Apr 232015

Hotdog Cart Vendor Uses Twitter, FaceBook, Groupon, and Living Social!

Social media is an equalizer for small businesses engaged in mobile vending. Columbia-based New York's Famous Hotdogs is featured on DealChicken's daily deal billboard in Lamar, South Carolina

Social media and social networking are equalizers for small businesses engaged in mobile vending. In the photo above, Columbia-based New York’s Famous Hotdogs is featured on DealChicken’s daily deal billboard in Lamar, South Carolina. It’s quite a leap from curbside word-of-mouth marketing to larger-than-life billboard promotions. In the first part of the interview (Hotdog! Street Vending Saves Family Finances), the Whipper-Kloess team highlighted some of what got them here.

Applying Today’s Internet Technologies

In the true spirit of locally-based economic development, Quinton Whipper and his wife Gisela Kloess took the hand dealt them and turned it into a viable, vibrant small business — on wheels. Personally determined and entrepreneurially focused, Whipper and Kloess use every online innovation the way too many small business do not. I was delighted to hear them discuss how they’ve embraced internet technologies for their mobile vending business.

This article will focus on the social and community aspect of their journey. We’ll hear their answers to these questions:

  • Why would a hotdog cart or food truck need a website?
  • Beyond traditional uses of a website, what’s special about their’s?
  • How do Gisela and Quinton apply internet technologies, like social media and social networking, to their mobile vending business?
  • Which of the many services do they use?
  • Aside from feeding the community, how do they connect their local business with the education system?

The first person to retweet gets a free basket from the menu!- @NYFH

Columbia, South Carolina-based New York's Famous Hotdogs uses social media, like Twitter, to knock down geographic barriers and increase their marketing reach

Columbia, South Carolina-based New York's Famous Hotdogs uses social media, like Twitter, to knock down geographic barriers and increase their marketing reach

Impact of Social Media and Mobile Marketing

As I performed research for this series of small business vending articles, what really caught my attention about this enterprise — and led me to track them down — was twofold: they had a website and they were using social media. I could immediately see the potential for bottom-line income but I was curious as to how New York’s Famous Hotdogs was applying internet technology to their mobile vending business.

It’s lunchtime . . .

You’re hungry but haven’t made up your mind where to grab a bite. You don’t have time for a leisurely sit-down today. Your smartphone buzzes, your Twitter stream is calling! Glancing at it, you see … an invitation to LUNCH! Those cool guys from around the corner who have that yummy mango topping have just tweeted today’s special, and off you go.

That fictitious scenario is not too far-fetched. If you’re following New York’s Famous Hotdogs on Twitter, you’re likely to get such a tweet from Quinton or Gisela. Remember, they’re out manning their mobile units during lunchtime (and maybe during dinner time, too) so they’re engaging customers using their smartphones. Isn’t this truly “mobile” marketing?

Back in December (2011), those tweets and FaceBook status updates included their Groupon special and a Living Social Deal of the Day. Talking with Quinton a couple of weeks later, I could still hear the excitement in his voice as he described the Groupon/Living Social experience. “Record-breaking” is not one of the terms you hear being applied to pushcarts or mobile vending. Quinton said he got a call from “Headquarters.” The reason? New York’s Famous Hotdogs was the first business ever to have both a Groupon Deal and Living Social offering running on the same day!

Groupon Deal: New York's Famous Hotdogs -- Small business mobile vending in Columbia, South Carolina uses social media and daily deals

Groupon Deal: New York's Famous Hotdogs -- Small business mobile vending in Columbia, South Carolina uses social media and daily deals. Image courtesy of Groupon site.

No doubt about it: social for small business is HOT! They got ahead of the curve by setting up a New York’s Famous Hotdogs FaceBook page, which is where some of their friends found out about their deals on Groupon, Living Social, and even DealChicken (another social site for daily deals).

Social media and mobile marketing are worth the time, effort, and money a small business spends to incorporate them into daily operations. Quinton says of their foray into daily deal-making:

You don’t make a lot of money; the biggest reward is it raises awareness, website hits increase, you gain media and business exposure.

We can see that NYFH has closed the geographical boundaries a bit more and broadened their reach by incorporating social networking and social media into their mix of business strategies. Let’s take a quick look at how they are using (or plan to use) their website to do more than just house photos and a menu.

Website Adds Credibility to Mobile Vending

Talking about having a website for your small business seems anticlimatic after the excitement of Twitter interactions, FaceBook engagements, and deal-making on sites like DealChicken. But if those social media and networking activities spice it up, a website is the main fare, the baseline.

Gisela and Quinto agree …

If you don’t have a website, people tend to not take you as serious. . . If you don’t have website, business card, FaceBook, Twitter when they Google. They find us on internet!

Mobile vending in many cities is not on par with land-based enterprises. As noted earlier, they face some unique challenges, specific to being on wheels. They’re talking about credibility and separating themselves from fly-by-night operations that roll in today and roll out tomorrow.

