Dishing About Dogs on National Hot Dog Day

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Dishing About Dogs on National Hot Dog Day

By Angela Hanson, Convenience Store News - 07/14/2016

NATIONAL REPORT — July 14 marks National Hot Dog Day, a celebration of this staple of the American diet. The average American eats 50 hot dogs per year, and many of them are purchased from their local convenience store's roller grill.

To mark the holiday, Rob Ramsey, senior marketing manager at Tyson Convenience, spoke with CSNews Online and provided some tasty insights into the c-store hot dog business:

CSNews: How has the hot dog business in convenience stores evolved?
Ramsey: There is now more variety beyond hot dogs such as smoked sausages, taquitos and other premium items. Convenience stores have also added higher-end accompaniments such as condiments stations and better breads. This offers consumer endless ways to customize their hot dogs. Whether they like toasting their bread or adding unique toppings like sauerkraut, they have the option to make it their own.

Do you have any stats you can share on the importance and popularity of hot dogs in convenience stores?
The hot dog is an American staple. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, during peak hot dog season, Americans typically consume 7 billion hot dogs. This American classic has endless possibilities from enjoying a frank at the baseball park or backyard grill to grabbing a hot dog at a convenience store for the road. Plus, more than 80 percent of the best convenience store foodservice customers purchased a roller-grill hot dog or sausage in the past month (Tyson Convenience Awareness, Trial & Repurchase Study, Mills Consulting, 2015).

Is the hot dog in jeopardy as convenience stores get more advanced in foodservice?
In a word, no. This is a cornerstone category. However, it must continue to adapt and evolve to maintain its share of purchases. This is why customization is so vital because it truly enhances the consumer experience and has the potential to drive sales. Consumers want choices and options, even if it is just the top five toppings and condiments for hot dogs that they can mix and match. The top five condiments are yellow mustard, ketchup, spicy brown mustard, mayo and honey mustard, and the top five toppings are relish, sauerkraut, cheddar cheese, chili beans and American cheese (One Poll,
June 2016
).

What are the must-dos for a successful c-store hot dog offering?
Execute against the fundamental food operation rules like rotating the stock, conducting limited-time offers, keeping the roller grill clean, and offering promotions and combo meals. Additionally, offer trusted, leading brands like Ball Park to incentivize purchase and deliver a quality product trusted by consumers.

What are the must-not-dos for a successful c-store hot dog offering?
Retailers cannot believe that the roller grill doesn't have to be minded or that hot dogs will sell themselves. Additionally, providing condiments and add-ons that can enhance the customer experience is not optional; consumers demand more.

For a c-store owner who already has a basic roller grill but wants to improve or expand their hot dog offering, what are some good next steps?
Convenience store owners can explore different price points and premium links, or add links that have flavor embedded such as jalapeño or cheddar cheese. Also, consider upping the ante on condiment stations and buns. For buns, pretzel or whole-wheat buns and potato rolls are all great to add for more customization.

Everyone knows about the Chicago-style hot dog, but can you provide any examples of other unique or interesting regional variations?
An Alabama Dog features sauerkraut, pickles, chili, ketchup and mustard. There's also the classic New York hot dog with spicy brown mustard and sauerkraut. Or the Cincinnati Dog with chili and cheddar cheese.

What are the best products to offer in combination with hot dogs?
Nothing goes down better with a hot dog than a soft drink. Offering a combo for dogs and soda is the best for margins, offers simplicity and consumers love it. Retailers can also consider doing a combination with a side dish of either chips, baked beans or fries.