Opening night tonight! Any advice?

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mdr411
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Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Thu, 10/4/12 9:56 AM
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Tonight is our opening night.  It's drizzly and foggy now, hoping it dries up before 10:00 pm when the umbrella raises up!  We're ready to go, almost lol.   I'm opening outside the bars in a major college city and I'll be there when the bars close, right outside of 3 bars and across the street from a brewery! 
 
I'm a little nervous/excited, hoping the cart that I built holds up for the amount of dogs that I'll be cooking. I'm like 99% sure I'm ready but I have NEVER done this before so it's all new.  Any advice for the first night?!

edthecncman
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Thu, 10/4/12 10:24 AM
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The best of luck to you..hope all works out well..please keep us posted

CCinNJ
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Thu, 10/4/12 12:02 PM
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Break a dog...mdr!!

Considering your location and the current state of affairs...avoid conversations about baseball.


I'm serious. Go Red Sox....but shhhh.

Tristan225
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Thu, 10/4/12 2:14 PM
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Depends........HAVE FUN
<message edited by Tristan225 on Thu, 10/4/12 2:18 PM>

rjspaulding
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Thu, 10/4/12 2:24 PM
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Have fun doing it & Best of Luck!
 

CCinNJ
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Thu, 10/4/12 2:53 PM
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Don't depend on depends. Go before you leave home.

mdr411
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Thu, 10/4/12 3:03 PM
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Haha I like the depends comment, I am actually going to limit my liquid intake before I head up there, just in case!  Thanks for all of the support, you guys have been very helpful throughout the build.  We have  a facebook page, it's pretty bare now but we'll take pics tonight and I'll post some pics so everyone can see the cart and how tonight turns out.  Can't believe tonight is the night, I only hope I can sell a few dogs! 

BpCBlake
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Thu, 10/4/12 4:03 PM
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He wouldnt need those with some creative extra hosing.
but he would also have to stay near the cart. really close.
 

CCinNJ
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Thu, 10/4/12 4:24 PM
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Then TLC shows up to shoot an episode of My Strange Addiction...hot dog cart.

jcheese
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Thu, 10/4/12 5:24 PM
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As for advice....show up early so you don't rush things or if you forget something.
Have a check list, and be like Santa. If you have multiple people involved, don't count on someone else doing something.
Take notes on what you can do better next time.
Keep cold food cold and hot food hot. Don't burn yourself.
Have plenty of change. If you start building up a "wad", stash some away from your working cash.
Listen to people so you know what they want.
Have fun, don't look nervous, and don't expect things to be perfect.On the job training in the line of fire. If business sucks, remember, IT'S YOUR FIRST DAY!!
If your food is good, it will build.

BpCBlake
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Thu, 10/4/12 6:04 PM
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bring lots of food in ice chests for backup. dont forget a few pairs of tongs too, steam table burns smart.
and all the rest of paper products you will need to wrap and serve. and stuff for people togo. err and a change apron to handle the cash.

CCinNJ
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Thu, 10/4/12 6:17 PM
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Bring something like Advil...and make sure you sleep afterwards. Those are hard hours when you're not used to them.

BpCBlake
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Thu, 10/4/12 6:53 PM
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steam your dogs in beer.
 

jcheese
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Sat, 10/6/12 7:31 AM
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 Waiting to hear your report.

BpCBlake
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Sat, 10/6/12 2:47 PM
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maybe they got hot meat and cold feet?
 

CCinNJ
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Sat, 10/6/12 3:02 PM
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It's getting cold on a dime...now.

From upper 70s to low in the 40s at night...starting tonight.

He'll have a bunch to share.

Tristan225
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Sat, 10/6/12 6:54 PM
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Might of killed him-or he made so much he went on vacation to Hawaii.
Thought I was freezing my butt off today at a windy 48 degrees. wimp.
 

CCinNJ
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Sat, 10/6/12 7:07 PM
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He better have been watching those bills...or maybe he's waiting for us to raise bail?

BpCBlake
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Sat, 10/6/12 7:09 PM
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It is hard work. the hound is a tough boss.
something it's another get rich easy deal.
but it's just another be independent deal.
I hope the hound didnt take down another hopeful.
If you want to get around, you have to dance with the hound.
 

jcheese
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Sat, 10/6/12 7:20 PM
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Are you working on a Lounge Act out there? I see failure in it.

BpCBlake
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Sat, 10/6/12 7:54 PM
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What, you mean my jokes are a real DOG?
 

jcheese
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Sat, 10/6/12 9:17 PM
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BpCBlake


What, you mean my jokes are a real DOG?

Yes.


