Vendor Cart Operations Manual – Business Management


Business Management Guide

Owning your own hot dog cart business should be rewarding and enjoyable. The guidelines in this section should help you to be successful whether you have one hot dog cart or several units with employees running them for you.

Owning and operating several hot dog carts in different locations is a way to increase profits but it also comes with special challenges. Managing employees can be difficult and frustrating if not done properly. This section provides some ideas and guidelines for you to use in managing these human resources.

Please note that the laws governing employees vary from place to place. Make sure that you conform to these laws in every respect.

Both you and your employees should be familiar with the Canadian Mobile Food Vendor Cart Operations Manual and the Vendor Cart Dress Code & Rules of Conduct. Review these with your employes in person. Keep a copy of these in each cart for their reference. Have employees sign them.

Simple Book Keeping That Works

A simple, straightforward bookkeeping system is important to you and your business. Bookkeeping is not hard or time-consuming. It will actually save you time and minimize frustration. It is the foundation of a successful business. Good bookkeeping will also enable you to analyze the health your business on an ongoing basis.

A key rule of thumb is the KIS principle (Keep It Simple). Many beliefs that bookkeeping is complicated and reserved for accountants only. For a small business, though, this is simply not true. The only skills required are to be able to count, record, add and subtract. Some simple forms for inventory control and profit/loss statements make this even easier.

One method used in keeping the accounting simple and easy is to pay cash up front to all of your suppliers. This has some key advantages:

  • You might be able to negotiate better prices for paying cash up front compared to paying on an account.
  • You are able to quickly determine the success of your recent activities by counting your cash on hand.
  • There will be no nasty surprises at month end when all the supplier invoices come in.

Your accounting will be kept to just a few minutes each day rather than one huge time-consuming burden at month end.

Keep Accurate Records Daily

Another key rule of thumb is the KARD principle (Keep Accurate Records Daily).

Paying cash does not mean shady activities for dodging taxes. It is simply a tool for keeping accounting simple and to get the best prices from your suppliers.

You must keep all the receipts for money paid out for business supplies. This is to keep accurate records both for your own information and to show the Canadian Revenue Agency at tax time. Without accurate records, you will find it impossible to take advantage of all the business deductions and credits to which you are entitled.

Keeping your records neat and up to date will also save you money when you actually do need to hire an accountant at tax time.

Keep receipts of all business related expenses including day to day supplies, equipment purchases, employee pay, office supplies, business loan interest, and vehicle mileage or fuel (spent driving to work, suppliers, business meetings, etc). These various expenses are all deductions at tax time and they will really add up over the year. Keep them together in envelopes organized by type of expense (ie: food purchases) and by month.

Keep business expense items on separate bills from your other personal expense items (i.e. business food supplies versus personal groceries). You may have to write on the receipt what the items actually are as many stores use codes in their descriptions that are confusing to decipher later.

Keep all of these records safe in a central area such as in a filing cabinet or banker’s box at home. Keep separate, clearly labeled file folders for the different types of business expenses as follows: retail food supplies, new equipment purchases, equipment repair, uniform expenses, advertising and promotion, loan payments, employee payroll, office supplies, vehicle expenses and mileage, rental payments, licensing, and training.

Different expenses have different rates of deduction and different places to go on the income tax form. Keeping them all separate will save you and your accountant a lot of time and money at year end tax time.

Makeup new file folders for your records each new year. Keep the different years separate to avoid confusion.

Tips for Success

Be Reliable.
Customers will come to depend on you for their meal.  Beat your location regularly.  Become part of their routine.  This will build a loyal customer base of “regulars”.

Be Friendly.
Greet each customer. Be cheerful and smile. A smile and a friendly greeting costs absolutely nothing but makes a huge difference. Get to know your regular customers by name. That builds a connection with them.  They will loyally spread the word about you and your business and draw more customers to you.  The best advertising is by word of mouth and it costs you absolutely nothing.

Keep a Clean Cart.
People are turned off by mess and dirt especially at a food supplier!  Keep your cart clean!  Clean all of the equipment including condiment trays and bottles.  Keep your garments and personal appearance neat, clean and professional.

Maintain Quality.
A good reputation is priceless. Do not cut corners by using an old or spoiled product.

Be a Good Neighbour.
Do not let your business interfere with other businesses in the area.  Make your business augment their business. This may include simple things such as providing a trash can for your customers and picking up litter at days end. Do not block vehicle or pedestrian traffic going to other businesses. Practice the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would have them treat you.

Know The Local Eating Habits.
Many people are surprised to learn that hot dogs are subject to regional and cultural differences.  This means that you may need to offer condiments that reflect the local culture. These may include things like grated cheese, hot peppers, chili, hot mustard, etc. Even within the same city,  neighborhoods will have different tastes. One may be more health conscious or reflect a unique cultural flavor. They may require Kosher food or many may ask for veggie dogs.  Ask, listen, learn and adapt. Serve those special needs. Advertise it. It means business.

Post a Simple Menu and Price List
Many people won’t buy unless they first know the price. Prominently displaying what you sell will save you time explaining especially during a busy lunch hour. It enables your customers to decide before they order.

Attach your menu or price list to your cart under a plexiglass cover to protect it from dirt, rain, and facilitate easy cleaning and changing.  Get it made at a local vinyl graphics sign shop. It won’t cost much and will look professional.