For up-to-the-minute info on where customers can find them when “it’s that time,” Twitter and FaceBook work well. But when a customer wants to place an order for the office, the website has a full menu to avoid the redundancy of reciting the combos, toppings, and soda pop flavors. Quinton said they have an ecommerce component to the website so they’re setup to take credit card orders.

A website can do more.

But that’s all standard fare for a food establishment website. The differentiator for Gisella’s and Quinton’s mobile units lies in how they raise the bar for other mobile vendors. A website can do more and they have plans to make their website more of a virtual assistant and information repository.

New York's Famous Hotdogs based in Columbia, SC -Vending cart logoLike most small business owners, these guys are not web designers or developers so they might require some assistance to get everything setup as they envision. But Gisela is a learner and she will work to acquire the skills needed for what they have in mind.

Two groups in particular search for and visit their website: other business organizations and administrators in the local educational system.

Local Event Coordinators: New York’s Famous Hotdogs participates in numerous local events, often serving the catering needs of local business outings and vending at seasonal events like the Fair.

School Program Administrators: Aside from feeding the community, how do they connect their local business with the education system? Quinton and Gisela give back to the community through their self-funded bullycide and healthy eating program which they present to students in the area schools.

When a business or education customer wants advance information about events or programs, the website is their ready resource. (More information on the NO Bullying / Stay Fit Tour.) Additionally, they plan to use the website to provide contracts, testimonials, program results, and itineraries.

What’s on The Horizon?

Quinton and Gisela are deep wells of information about the vending business, particularly hotdog cart and food truck ownership. The paradigm of creating your own product for replicating success as well as creating additional income streams fits well with their business. I hope they will one day consider creating a physical product similar to the Hotdog Cash System. Otherwise, some secrets are better left to the secret sauce!

Share Your Thoughts

Have you ever considered operating a mobile vending unit or owning vending machines as an economic development activity to earn income, prime the small business pump for your family, neighborhood or wider community?

Have you ever consider what goes on behind the scenes – business-wise — of a foodtruck or pushcart operation?

Share what’s on your mind in the comments below. Thanks for reading. (Part 1 of this interview is here.) And thanks to Gisela Kloess and Quinton Whipper for talking with me! Drop by the New York’s Famous Hotdogs FaceBook page to say hello. If you’re ever in the Columbia, South Carolina area, tweet a friendly :wave: to @NYFHD.

Credits: Photos courtesy of Gisela Kloess and Quinton Whipper, New York’s Famous Hotdogs, Columbia, SC. Used with permission. NYFH deal on Groupon Daily Deal site (December 22, 2011) courtesy of Groupon web site. All trademarks, service marks, trade names, trade dress, product names and logos appearing on the site are the property of their respective owners, including Sabrett™ and Nathan’s™ Famous Frankfurters, Groupon™, Living Social™ and DealChicken™.

This article is Part 3 in the Economic Development Mobile Vending Series. It was originally published February 26, 2012.

Other Articles in the Economic Development Mobile Vending Series
Read Part 1: Small Business Vending: An Economic Development Strategy
Read Part 2: Hotdog! Street Vending Saves Family Finances (Interview w Gisela and Quinton)

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Vernessa Taylor

Technology Consultant, Business Writer at Local Business Coach Online (LBCO)
Founder and editor of the blog here at LBCO. Thanks for reading, sharing, commenting and visiting. See you next time.

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  35 Responses to “Redux > Social Media: Equalizer for Small Businesses Doing Mobile Vending”

Comments (33) Pingbacks (2)
  1. Thanks, I’m always looking for better way to utilize social media. There are so many avenues to go about social media so it’s always nice to get other success stories.

    • Hi Jim, I’m glad you could gain another perspective on how small businesses are using social media. This one was a pleasant surprise for me, too.

      • So true. And the examples you give, like the lunch coupon tweet that provokes you to go to specific restaurant. These are going to be getting more and more prevalent over time. These examples really make it real. Thanks!

  2. These are nice points on mobile social media, which is globalizing now! N this is nice reading i have here! thanks for all this Wok!

  3. Thanks for sharing this useful text. I think, that mobile vending is the most similar to the online marketing business. And as it is, social media marketing is the best tool to for marketing it. Thanks for these nice points, you’ve analyzed a really interesting area of the marketing scene.

    • Hi Julie,

      You’re right, there are many similarities in the marketing strategies. With such a deep well of marketing methods, we won’t run out of ideas to apply to our own efforts. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. While working in Philly, I was part of a self-directed group of entrepreneurial-minded employees. One of them had a vending business. I used to spend a few lunch hours a month tagging along as she went to the wholesaler’s outlet to replenish her inventory.

    As a veteran of Monopoly, I understood “buy low, sell high”. But that experience was a nice inside look at the actual operations. (It also let me know that vending was not for me. LOL)



    • Amazing where we can pick up the truths we need, isn’t it? I’ll bet Monopoly also taught you to hang on to your money, invest wisely, and avoid those costly “bars of no return” (that’s ROI). The hallmark of a good businessman is knowing his strengths. I won’t bother approaching you about joining my Veggie Dog Empire. LOL

  5. We all want to know what is going behind the scenes (aka secrets). I know that the future is social media on the iPhones and other mobile devices. Where we should draw the thin line between privacy and marketing.

