Wienerschnitzel’s hot dog menu has proven resilient during the pandemic, said Ted Milburn, director of franchise development. The chain, which serves burgers, fries, ice cream and other options, saw same-store sales increase 16.8 percent last year.
“The level of interest and our customer profile in the Midwest is remarkable,” Milburn said in a news release. “It is telling the number of franchise inquiries—and the vast underserved markets—coming from the heartland of America. The lead-in is always the same: ‘There’s nothing like Wienerschnitzel in our city—we need one.’ “
Those could be fighting words in a town like Chicago, with such strong opinions about what should and should not be on a hot dog.
But restaurants that were heavily dependent on drive-thrus and take-out orders, like Wienerschnitzel always has been, have not suffered as devastatingly as full-service restaurants.
Affordable menu prices have also helped at Wienerschnitzel, Milburn told Crain’s. Customers can buy a bundle of five hot dogs for $6.95.
“We get people in the drive-thru all the time that order 100 of them, and they take them home and stick them in their freezer,” he said. “It’s an affordable price point.”
The value was a draw during the Great Recession, as well, and helps carve out a certain niche for the chain. Wienerschnitzel is not necessarily competing with gourmet hot dog chains, Milburn said. “The chili cheese dog is really what we do. That is the primary sales driver,” he said.
The chain also has not historically focused on walk-up locations in dense urban areas and has focused on the drive-thrus. But Milburn said the company wouldn’t turn down a franchisee in Chicago that could find the right real estate.
Wienerschnitzel was founded in 1961 as a hot dog stand in Wilmington, Calif. Irvine, Calif.-based Garaldi Group, which also owns the Tastee Freez brand, is the parent company. The chain has some presence in Illinois, with a location in Champaign.
The story has been updated to correct the spelling and location of Wienerschnitzel’s parent company.