Foodborne Wellness
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Sat, 10/6/12 10:21 PM
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Well if he started on Thurs nite, Fri and Sat would have been busy as heck. Therefore i would not expect to hear from the OP until Sunday afternoon.

mdr411
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Tue, 10/9/12 10:27 AM
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Hey all, no worries I'm still here lol I'm pretty busy on the weekends so I usually check in here on the first day of the work week.  Opening night went great!  The rain held off and it was drizzly and muggy but warm enough to roll my sleeves up.  The night started off slow but as the night went on it picked up.  There were a few big rushes where all of a sudden 10 people would magically appear in line, that was tough but I made it through.  Since I had my girl helping me do the money there was no waiting for customers.  There was one point where I came pretty close to not having enough cooked dogs to serve but I made it down to the last dog!  It took a little while to figure out how many dogs to have ready and hot and when to put more in. 
 
The late night college crowd was very entertaining!  We saw college chicks wearing close to nothing (the mini skirt is back with a vengeance!), a few fights, barefoot people, students being kicked out of bars, all kinds of things!  I had one cop come over and ask if I had permits.  I told him, oh yeah, I have a binder full, would you like to see them?  He said no it's ok just checking, we talked for a bit then he took off. 
 
The thing that really surprised me was how many people had opinions on how to run a hot dog cart!  Apparently, everyone is an expert.  Also, there were many who thought that we wanted to hear their life story and they seemed to enjoy hanging around the cart.  I don't mind talking to people at all, I enjoy it, but really people don't you have anything else to do rather than talk to the hot dog guy for 30 minutes?! lol 
 
1. I need larger signs.  Alot of people walking by had to come up close to the cart to see/ask what we were selling and what the prices were.  2. We barely sold any chips/soda/water.  I guess this crowd is only interested in dogs.  A couple times people actually said they couldn't drink any more since they had been drinking all night!  Based on that I'm going to change the menu and rather than have meal deals I'll have the price for 1 dogs, 2 dogs, 3 dogs, then one meal deal at the bottom. 
 
Also, I am using Kayem dogs, which I think are delicious, and had many comments on how delicious they were, one guy actually came back for a second and third time!  But I'm thinking maybe I could buy cheaper dogs to use for this late niht drunk college student crowd and save the kayems for daylight hours where people would actually appreciate them! 
 
All in all it was great and I can't wait to get back out there Thursday!

CCinNJ
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Tue, 10/9/12 12:51 PM
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Great news!!

Congratulations mdr!!!

jcheese
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Tue, 10/9/12 5:58 PM
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It's amazing what you learn on your first gig. I love hearing first day stories.
Yep, have big clear signs.
And you learned a drunk wants something to stuff in their mouths. The 1,2,3 dog idea shows you learn quick and will do alright. Maybe push the two dog thing.(One for each hand).
Not sure I'd cut the quality of dogs. Maybe offer two dogs. Two Kayems for xxx or 3 Brand X for the same price. Some won't care, just wanna stuff themselves, others didn't drink as much, can still taste things.
I think you'll do alright.

jcheese
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Tue, 10/9/12 6:07 PM
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Next challenge, keeping warm, negotiating snow covered roads, etc.

jcheese
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Tue, 10/9/12 7:05 PM
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OK, here's a thought....
Back when I was that age, I remember taking the party to one of our house's when the bar's closed. We kept on partying. Now we could "Smoke".....
Make a "Party Pack"....Twenty-four dogs, wrapped up. Packages of most popular condiments. Make it a party plate. They will be drunk stupid and buy it. As a bonus, sneak in a bunch of Dessert items. Like Mini-Snickers (Fun-size). Or pudding........Munchie's.......make money off it.

CCinNJ
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Tue, 10/9/12 10:07 PM
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Pudding is a good Munchie snack. So I hear.

Foodborne Wellness
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Wed, 10/10/12 10:22 PM
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The "Low price leader" can be a double edged sword, so be careful. If you have a generic dog for a buck less than the Kayem (or whatever premium dog you normally sell). What I do is on the generic dog, there is no choice of condiments. Mustard and relish and that's it. You want premium condiments, buy one of the premium dogs.
 
The key is to maintain profit margin, not just on a spreadsheet but on the street. That means that your Dogs Per Hour for the low price leader needs to be higher (like double or more). If you can have them done up ahead during the slow minutes (I can imagine inebriated folks being allowed to build their own) you are then making dead, zero profit minutes and making them worth something...
 
 

mdr411
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Thu, 10/11/12 9:22 AM
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Thanks for all the tips, there are some great ideas I have to consider. 
 
