California hot dog chain eyes Wisconsin for Midwest expansion

Milwaukee, Madison identified as ideal markets

New Port Beach, California-based hot dog chain Wienerschnitzel plans to tap the Wisconsin market as part of larger efforts to expand its Midwest footprint.

The company is currently seeking qualified franchisees in Wisconsin — and have gotten a few inquiries — with plans to “aggressively market” to potential candidates this year, said Ted Milburn, director of franchise development.

“Our ideal growth markets are bigger cities like Milwaukee and Madison, plus cities in the 50,000 to 100,000 range like Oshkosh, Appleton and Green Bay,” said Milburn in an email.

The target number of franchise locations as well as an opening timeline will be determined based on the “quality and caliber” of interest the company receives.

Since it was founded in 1961 as a single hot dog stand, Wienerschnitzel has grown to more than 330 locations in 10 states. Illinois is currently its only market in the Midwest, but that will soon change thanks to what’s become “remarkable” demand across the region, Milburn said separately in a news release.¬†

In response, the company has rolled out a development incentive plan for new Midwest markets, which includes a discounted royalty incentive of only 1% percent in the first year for candidates who can commit to a three-store development schedule. In addition, Galardi Group, Inc., parent company of Wienerschnitzel and Tastee Freez, will contribute to local marketing funds for their first store, according to the release.

Wisconsin joins¬†Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon as Wienerschnitzel’s target growth markets.

Similar to other quick-service chains that have avoided many of the challenges the restaurant industry has faced amid the pandemic, Wienerschnitzel saw a 16.8% increase in same-store sales last year. That momentum continued through April 2021.

“One third of our franchise system never had inside dining prior to the pandemic,” said Milburn. “Our business is such that drive thru and take-out have always been the dominant sales leaders. This allows us tremendous flexibility in smaller real estate sites, conversion building options and even endcaps with drive thru. The business model is inviting.”

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Maredithe Meyer covers restaurants, retail, tourism, and sports and entertainment. She joined BizTimes in 2015, previously as an intern reporter. She earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University in 2017. When she's not on the job, Maredithe coaches field hockey and loves exploring her favorite city on earth, Milwaukee.

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