well is catering, Smith said. A food truck that caters events in Southern California has been so popular that the company has developed an easy “pop up” system that stores can offer in their trade area to cater office lunches or birthday parties.
In addition, the chain in July rolled out new party pack carryout or delivery containers that include either one gallon or three gallons of lemonade and boxes that hold up to 25 corn dogs or cheese on a stick, which Smith said are ideal for picnics or beach parties.
Hot Dog on a Stick is also testing some new menu items, includingtenders on a stick, various types of seasoned fries as a limited-time offer, and a beef version of the hot dog on a stick. The chain’s traditional hot dog on a stick is .
The new items are being tested in five or six units in the San Francisco area, but Smith said the menu will not dramatically expand.
“We have competed on our simplicity all these years, so we don’t want to get too far away from that,” said Smith.