    I think that very soon social media will need more strict regulations. Thanks for your insights

    • Hi Margarita,

      When small business owners share insights about their operations, we get a first-hand peek into their secrets! The future you speak of has already arrived (think of a hotdog vendor sending out a tweet or posting to his FaceBook page something like “Lunch is ready … Come and get it!”) :)

  6. It’s been proven that most customers tend to search services and products with the use of internet. This is why it’s essential to have a business website. Since mobile nowadays offer internet usage, this is a great opportunity to market your website on a large scale of mobile internet users. Social media plays a big role it’s now one of the tool to effectively market a business and thus for vending, creating a mobile website platform is advisable.

    • Hi Levi,

      Although the owners of New York’s Famous Hotdogs don’t have a mobile website set up, they are leveraging social media to their advantage by using the essence of mobile marketing. The resurgent emphasis on “local vs. global” is timely, too, because it positions small businesses to maximize their marketing efforts in the same areas their customers are located.

  7. Because of crisis in our economy, I think people will do anything even mobile vending just to survive their
    everyday basic needs. Thia really it really seems to be very useful and convenient! Thanks a lot for sharing this post.

    • Hi Becca,

      Mobile vending is a great equalizer during difficult financial times. Of course, one doesn’t have to wait until tough times to get started. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Most people probably don’t know how good social media can be for their business, and many don’t realize how effective social media is. Without a way of measuring the success of social media, they are blindly using that form of communication without realizing the effect it has with their customers.

    • Becca, the good news is that tools are popping up that claim they can measure social media ROI. I don’t have the names of any at hand but I’ll check and update this comment when I do.

  9. Hi Vernessa,

    I have to admit this is an area I have never thought about, and indeed, it is certainly an important one. Most businesses these days have a website and it makes sense for small mobile vending ones to have one too.

    I’m going to look out for mobile vendors in the UK from now, to see if they have taken the plunge and gone online.

    • Hi Hiten,

      Welcome to CoachNotes Blog. Yeah, I was surprised to find out the vendor featured here had both a website and was using social medai.

      Regarding U.K. mobile vendors: That’s a neat shoe leather experiment. I’m curious to know your outcomes. Will you come back and share your findings?

      BTW: Really enjoyed your guest post on my friend Keith’s public speaking blog. I’m linking to it here in case the community here wants to hop over and read it. :)

      => 5 Ways Public Speaking Can Help Your Stammering

      • Hi Vernessa,

        Absolutely, I would be delighted to report back here with my findings!

        I’m really glad you liked my post over at Keith’s blog! And thank you for leaving a link to it! :-)

        • Hey Hiten, thanks for agreeing to do that. 😀

          I also saw where you’d inspired Mel (@MelanieKissell) to pick up the 7 Links challenge. I enjoyed reading your’s and her’s.

          See you soon.

  10. interesting to read your sucess story,we all need better way to utilize social media.

  11. Hi Vernessa ,
    I Think mobile vending become more popular these days and it is similar to online marketing business.Social media websites play a vital role in business and it gets integrated into our lifestyle.Thanks for taking time to write this post.

  12. Hi Vernessa ,
    In present world, we cant move forward in our business without knowing how to utilize social media plateform.Thanks for sharing your information on how New York’s Famous Hotdogs was applying internet technology to their mobile vending business.

  13. Interesting how a hot dog company uses a billboard and the internet to expand their business. Social media lets people connect to businesses faster than ever. Social networking lets businesses marketing and have a close relationship with their customers.

  14. Mobile vending will definitely continue to grow bigger on the internet. This post makes me hungry. Social networking will help the company continue to fulfill the food needs of its customers. You no longer have to just stand on a street corner to sell your food effectively.

  15. Interesting article and very inspiring. I’ve never know before. Through this article you write, I can learn a lot. Thank’s

  16. Hi Vernessa ,
    In small business vending, having a website and a proper use of social media is very important. In social media facebook and twitter plays a vital role in any business success if they are used at its best.

  17. Online business is nothing without a website either it is a mobile business or any other sort of business. Today no one can ignore the importance of the social media as it is very necessary to make the product viral

  18. This is a great article. It is so true that you can use the internet and a website for all businesses you have. Even if it is just a local hotdog stand. Building a business is all about traffic and the internet is a traffic funnel.

  19. Woah, this company really knows how to utilized its seo resources. Brilliant article by the way. :)

  20. Hi,

    I think, that mobile vending is the most similar to the online marketing business.. Its use of T-Mobile Blackberry devices has enabled staff to work more effectively on the move, which in turn has improved customer service. Better customer service has also helped the company differentiate itself from the competition in new business pitches…

    Rick @ Berlin.

  21. Social Media is a great equalizer. I cannot directly compete with the leaders in my space, but because I am so active on my social media profiles I can keep my business afloat. I find that if you have the passion to fight for your product, other people will notice!

    Thanks for the great read!

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