Hot dog cart
A hot dog cart is a specialized mobile food stand for preparing and selling street food, specifically hot dogs, to passersby. In some jurisdictions, a cart operator must meet stringent health regulations designed to protect the public. Hot dog carts are quick and easy food services, supplying millions of people with food every day. The U.S. Hot Dog Council estimates that 15% of the approximately 10 billion hot dogs consumed by Americans last year were purchased from a mobile hot dog vendor cart.
A hot dog cart is generally a compact cart, fully self-contained and designed to serve a limited menu. An on-board cooler is used to keep the hot dogs safely chilled until ready for reheating. It also provides cold storage for beverages, such as sodas, and multiple sinks for washing and cleaning utensils. Most hot dog carts use propane to heat the foods, making them independent of electrical power. Some carts may also be fitted with a propane grill, griddle, deep fryer, or other such cooking appliance. A colorful umbrella is often installed to protect the food preparation area from contamination, provide some shade, and advertise the cart's location. The purpose of the umbrella is to offer shade to the operator and customers and as well to keep airborne dirt from falling onto the cart.
Hot dog carts are generally built from materials that resist corrosion, are hygiene friendly, and are easy to clean. This generally means that they are made of stainless steel, but some carts also have components made from plastic, wood, or fiberglass. The food preparation body of the cart is often mounted on a chassis that can be easily towed, to a vendor's location by a vehicle or pushed to a location by hand. Types of carts may vary from a lightweight push cart of only about 200 lbs (90 kg), to fully enclosed walk-in carts weighing 1/2 a ton or more. A good hot dog cart must generally be equipped with the following components. Stainless steel easily cleanable construction ; 1 7/8 hitch; standard wiring ; 20 lb propane tank; full-size umbrella; insulated soda cooler; although it is not a good idea due to the high heat generated by the cart. You will end up using an ice chest; hot & cold water hand sink; display case with doors; standard tail lamps; 5–7 gallon fresh-water tank; waste tank (7–9 gallon); three individually operated burners; adjustable controls; bottom storage compartment; safe to use pilots on stove.
Although hot dog carts can be equipped to cook a variety of other meats and foods from fresh or raw states, local health code regulations in the U.S. and Canada governing food safety and the types of food that can be sold from mobile food stands usually limit hot dog carts to selling reheated pre-cooked wieners and sausages. These health code regulations vary widely from state to state and county to county. In addition, health regulations often limit what side dishes, condiments, and garnishes may be sold from a mobile food cart, which are potentially hazardous foods, foods at high risk for spoilage due to rapid bacterial growth at certain temperatures. For example, and it is rarely done, but some stands may offer eggs and dairy products. Meats that are considered to be hazardous, such as pork and poultry, may also be banned from sale at mobile foods stands. Bacon Wrapped dogs are typically forbidden, however a common workaround is offering pre-cooked bacon bits as a condiment. Wieners are only served on buns with certain approved condiments such as, but not limited to: mustards, pickles, pickled relishes, chopped onions, and tomato ketchup.
Health code regulations are usually dictated by county health departments, and as a result, they vary widely across the United States and Canada. In addition to determining what types of foods are allowed to be served, these local codes often specify mandates of what equipment should be installed on a mobile food cart. Such codes also ensure that the food cart has built-in facilities for achieving appropriate hygiene levels for the cart, the equipment and utensils being used, and the operator handling the food. This may include hot and cold running water, an insulated ice box, and a number of separate sinks for washing hands and utensils. Some areas specify that a cart have as many as four of these sinks. In addition, local health codes may require the cart to be physically inspected by the local health department, and that a cart operator attend a training course in safe food handling and preparation.
California recently passed new legislation that greatly affected the operation of hot dogs carts in that state. The new California Retail Food Code (Cal Code) was introduced in July 2010. This is, in effect, the strictest and most comprehensive set of laws governing the use of hot dog carts in the United States. While these new regulations are thought to be stricter than the previous rules they are in fact merely made more difficult with the intent to keep new hot dog cart operators from opening. Indeed the new regulations are so onerous as to be nearly impossible to implement without paying such a high cost for a cart as to be unfeasible.
The Cal Code mandates that hot dog cart operators must follow a strict operational procedure that includes formal approved training in food safety. Under this new framework of food laws, hot dog carts in California must also operate from an approved commissary, often an approved restaurant, delicatessen, grocery store, or other food facility providing a safe, clean base of operations for the hot dog cart. At the commissary, the cart is to be cleaned, loaded with food and fresh water each day, drained of waste water and emptied of unused food at day's end, and stored overnight. The commissary also provides services such as storing and preparing foods for the hot dog cart operator. This would include chopping the vegetables, such as onions and tomatoes, being used as condiments. The Cal Code specifies the list of facilities, equipment, and procedures that an approved commissary must have in place. Preparing food in a private home for retail sale to the public is strictly forbidden by the Cal Code. The local county health department usually has a list of approved commissaries for their jurisdiction.
The Cal Code also specifies the necessary equipment that hot dog carts must have on board for legal operations. This mandatory equipment list includes four sinks for ware washing and hand washing, a large volume of on-board water and appropriate sized waste water tanks, a refrigerator for storing potentially hazardous foods, such as meats, thermometers for monitoring food temperatures, and sneeze guards to protect the food display and preparation areas of the cart.
Manufacturing and sales
A large number of manufacturers of hot dog carts exist in the U.S. and Canada.
There is a surprisingly large number of regional recipes and presentation styles for hot dogs. These styles may range from specific condiments, such as a Michigan hot dog or a Montreal hot dog, to sauces that are added to the wiener and bun such as chili sauce and red onion sauce. Wieners are offered in a wide variety of sizes and types of meats including beef, chicken, turkey, and even vegetarian. Sausages reflect the various American and European styles such as Polish, Hot Italian, and Kosher. The bun itself can be offered in a number of varieties of sizes and bread types.
Although the hot dog is considered an American food invention dating back to New York in the late 19th century, cart manufacturers ship hot dog carts all around the world, including Europe, Asia, South America, and even the Middle East.
- National Hot Dog and Sausage Council
- Indiana State Dept of Health - Retail Food Establishment Sanitation Requirements - page 61 - Equipment Design and Materials
- Willydogs Operations Manual
- Illinois Department of Public Health - Food Safety fact Sheet for Temporary Food Stands
- http://www.mchd.com/pdf/fdphotdogcarts.pdf Marion Indiana County Health Department - Hot Dog Cart Regulations Guide
- California Environmental Health Agency (CEHA) Retail Food Code
- National Association of Hot Dog Vendors
- BensCarts - Instructional Videos Licensing, Permitting and Operations