Take Phone Orders

Make it easy for your customers to do business with you. Taking phone orders is a way to do this and generate more business. All you need is a cell phone.

Many people are busy and prefer to call their food orders in ahead of time and then just pick them up. No waiting. Often one person will pick up lunch for several others this way. This helps you too because it reduces long line ups. It is another way to adapt to your customers needs and develop a loyal customer base.

Post your cell phone number on your cart to let people know you take phone orders. You will need a phone order log sheet to keep track of the order details as they come in. Have business cards or take-out  menu sheets made up that you can give to customers so they can call their orders in ahead of time.

Introduce Yourself to a New Area.

When you set up your food cart in a new location, you will need to advertise in order get your business off to a running start.

Print up some quality flyers and hand deliver them to the businesses in the area so they will be familiar you. Include a picture of you and your high-quality WillyDog cart. Hand them directly to business owners, office managers, receptionists, and employees. If you can not make personal contact then drop them off in business mailboxes or post the flyer on information boards. Dress neat and professionally while doing this because you will be making that all important first impression.

The flyer should include your cart location, the menu offering, your hours of operation and the cell phone number for phone orders. It should also highlight that your food cart is fully licensed and meets all of the local Health Code requirements.Keep the flyer to just one page in length and printed on one side only so that it can easily be posted in a lunch room or on an information board.

Include introductory discount coupons at the bottom of your flyer to get business volume started.

Vendor Cart Dress Code & Rules of Conduct

The overall appearance of a vendor cart operator must be neat and clean to convey to customers the attitude of professionalism  expected of people in the food service industry.

Clothing must be clean and neat. A fresh uniform should be worn each day. It should not be frayed, worn or stained. If the cart operator does not have a standard uniform, the clothing worn should not have logos or lettering that could be offensive to any customers.

Males should be freshly shaven. If a beard is worn, it should be contained in a hair net. Hair must be clean and neat and restrained by a hairnet or hat.

Employees must arrive at the work location on time and ready to work. Employees must ensure that the vendor cart is ready to serve customers according to the prescribed schedule.

Employees must always convey a friendly, professional attitude when dealing with customers and suppliers.

Employee conduct must always conform to the standards and procedures required by the local Department of Health for the food service workers including directions for hand washing, equipment cleaning, and safe food handling.

Employee dress and personal hygiene must conform to the standards and procedures required by the local Department of Health for the food service workers.

All monies collected from sales will be deposited promptly into the cash box.

All monies collected from sales will be counted and logged at the end of each working day or shift. Any discrepancies in amounts should be noted in writing at this time.

Employees will not borrow from the company cash box.

An inventory of remaining foodstuffs will be made at the end of each day or shift.  Any discrepancies in amounts should be noted in writing at this time.

Employees will not sell any unauthorized products from the vending cart.

Employees will conform to the posted menu prices. They will not extend unauthorized special pricing to friends, relatives, customers or themselves unless approved by the company owner or supervisor.

Any thefts of products or money will result in the employee being terminated immediately. This will be reported to the appropriate authorities.

Any departure from the above guidelines may result in the employee’s immediate work termination.

This instruction guide is binding and is to be read and signed by each vendor cart employee and kept on record by the company owner.

The Psychology of Selling

How to Motivate Your Customers to Buy and to Return Again

Successful selling involves more than having a great product and waiting for customers to beat a path to your cart.

The basic philosophy of selling holds true for all businesses. Customers must first be attracted to your sales site. They must feel welcomed.  They may need to be encouraged to buy your product.

You must anticipate and satisfy your customer’s needs and expectations.

This is the selling cycle – attracting customers, encouraging sales and satisfying customer needs. It is essential in assuring the continued growth and success of your business.

Remember the cardinal rule of sales: it is easier to keep an old customer than to attract a new one!

The Sale

Once your customer has been attracted to your vending site, there are four factors that go into completing a successful sale:

  1. The customer must have a clear idea of what your business offers and at what price.
  2. You must be friendly, courteous and professional.
  3. You must always be able to service the customer even when many customers arrive at once. Acknowledge each person.
  4. You must ask for the sale. You can suggest items.


Up-selling is simple and profitable. Just ask positive questions or give positive suggestions.

Do not ask: “Would you like a drink with that?”
Ask: “What kind of drink would you like with that?” or “Would you like a cola with your hot dog?”

If a customer is indecisive or unsure, help them. Say something like: “Why not try one of our spicy dogs? Most of the guys seem to like it.”

Help customers make selections by asking leading questions like: “Would you like mustard and relish?” “Chopped onions?” “Tomato ketchup?”

Customers will not see this as “up-selling”. Rather they will see you cheerfully helping them and showing a personal interest in them.


There are no hard and fast rules on pricing.

A good start is to check on your competitors and other similar businesses in your area. See what they offer and what they charge.

Do not be afraid to charge more for your product. Charging 25% more than your competitors is not unreasonable.

The reason is simple. If you do a better job, offer a superior product, and do it in a friendly way, your customers will be happy to pay a little more. There are many successful food service franchises that follow this philosophy by selling a premium product or service at a premium price. The convenience of your location is another reason why your customers may be willing to pay a little more.

Customer relations

  • How you speak to your customers is as important as what you say.
  • Always be friendly, cheerful, positive and upbeat.
  • Make sure your work place continually kept neat and clean.
  • Make sure all employees understand and apply these principles.