Last Thursday we sold dogs with condiments for $2.50.  I felt that was a little steep considering the college crowd but we ended up selling a total of $175 in a little over 3 hours on a slow night due to the holiday weekend.  That was pretty much all hot dogs priced at 2.50, I think I sold two or three meals all night and only one water.  I had the water priced at 2.00 which was probably high.  So I've lowered water to 1.00 and I'll make .90 cents off each one sold so that works for me. 
Tonight I plan to reduce the price of dogs to 2.00 to see how that affects sales.  I will keep the Kayem dogs and I'm not planning to buy a cheaper one at this point, I want to wait to see how tonight works out.   Everyone keeps telling me to put the price at 1.99, but will that make a difference in the mind of the customer?  I also made some larger signs out of dry erase boards and I printed out a "We accept credit and debit cards" sign.  I'm hoping all of these minor but important changes make a difference. 
 
One other point that I'm interested in tonight is my cashier/assistant.  Last week it was my gorgeous gf, this week it will be my buddy.  I'm wondering if it will affect sales at all, it sounds silly but who knows lol 

CCinNJ
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Thu, 10/11/12 9:46 AM
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My gf tells me that having a gorgeous gf is a pain in the ass at times I agree.

It might reduce slow traffic and some sales...but I am sure you will have more peace of mind and can focus on what's working in terms of business.

Ice Cream Man
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Thu, 11/1/12 10:54 AM
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I would hold off on dropping the price. Seeing that you just started give it a little time. Based on what you said if you drop the price to 2.00 you will have to sell 17 more dogs to bring in the same amount of money. Of course you will make less because you will have to supply 17 more dogs.

RJT
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Thu, 11/1/12 1:29 PM
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Ice Cream Man


I would hold off on dropping the price. Seeing that you just started give it a little time. Based on what you said if you drop the price to 2.00 you will have to sell 17 more dogs to bring in the same amount of money. Of course you will make less because you will have to supply 17 more dogs.

I agree hold off dropping the price. Everyone that is not in business for themselves always says "If you lower the price you will sell more" Yep, I just might do that but one thing is for sure I will also work harder for the same amount of money I earn. $2.50 for a dog fixed anyway they want is fair as long as you are serving top quality.
 
Stick with your current business model for a bit before you start making to many changes. If you were at $3.50 for a dog then I might think you are a bit steep but the price is fair.
 
BTW, I charge $2.75 or two for $5 for mine plus do some combo specials like hot dog, chip and drink for $4 or two hot dogs , chips, drink for $6.
Good luck and keep us posted!!

mdr411
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Thu, 11/1/12 3:06 PM
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Thanks for all the comments...I did drop the price to 2.00 and I sold about the same so I decided it doesn't make a difference and moved it back up.  The crowd is drunk college kids and I don't think they realize the price difference at all.  No matter what the price is there is always that guy who acts like it's way over priced.  Whatever. 
 
Tonight will be my first night working the cart alone.  I know that I'll have to slow things down.  I'll have to figure out how to take the money then get the dogs wrapped up without touching it.  There's only one way to elarn though, gotta jump right in.  I'll let you know how it goes. 
 
THe increased signage helped and even though I moved the price of water and soda down they're still not buying.  Wrong crowd.  They only want the food.  I will still offer the soda and water, I just don't pack as much now. 
 
Overall, everything is going well.  I've had a few crazies threaten me or try to start fights.  It's just what drunk college kids do.  Last week there were 3 huge brawls, complete with 10 police cars, fights in the middle of the street, bouncers chasing drunks out of bars, kids passed out on the sidewalks drunk, it is NUTS!!!  But I just continue to sell dogs.  Two weeks ago as the cops were throwing the cuffs on some people who were fighting a random guy comes running over to my cart yelling Lets kick the hot dog guys ass!  I say to him what is your problem?  He starts yelling about how I tear gassed him last week and this and that, government agent blah blah blah I called a cop over, he fought them and was arrested.  Interesting stuff and not for the faint of heart, it's a tough crowd!  During the day I work in law enforcement so I have a couple tricks (legal) up my sleeve in case the **** hits the fan.  I decided that I don't want my gf there with me anymore, though.  not with that crowd.  If anything happened to her I would flip.  But it's fun, we'll see how tonight goes!

Ice Cream Man
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Re:Opening night tonight! Any advice? - Fri, 11/2/12 12:39 AM
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So if you dropped the price to 2.00  and did the same business then raised it back to 2.50 and nobody noticed the next step is to raise it to 3.00 and see if the drunk kids mind. If they do or business falls off drop the price to 2.75.