The Kansas City Dog. All beef dog served on a gourmet bun, topped with smoky bbq sauce, applewood bacon, aged cheddar and fried onion straws.
The Hot Diggity Dog. All beef dog served on a gourmet bun, topped with chipotle mayonnaise, sweet and spicy relish, jalapenos, pepper jack cheese shreds and fried onion straws.
The Mediterranean Turkey Dog ... well, you get the idea. Not to mention the chili, wings with 10 different dips, salads, coconut shrimp and fried pickles.
"Well, boiled peanuts are too much trouble," says Casey LeBlanc, at 24 a veteran of the restaurant business and co-owner of Crazy Dog, a gourmet hot doggery that opened in Warrensburg, Mo., April 2. "The peanuts have to boil for 12 hours. You ever have fried pickles? No? They're delicious."
LeBlanc and co-owner Brandon Godwin, 27, also a veteran restaurateur, aimed to open the new restaurant April Fools' Day "but April Fools' was a Sunday," LeBlanc says. "Quiznos says the best day to open a restaurant business is a Monday."
The couple purchased a Quiznos sandwich restaurant franchise in Warrensburg in 2010 from which they learned a lot. Warrensburg only has about 19,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census, but it's home to the ravenous students of University of Central Missouri (UCM). This restaurant has also benefitted from their creative touch. "The cheese steak is really more of a prime rib sandwich," reads one online review. "I needed a fork!"
But buying an existing franchise isn't at all like opening a new restaurant. Quiznos dictates the floor plan, menu, even advertising of its franchisees, and LeBlanc and Godwin, who plan to marry in September, had a very hot idea for a new kind of eatery.
They turned to Kelly Dyer, business specialist at the Small Business & Technology Development Center at UCM. Dyer had helped them get the Quiznos off the ground with an SBA Community Express loan. This is a loan designed for small businesses owners in historically underutilized business zones. The SBA had tightened regulations on the loan, requiring more financial documentation and a business plan.
Dyer and the couple met for the better part of a year ironing out the details. She also entered as much of their financial information as she could into Monocle (software that helps create the financial information involved in starting a new business from rent to labor costs to revenue projections) then turned it over to them. This helped them gather the information they needed to realistically answer the big question: Can this business succeed?
The answer so far for the enterprising LeBlanc and Godwin is a resounding yes. That the business has also staked out a bold, edgy logo and brand (created for them by an independent designer) with innovative dishes and a scooter giveaway all help, of course. The couple are also very active on social media, posting blogs, quizzes ("How many hot dogs are eaten every second of the day in the United States?"), pictures, rave customer reviews and menu updates.
And the students aren't even back yet.
The dogs aren't cheap, at just under $5 each but "We aren't trying to position ourselves as a value thing — You get a lot of what you pay for," says LeBlanc. "We are at a gourmet level, which is why we try to stand out with our logo and the other marketing tools. We try to convey that we are not the same thing as a fast-food dog that you can buy for a buck. This is a gourmet experience."
The two restaurants employ 30 people, 14 at Crazy Dog.
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This story was featured in the July 2012 newsletter.
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