What Makes a Good Hot Dog Vendor?

Many people wonder if they have what it takes to start and successfully run their own business. This is actually a very good question to ask oneself because not everyone has what it takes. An honest self appraisal is in order. Many good people lack the necessary qualities to be a successful self employed entrepreneur.

What are these needed qualities? Do you have them? If not, can you develop them?

Self Discipline

Although many people long to work on their own terms without a boss telling them what to do, without a foreman watching over their shoulder, they may actually lack the necessary self discipline to run their own business. The fact that they chafe under the watchful eyes of another may be an indicator that some attitude adjustment is due. The fact that they require supervision in order to accomplish work, may indicate that they will not do well on their own.

A successful business owner must be self driven. There is no-one else to provide the motivation for you to perform well. There is no-one to enforce your work schedule or check your quality. You are, in effect, on your own in this respect. The danger is that you can lapse into poor performance and, as a result, your business will suffer.

So you need to honestly ask yourself if you can be self policing. Will you be able to do all the necessary tasks on your own with no-one to tell you what you must do and when you must do it.

A good indicator of whether you can do this is at the very beginning of starting your food service business. If you read the business guide, you will see that there is actually a fair bit of ground work to do before you get started selling food from a mobile food stand. There are licenses and permits to get, there may be a food safety course to take; you need to do careful research to find a good location; you have to find high quality, well priced suppliers; there is paperwork to fill out and a lot of people to talk to; and more.

How well did you perform all these preparatory tasks? Did you take a long time? Did you waste time? Looking back, did you spend days when little was done or accomplished because you were side tracked by other unimportant issues? If you were being paid to do these tasks, would you be satisfied with how the work was done?

Of course, one of the primary motivations in work is money. You need to earn money to live. Yet, do not think that running your own food service business is a push over. It requires effort, determination and diligence, especially at the beginning when many of the tasks are new and unfamiliar.

If you feel satisfied that you are a self starter with the discipline to follow through in your own business, you made need to develop or hone some other necessary business skills.


Everyone appreciates someone who is reliable. This is especially true when it comes to their food! So reliability is a key quality for a food vendor. People will come to rely on you for their lunch. If you disappoint them, they will not likely return.

So this means you will need to be at your vending location every day at the same time. This will show people that you are a dependable source for their food supply. If you are only there some days and often missing, you will never cultivate a good customer base. Your clientele will be as haphazard as you. Your sales and profits will suffer.

The quality and quantity of your food must also be reliable. If you provide good tasty food every day, people will appreciate that and return again and again. If your food is good one day and poor the next, you will only be a supplier of last resort. Sales will suffer. If you frequently run out of food during the busy lunch hour, people will view you as unreliable and go elsewhere.

Mobile food vendors fill a niche in our busy, fast paced world. If you are not dependable, people will not waste their precious time to check to see if you are available. They will turn to a better source of supply.


If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This saying is very true in business. It means that starting a business requires some forethought and careful planning. A successful business is no accident.

Fortunately, in our Business Planning section, we have done much of the planning and laid out the necessary ground work for you. However, you will still have to follow through and do your own homework.

This will include searching carefully for a good location, counting foot traffic, researching food prices and finding local suppliers. You will need to make decisions and plan for alternatives if you discover something is not working out as expected.

Do not go into a new business without careful planning and due consideration. Follow the guidelines in our Business Plan. Leave nothing to chance.

Ability to Learn

If you are new to the food service industry, or if you have never run a small business before, you will need to learn new skills and new ideas.

One example of this involves learning the proper procedures outlined in our Mobile Food Cart Operations Manual. These are not difficult but they may involve some new ideas. Some of the procedures may seem excessive or extreme. Yet they are what are required for food safety.

Your local county health department may even require that you take a safe food handling course. This might seem daunting for many who left school decades ago. Although the food safety course is not very difficult, it does involve some class room time and learning new concepts.

Another example involves the more mundane procedures in running a business. A good small business owner is very careful about saving receipts and keeping accurate financial records. Some even do a large portion of their own accounting to save money. These are all new skills and procedures for many.


The retail food service industry employs a level of cleanliness that is well above the standard that most people are familiar with and practice at home. Food safety inspectors are paranoid about possible sources of bacteria, dirt, and contamination. They are responsible for the health and safety of the general population.

The reason for this is that most disease is passed on by contact from unwashed hands. Most cases of food poisoning occur when food or food preparation equipment is not properly cleaned. Mobile food service carts are a potential source to put hundreds or even thousands of people at risk if the operator does not practice proper hygiene.

A food cart operator must therefore be ready to meet a very high standard of cleanliness to meet these health guidelines. These guidelines are, for the most part, laid out in our Operations Manual. However, your local health department may have additional requirements and procedures beyond the general guidelines that we have listed for you. These must be practiced without wavering.

From a strictly business point of view, cleanliness makes good business sense. People want their food supplier to be very clean. This includes the vendor’s personal appearance and grooming.

The vendor should be dressed neat and clean. Clothes should be free from stains and wear. Clothing should not display any offensive slogans or language. The way we dress should look professional. If we dress too casual or sloppy, it will convey the idea that we take a casual and sloppy view to the way we prepare the food we sell.

Hair should be clean and restrained to prevent food contamination. Hands must always be clean and should never directly touch food. Finger nails should be clean and trimmed short.

If we look sharp at our food cart, people will appreciate it and reward us with their business. If we look sloppy, many will turn away and our business will suffer. Being neat and clean costs very little, but it does take effort. It is, however, well worth the effort.


Although friendliness is listed last among the qualities discussed here, it is by no means the least important quality of a successful hot dog cart operator. A friendly, positive, upbeat manner will do much to boost sales. And the remarkable thing is that it costs absolutely nothing!

Yet most people automatically say: “Well, I’m a friendly person. I don’t need to be told how to be friendly.” Do not be so sure. While it is true most people are friendly, they inadvertently convey an unfriendly attitude without even knowing it. How is this so? It is not what they do as much as what they do not do.

So how can you be sure that you convey a nice friendly attitude toward your customers. Simply follow these few simple guidelines.

Smile. Smile at every one who approaches your food stand. Smile at those who pass by your location. They may not purchase a meal today but perhaps tomorrow. Your friendly smile may be the incentive they need to give your product a try.

Greet everyone. Make eye contact with your customers and say hello to them. People want to be acknowledged. Even if you are serving another customer, greet the new comers. This tells them that you know they are there and that you will serve them as soon as you can. If you ignore people, they will go away.

Be upbeat. Be cheerful. Talk only about positive things. Do not complain. Do not talk down about things, situations or people. Otherwise you may offend someone. People are attracted to positive cheerful people. If you are always happy and upbeat, they will come to you for that quality as much as the food you serve.

Thank people. Thank them for their business and wish them well. Do not be curt or dismissive. The last thing they should see is your smile. The last thing they should hear is you saying “thank you”. Do this even when it is busy and you are in a rush. It does not take long to smile and say thanks. We live in a fast paced world where good manners often suffer as a result. If you are kind and polite, you will stand out among vendors, and people will reward you with their business.

Can you do it?

You may feel that you already have these qualities to make a success of your business. But most people, if they make an honest self evaluation, will find that they need to work a little on at least some of the above points.

Not convinced? Ask a friend to read this article and then tell you what they think you need to work on. Be ready to accept some good, straight forward, constructive criticism. No one is perfect. You will need to work on at least a few points. We all do.

The important point is not that you need to make some adjustments. The important is that you are willing to make those adjustments and learn to adapt. If you do, you are one more step on your way to being a successful business owner.

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