Hot Dog University? Absolutely, and it’s even taught by a gentleman with a PhD; Mark Reitman a self-proclaimed “Professor of hot Dogs”.

Day two of the 2011 NRA show in Chicago I spent walking around the McCormick Center researching for Mobile Cuisine Magazine articles by sampling food, and speaking with many an exhibitor in and out of the Food Truck Spot (the area designated for the mobile food industry).

Throughout the day, I had tasted everything from muscles to bacon infused mustard products, and met people from all avenues of the restaurant industry. By the end of the day, the bag of schwag I was lugging around was beginning to take its toll on my back and feet. I had decided I would take one last lap around the North Hall to see if I had missed any booths that would enable me to cover something directly related to the mobile food industry.

Hot Dog UniversityTrudging towards the back of the hall, I happened upon a booth I had missed earlier in the day. Standing behind a draped table was a friendly, smiling man who I was guessing was close to retirement age. As I walked up, I noticed the banner behind him as well as the hotdog cart he was standing next to was branded with Vienna Beef’s logo. The cart itself was enough to interest me enough to walk up and introduce myself, however, by the time I got to the booth, I noticed that this gentleman had a tag on his shirt which read PhD, now I was really interested…a doctor of hotdogs?

Not quite a doctor, but who I found out he was, was Mark Reitman a self-proclaimed “Professor of hot Dogs”, and the person in charge of instruction at Vienna Beef’s Hot Dog University. This school of higher learning provided by Vienna Beef teaches aspiring hot dog cart owners lessons in how to dress the perfect dog.  These classes are quickly becoming part of the company’s future growth strategy as these new students will able to help spread the Vienna Beef brand outside the city limits of Chicago.

Reitman, a retired school counselor, started Hot Dog University on his own in 2006. Vienna Beef was able to lure this hot dog aficionado from Milwaukee to come work for them in Chicago.

With the recession continuing throughout the country, many a laid off individual has put some thought into starting their own business. As part of this trend, enrollment at HDU is expected to go up by nearly 30 percent, to raise their enrollment up to nearly 140 students this year. “We’re going to be the McDonalds of the hot dog business – based upon private entrepreneurs.” Vienna Beef CEO Jim Bodman said.

By now, you may be wondering what type of information you are taught while attending a two-day, $699 course at Hot Dog University. What in the world would take 2 days to teach? You boil up some hot dogs, throw them into a bun and cover it with the condiments your customer requests. Simple, right?

Not quite. “There is a science to selling hot dogs,” says Reitman. “I teach the kinds of things that the colleges and trade schools don’t teach. I teach real life experience.”

“It’s all about the details, there’s a science to steaming the bun, there’s a science to cooking a hot dog, there’s a science to dressing it, and basically when you take all these small details and add them up that’s what brings perfection. And that perfection can make a good profit for cart owners – up to $50,000…”

Professor Reitman has even gone further to say, “In fact, a year-round hot dog vendor can earn a six-figure income”. In this dog-eat-dog economy, that is certainly something anyone can chew on.

Typical Hot Dog University Course Outline

Day One:

  • Introductions
  • Hot Dogs 101
  • Plant Tour
  • Taste Panel
  • Exploration of the Course Outline from HDU manual

Day Two:

  • Tour of Restaurant Supply Facility
  • Equipment lesson
  • Set up cart
  • Behind-the-cart training
  • Break down cart
  • Review
  • Processing and Evaluation

If you are interested in finding more information about or enrolling in Vienna Beef’s Hot Dog University, you can find a more descript course outline at their site. Stay tuned in to Mobile Cuisine Magazine as we may have some additional news to pass on about this fantastic program which is enabling many a new entrepreneur a means to enter into the mobile food industry.