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Making your own hot dog cart can provide you with the opportunity to act as an entrepreneur and support yourself as a street food vendor. Once you procure the necessary materials, it's easy to get started. You can customize your cart with several extra features, depending on your purpose and budget. According to 2010 prices, your total cost will range from $300 used to $2,500 and up new, depending on the quality, size, and commercial grade of the materials you choose.
Decide for what purposes you will use your hot dog cart. Do you want to serve hot dogs to your friends and family at outdoor parties and barbecues from a kitschy novelty cart? Do you want to casually sell, without major profit, to neighbors and shoppers at your garage sale? Or are you hoping to be a commercial vendor on city streets and at park festivals? For commercial purposes, you will need to buy materials that meet the licensing rules of your local municipality and ensure that your cart is constructed of stainless steel. Heating systems will need to pass minimum temperature requirements and additional health and sanitation checks. Check with your local licensing bureau to get a list of required materials. For family fun, your cart only needs to live up to the standards you set for yourself---edible, tasty dogs!
Select and purchase your heating system from a major national manufacturer of food vendor carts. These types of companies act as a one-stop-shop that allow you to craft your own cart piece-by-piece, with customizable materials. Do you like your dogs boiled or broiled? The system you choose for your cart will determine how large it needs to be and whether you will need to buy warmers, burners, a propane tank or generator-powered griddle.
Select and purchase your wheel type. For daily street use, you will want heavy-duty rubber tires. For backyard and party use, thinner wooden or metal wheels will suffice. Depending on your uses, you may want either two or three wheels to help you scoot about town. The heating system and size of your cart will also affect the size, type, and number of wheels you'll need. Don't skimp on your wheel support.
Add on additional features to make your cart distinctive and appealing to your customers. For all but the most casual cart use, you'll want to install an umbrella. This should be a removable, water-repellent vented umbrella (usually of a vinyl or canvas material) that will provide cover from rain and bird droppings. You can also get fancier add-ons, such as a display case, napkin and condiment dispensers for ketchup, mustard, relish and onions, and sneeze guard (a must for commercial usage).