Turn a Profit by Choosing the Right Hot Dog Equipment

Hot Dog Equipment Buyers' Guide

Convenience stores and concession stands have long relied on hot dog equipment to provide customers with appetizing hot dogs that taste hot and fresh all day long. Whether it's being served as a quick midday snack or a ballpark indulgence, investing in a hot dog machine and its assorted accessories is an easy way to add this profitable food item to your operation. Consult the information below to learn more about selecting the hot dog equipment your business needs.

Choosing Your Hot Dog Cooker and Bun Warmer

There are three main types of hot dog machines to choose from: hot dog roller grills, hot dog steamers, and hot dog broilers.

Hot dog roller grills are open-air countertop units with a slowly rotating cooking surface made up of "rollers" that cook and hold hot dogs. These may yield a crispier final product than those cooking with steam, and the grilling surface may be slanted or flat. Although flat grills are common, slanted roller grills are a popular choice in operations where product visibility and accessibility are important, such as self-serve setups. The rollers in both flat and slanted designs are usually constructed of chrome, but some models may have steel rollers or specialty non-stick rollers.

For improved sanitation, especially for units installed in customer-facing applications, roller grills may come with a clear plastic sneeze guard, which helps protect food from contamination while leaving it visible to passersby. If your unit does not include a sneeze guard, or if your sneeze guard needs to be replaced, these can also be purchased separately. As an added bonus, this type of hot dog cooker can also be used with other cylindrical foods, including egg rolls, taquitos, and sausages. Divider kits, which include partitions to separate different products on a roller grill are also available.

Hot dog steamers hold stacked hot dogs in a stationary pile and rely on moist air for cooking and holding, so they are less likely to dry products out. These stainless steel units are somewhat utilitarian, but designs featuring glass are also available. Steamers with glass sides leave the product visible and can be used to merchandise products to customers from their place behind the service counter, but these steamers may also be placed in setups where customers serve themselves.

Hot dog broilers, also called hot dog rotisserie cookers, are designed with a slowly revolving, Ferris wheel-style cradle that creates an evenly cooked product. These eye-catching units are semi-enclosed with glass to merchandise the hot dogs to potential customers and, like other types of hot dog machines, may be used behind the counter or in setups that allow customers to retrieve their own hot dogs.

No matter which type of hot dog cooker you use, you will need to make sure your setup includes equipment for storing buns. The most basic way to store buns is in an unheated bun storage box, which does not generate any heat of its own. Heated bun storage boxes, also called bun warmers, use electricity to keep the storage compartment warm. These may create dry heat with no humidity, or moist heat achieved with a refillable water reservoir.

Bun warmers designed to produce moist heat often enable operators to control the heat and humidity in the storage box and are recommended for operations that expect to store buns for an extended period of time, since they are less likely to dry the contents out. In addition to storing buns, some bun warmers may also be designed to keep spare hot dogs warm.

Both heated and unheated bun boxes usually have a door that swings down or lifts up and are designed to be placed under your hot dog equipment or on a countertop. However, some hot dog cookers come standard with built-in compartments for bun storage.

Sizing Up Your Hot Dog Equipment

There are several hot dog equipment options to choose from, but aside from deciding whether you prefer grilled, broiled, or steamed hot dogs, there are a couple of key considerations to make when determining which unit is best for your business. First, you should know if your customers will be serving themselves or if your equipment will be placed behind a service counter. Next, you should have an estimated number of hot dogs you will serve each day or during each daypart.

Although all three types of hot dog equipment can be placed in self-service applications, units with more complicated designs may be intimidating to first-time customers and dissuade them from purchasing a hot dog. Roller grills offer the most straightforward approach and are commonly installed in convenience stores, buffets, and other customer-accessible setups. Hot dog steamers and broilers are most often used as hot dog concession equipment in stadiums and theaters and may not be the best choice for self-service applications. Since users must reach into these units to retrieve hot dogs, customers could potentially injure themselves while trying to retrieve a hot dog from a steamer's storage compartment or a broiler's revolving cradle.

You're sure to find a model that meets the needs of your business since each type of hot dog cooker comes in a variety of sizes for small- and large-volume operations. Hot dog steamers usually have the largest capacities, with some models able to hold more than 150 hot dogs, while hot dog roller grills are available with capacities up to 100 hot dogs. Hot dog broilers can usually accommodate fewer than 100 hot dogs at a time.

Hot Dog Equipment at a Glance

Equipment TypeHow It WorksExampleAvailable CapacitiesDesign Options
Hot Dog Roller GrillHot dogs and other cylindrical food products are cooked and held on a slowly rotating surfaceCentaurĀ® Hot Dog Grill
Centaur Hot Dog Equipment
As many as 99 hot dogsFlat or slanted top
Roller surface material: Chrome, non-stick, stainless, textured
Built-in bun storage/warmer
Hot Dog SteamerSteam generated by a refillable water pan cooks hot dogs and keeps them warmeQuipped Hot Dog & Bun Steamer
eQuipped Hot Dog Steamer
As many as 249 hot dogsStainless steel or stainless steel/glass construction
Low water warning light
Built-in bun storage/warmer
Hot Dog BroilerA Ferris wheel-style cradle slowly rotates hot dogs Star™ Broil-O-Dog
Star Hot Dog Equipment
As many as 84 hot dogsAdjustable heat control
Merchandising graphics
Built-in bun storage/warmer

Temporary & Mobile Hot Dog Equipment Options

Hot dog equipment is also available for temporary and mobile setups. Tabletop hot dog steamers are designed to look like a classic hot dog cart, complete with an umbrella in the center. These can provide temporary hot dog service at kiosks, festivals, private events, and other venues where a more permanent installation isn't necessary or possible. Some of these units require electricity, while others use canister fuel and can be installed virtually anywhere.

Operators hoping to sell hot dogs at sports games and other outdoor events can bring their products to potential customers with a hot dog server. These are designed with an adjustable harness that fits securely around the wearer's neck, enabling them to carry the server around the venue.