How to Open a Hot Dog Stand

by Flora Richards-Gustafson; Updated September 26, 2017
Finding the right location can yield a high return on your investment.

Purveyors of the quintessential fast food, hot dog stands provide a cash business that can potentially yield high profit margins. You can open a hot dog cart for as little as $2,000 and earn up to $4,000 per month, according to “Entrepreneur” magazine's website. Owning a hot dog stand gives you the flexibility to work at different locations and for various events, the ability to choose a full- or part-time work schedule, and a chance to meet new people and earn loyal customers.

Step 1

Get a food handler’s permit. Many state and county health department websites allow you to take the food handler’s permit test and pay the fee online. Fees vary by location.

Step 2

Learn the food vendor laws for the areas in which you wish to work. Your city may have zoning laws that don't permit you to set up a hot dog stand on certain streets, at parks or near specific buildings. It is good to know this information so you can avoid fines. While learning about the laws, make sure to note public and private properties to avoid trespassing.

Step 3

Determine the best times and locations to sell hot dogs. People are more likely to purchase hot dogs for lunch and dinner, and during work breaks. Good locations to consider include industrial areas or construction sites, near large office buildings, by public transportation hubs and at shopping centers where people run quick errands. The place you choose to sell hot dogs should be easily accessible. In addition, consider alternative times people may want to eat hot dogs. For example, you could have target customers who are college students going to or leaving a night class or individuals leaving bars or clubs at night.

Step 4

Purchase your hot dog stand and supplies. Hot dog carts range in size from simple, small hot dog and bun warmers to those that transform into a small food kiosk. According to “Entrepreneur,” a new hot dog cart can cost $4,000 to $8,000. In addition to purchasing a cart, hot dogs, buns, condiments and napkins, you should consider purchasing an umbrella to attach to the cart, lights for nighttime vending, napkin holders, a sink with clean and wastewater tanks, racks to sell accompanying snack foods, and a small refrigerator if you want to sell beverages and a cash register or till.

Step 5

Acquire the necessary permits and licenses. Licensing requirements vary by area, but you will always need a business license from the city or county and an inspection certificate from the local health department. Municipalities often limit the number of vendor licenses, so make sure you can get one before investing in equipment.

Step 6

Purchase commercial insurance to protect your investment.

Step 7

Make a sign that lists all your prices. Include your payment terms, like “Cash Only,” on the sign.

Step 8

Let area businesses know about your hot dog cart a few days before you start to generate a buzz about your food. Hand out fliers to the businesses, listing the food you intend to sell and their prices. In the flier, include your phone number and the days and hours you intend to sell hot dogs.

About the Author

Flora Richards-Gustafson has been writing professionally since 2003. She creates copy for websites, marketing materials and printed publications. Richards-Gustafson specializes in SEO and writing about small-business strategies, health and beauty, interior design, emergency preparedness and education. Richards-Gustafson received a Bachelor of Arts from George Fox University in 2003 and was recognized by Cambridge's "Who's Who" in 2009 as a leading woman entrepreneur.

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