Hot Dogs are going Gourmet

A New Dog’s in Town

By Amy Ward, Staff Writer

Call it a long-awaited refuge for a beleaguered fast-food nation.

The growth of gourmet fast food options in Toronto, Canada, continues with the arrival at Yonge and Dundas Square of Frankz Finest Hot Dog Palace.

It’s a trend threatening McRestaurants all across the Greater Toronto Area.  First came the gourmet hamburger shops:  Lettieri’s Hero Certified Burger already has 10 locations from Aurora to Oshawa and a flagship store at Yorkville’s exclusive Hazelton Lanes.  Meanwhile, New York Fries’ South St. Burger Co. is about to open its second location in the north end of Toronto.

Now hot dogs get the gourmet treatment.  A well-topped hot dog at Frankz costs little more than at your local street cart: Prices range from $3.25 for the basic dog up to $4.75 for the Coney Island (topped with chili and cheese) or the Italian (roasted garlic, tomatoes, and mozzarella). Add thick-cut fries, milkshakes, fresh ice cream waffles, and beer, and suddenly the little hot dog shop is a worthy place to bring a date, on the way to a movie at the theatre next door, or after hopping off the double-decker sightseeing bus.

The secret to the haute dog is the tailor-made culinary experience. That’s why Frankz president Erez Mizrahi emphasizes the customer first and foremost.

“You can’t just build it and they will come,” he says, “you have to build it and make them stay.”

Customization has been a growing trend at quick-service restaurants, but gourmet fast food eateries take the experience one step further. At Frankz, you can have your hot dog barbequed, grilled, or steamed.  Want something that’s not on the menu?  Mizrahi is more than happy to add it, mix ingredients, or fix whatever he can to make you want to keep coming back.

“We have to bring that touch to fast food in Toronto, because that’s what Toronto needs,” says Mizrahi. “You have to care about the next person through the door.”

This is a rare phenomenon in the local food industry.  Most restaurants specialize at either end of the spectrum: either providing it fast and cheap, or going the extra mile for the customer.  Seldom will you find both.  But Mizrahi, a former maître d’, has hit upon a winning combination with Frankz.

Nowhere is this approach more evident than with its passionate employees.  In a neighbourhood where nearly every outlet has a semi-permanent Help Wanted sign posted outside, Frankz’ staff is abundant and enthusiastic.  Chalk it up to the attentive instruction of Mizrahi, the self-described Chief Bottle Washer, whose democratic dining room management style emphasizes attitude over experience.

The first rule at Frankz is plain buns only. The second rule at Frankz is no utensils.  But that’s only a half-truth, since plastic cutlery abounds.  In fact, as well-researched as Frankz may be – Mizrahi and his partners scoured North America to find the best ingredients, recipes, and seek opinions from hot dog connoisseurs – they’ll ultimately cede wisdom to taste.  Hot dog loyalists argue that ketchup is for kids, that the sugar and acid overpowers the taste, but if ketchup is what you want at Frankz, then go ahead.

Frankz doesn’t aim to compete with your local hot dog cart or chip truck.  It wants to provide a different, more comprehensive dining experience.  Call it a hot dog RV.  Where else could you enjoy an ultra-quick bite and a beer in a comfortable dining room?  Heck, call it a hot dog Palace.

ARB Team

Arbitrage Magazine

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