During peak hot dog season, which stretches from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council — yes, that’s an actual thing — estimates Americans eat around 7 billion hot dogs. On the Fourth of July alone, that number is about 150 million.
Those are good numbers for Gainesville’s Hot Dog Ninja, in its third year of business. While Landon Brockmeyer has changed his business strategy this year by not “chasing the work” as much as he has in the past, he still sees people’s love for hot dogs every time he’s out with his cart.
“People love eating hot dogs for the Fourth of July because they can just grab a dog and walk around,” Brockmeyer said. “It’s quick and it’s easy and it’s good.”
That’s why Brockmeyer thinks hot dogs are so popular. No matter where people are, they can pick up a hot dog and eat it. No utensils, or even a plate, are necessary.
They’re economical, too. An eight-pack of Nathan’s Famous all-beef hot dogs will usually cost around $4.
“My hot dogs, a plain dog, with me is $3,” Brockmeyer said. “You might have to spend $10 at another truck.”
Brockmeyer said eating hot dogs is something people have always done. It’s out of habit in some ways, and it’s a habit he likes to see. The Hot Dog Ninja marketing budget was used to get into more private events and catering this year, Brockmeyer said.
He spent his first two years of business trying to get his name out, but now he’s ready to slow down and have a schedule that makes more sense to him.
He doesn’t go to the downtown Gainesville square anymore because of some rule changes, but he still occasionally goes out to festivals if time allows.
He likes doing events like he’s done recently at Hampton Inn and Builders FirstSource, catering for employees.
“Most of my business is that right now, which is really nice for me because there’s no guesswork,” Brockmeyer said. “I mean, I don’t have to guess when I go out in public like ‘Hey, I wonder if anybody’s going to show up tonight.’ So that’s nice for me.”
Another reason Brockmeyer thinks people enjoy a hot dog is because of their customizable nature. There are seemingly endless possibilities when it comes to toppings. That’s obvious after taking a look at Hot Dog Ninja’s menu.
One item has been there since the beginning: “The Fat Greek.” It’s a beef sausage topped with tzatziki sauce, feta cheese and kalamata olives.
A newer addition is “Da Chicago.” It’s a Nathan’s Famous all-beef hot dog topped with onions, sport peppers, neon relish, celery salt and a pickle spear.
“All my recipes are just something we’ve gone through with friends and family and we’ve tried it,” Brockmeyer said. “You know right away when someone eats it if they go ‘Man, that was good.’ That’s when I try it out on a menu. And if I get the same responses out there, I keep it on the menu.”
Even though hot dogs are a popular item on the July Fourth holiday, and Brockmeyer’s full-time job of running a hot dog cart means his life is consumed with them, he said he doesn’t plan on being anywhere for the holiday this year. He might get to enjoy a hot dog someone else prepares for him.
“It might be nice,” Brockmeyer said. “In three years, I haven’t been able to do Fourth of July with my family.”