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Hot dog sales sizzle during downturn

A Chicago-style hot dog and fries.

TEXT OF STORY

Tess Vigeland: The economy has officially gone to the dogs. According to market research firm Information Resources, Inc., retail spending on hotdogs was up two and a half percent in 2008. So, we decided to go to the epicenter of hot dog culture, Chicago, for a look at the link as economic indicator. For Marketplace, Chicago Public Radio's Adriene Hill has the story.


Adriene Hill: Chicago loves its hotdogs.

Gus Paschalis: A Chicago hot dog is an all beef hotdog on a poppy seed bun, and there's mustard, onions, relish, pickle, there's sport peppers, tomato and celery salt.

That's Gus Paschalis. He owns and runs a hotdog stand called, I kid you not, "Weiner and Still Champion" in nearby Evanston.

Paschalis: Most people would say a hole in the wall, mom and pop type of restaurant.

It's definitely a little divey. But you can get a dog and hand cut french fries that are fried to order for $3.50. Not bad for a meal that contains most of the major food groups. Turns out the Chicago dog has a good "pedigree" for surviving tough times.

The Chicago style hotdog, loaded with veggies and condiments, got started back during the late 1920s. You could get your meal on a bun for a nickel. At least one hotdog stand called it a "depression sandwich." And while it may be overselling it a little to say sales now are "steaming" or "red hot," these days at Weiner and Still Champion, they're good.

Paschalis: We're actually doing better than we were doing last year.

The dinner time rush is pretty impressive for a hotdog stand. Melody Vogel's waiting on an order of french fries. She says she still has a job -- she works at a nearby church -- but she's more careful about how she spends money on food.

Melody Vogel: I'm trying to be a lot more conservative in what I buy. You know, I grew up in a big family so I'm used to the make spaghetti and eat it for a week kind of stuff -- make soup and add water.

She eats out less and she's more likely to go for cheaper options when she does eat out.

Darren Tristano: Consumers are trading down. Rather than going to, let's say, casual dining like an Applebees and paying at the $12-$13 level, they're shifting down to limited service.

Darren Tristano is an executive vice president at Technomic Incorporated, a food industry research firm.

He says hotdog stands are set to capitalize on food trends -- they're cheap, the food is fresh, customizable, portable, and he says, Chicago hot dogs taste really good.

All of which makes them a strong contender for a great recession meal.

In Chicago, I'm Adriene Hill, for Marketplace Money.

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I love a good food story, with all the juicy details and interviews, as much as the next guy, but I don't understand how two and half percent is a 'sizzle'. Am I missing something?

Therw's nothing wrong with the hot dogs you talk about but then again there's nothing wrong with other fare outside the home either, as long as it's LOCAL, NOT for God's sake the likes of "Applebees, Mc. D's, Burger King", and the the like, where the money goes straight to corporate headquarters, NOT to the locals! So, wise up Tess, et.al. and STOP, for cryin' out loud, with the dissing of eating out, unless it's (as in this case) hot dogs!

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