Hot dogs a big hit heading into spring

by Rebekah Schouten
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Sonic Drive-In footlong hot dogs
Sonic offers a slew of hot dog varieties, ranging from foot-long chili cheese dogs to premium beef hot dogs in four different styles.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Hot dogs are battling burgers for their spot on quick service restaurant menus. While burgers have long been the fast-food frontrunner, consumers are starting to take notice of the underdog, according to Sonic Corp.

Claudia San Pedro, Sonic
Claudia San Pedro, EVP and CFO of Sonic

“Hot dogs are still, to some extent, a new, playful category,” said Claudia San Pedro, executive vice-president and chief financial officer of Sonic. “We see our consumers use it both as a meal and as a snack, depending on the daypart and depending on the car and the ticket. It has been a great product category for us. It continues to be one that we think has room for growth.”

The drive-in chain offers a slew of hot dog varieties, ranging from foot-long chili cheese dogs to premium beef hot dogs in four different styles. Sonic also has a track record of introducing innovative iterations of the hot dog. Last summer saw the chain debut the Croissant Dog, featuring Sonic’s signature 100 percent beef hot dogs served in croissant rolls. In 2013, Sonic introduced Pretzel Dogs – hot dogs nestled in pretzel buns – which San Pedro said continue to be popular sellers in the newer markets where they still are offered.

Burger King recently got in on the hot dog game with the launch of its Grilled Dogs. The flame-grilled hot dogs, introduced in February, consist of 100 percent beef and come in classic and chili cheese varieties. So far, the burger giant is winning with the wieners. Since the chain introduced the dogs in February, the launch has been the most successful product launch Burger King has ever had from a media and public relations standpoint, said Andrea John, director of investor relations at Burger King parent Restaurant Brands International, Inc.

Burger King hot dogs
In February, Burger  King launched Grilled Dogs, which consist of flame-grilled 100% beef hot dogs and come in classic and chili cheese varieties.

Burger King now holds the crown for the biggest restaurant chain serving hot dogs in the United States, but when it comes to quality and variety, Sonic said it sees no threat of being dethroned in the hot dog category.

“We think we have a better variety and good-quality offerings,” San Pedro said. “We’ve had good hot dog sales since 2012. Certainly, we’re always looking to see what the competition is offering, and we are looking to see what the impact might be and if we need to refine, adjust, and how we may need to react. But from our perspective this provides us an opportunity to be able to talk about our hotdogs a little bit more, and it could actually benefit all hot dogs players because it's not a burger. Everyone knows they can get a hamburger at QSR, so I think there's a lot of opportunity for growth for us there.”

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