So You Want To Start A Hot Dog Business

“A hot dog at the ball park is better than steak at the Ritz. – Humphrey Bogart

Mmm, hot dogs. Enough said? I thought so! Eating a hot dog for lunch can be one of the cheapest (and most enjoyable) food experiences available so it’s no wonder that people continuously flock to hot dog stands. Owning your own stand can be VERY profitable and an overall enjoyable experience. Before you leap into the joys of owning a hot dog cart you must first take into consideration all of the licensing, equipment, ingredients, and more that are large factors in hot dog selling success!


You may not have a permanent residence as a hot dog cart but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to obtain proper paperwork. You will still need to register your operation as a business, receive the needed licensing, insurance, health permits, and more. These all depend on the region you are living in as does what you sell. In one area you may be permitted to offer chili for hot dogs while in another you may not be able to sell anything but already packaged sides.

To start you off I’ve found a Permit Me tool that helps to clarify which permits you’ll need by business type (ex: restaurant) and area. This tool can be found on the following website:
Once again, I highly recommend checking this link out!


Your location is always an important aspect of running a successful food business. This couldn’t be truer for the hot dog business (or any roving food stand/food truck). Location or lack of one can easily make or break a hot dog business. Not only must you must first find acceptably active areas to park your cart at but then you must obtain permission from the owner of that location to stay and sell your dogs. Let’s talk locations first. Places like universities, malls, hospitals, court houses, and even Wal-Marts tend to be pretty good hot dog selling spots due to their high activity. Many of these places already have food options available but that doesn’t necessarily mean people won’t eat your hot dogs. After all, hot dogs are a lot cheaper than a food court or Subway and we ARE in a recession.

Once you find your locations you must obtain permission from the owners of the locations. It is best to ask for permission in person as it makes a better impression. Explain that you own sell quality hot dogs for a living and would like to set up around that location. I advise bringing the owner a sample hot dog as well as pictures of your set up and proof of the proper licensing. If all goes well then you will be able to set up at that location.

Just because you find/receive permission to sell at several locations doesn’t mean you’re out of the ball park yet. Although you work your own hours, a hot dog business works around the weather. Basically, if it’s a stormy week you may be out of business more than in business. Keep this in mind.


You CAN run a hot dog stand all by your lonesome but do remember that you may get busy or may need help with set up and clean up. If your budget can afford it you may want an employee to help.

Other than a hot dog cart, you’ll need quite a bit of equipment to start off your hot dog business. To make this easier I’ve made a list of all the tools you’ll need to begin selling hot dogs!

Condiment Dispensers

Whether you top the dogs yourself or let your customers, you’ll need some type of condiment dispenser!

Napkin Dispenser

Hot dogs, especially with the ones with toppings, can be messy.

Hot Dog Bags

You’ll need to serve your hot dogs in something!


People don’t want you touching their hot dogs. Tongs come in handy!

Food Storage

You’ll need to store extra hot dogs and sides ingredients in something!

Bun Storage

Keep your buns fresh and ready for eating in a bun box!


If your hot dog cart doesn't already have one, install a gas steamtable or drop in wells into your cart. You’ll have to keep your hot dogs and sides warm!

Beverage Merchandising Cart

Keep drinks cold with a drink merchandising cart!

I hope this guide helped with your decision to start a hot dog business. Hot dogs can be very profitable if you play the game right but remember this: YOU are the one who will be running the business and getting out there so motivation is a must! Good luck to all those hot dog carts out there!