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Street dogs.

Street Dogs

It's summer in Winnipeg and the signs are everywhere: shirt-sleeved businessmen and mini-skirted secretaries strolling at noon.

Near the corner of Broadway and Main, customers are lined up at a hot dog cart to be welcomed by a warm greeting from Bill and Shirley Hancox as they sizzle wieners on an open grill.

Early retirement allowed the couple to purchase a Mr. Tube Steak franchise, "the best thing that's ever happened to us," they say. "We've never regretted it. We've chosen our own location, we work our own hours and we spend the winter in Texas. It couldn't be more ideal for us."

The Hancoxs are but one of dozens of budding entrepreneurs who have hitched their hopes and dreams onto a Mr. Tube Steak vending cart. The Mr. Tube Steak concept began in March, 1989 thanks to founding partner Steve Moynes who invested the $150,000 he acquired through the sale of his deli franchise. With one cart, 200 square feet of rented office space and an idea, the enterprising Moynes was on his way. In little more than a year, the company has expanded to approximately 100 franchise units in six provinces.

Like all fledgling ventures, Mr. Tube Steak experienced the usual early growing pains: "No one knew about us, so sales were low," says Brian Collie, vice-president of marketing. "Now, we're busy just trying to keep up with sales."

Although hot dogs and street vending are not new to most people, the concept behind Mr. Tube Steak and franchising this type of business is new to Manitoba. This is particularly evident when examining the make-up of the company. Moynes lends his restaurant expertise to the operation, while his partner, Collie, handles the marketing side. Add to the mix Marilyn Keely, vice-president of administration, who brings 18 years of administrative experience, and you have a well-rounded management team.

So what sets them and the Mr. Tube Steak concept apart from other dog vendors that dominate Winnipeg street corners six months of every year? In their judgment their carts are superior in construction. The partners developed a restaurant-quality, stainless steel top for their carts, featuring a three-compartment sink with hot and cold running water and soap dispenser. Mr. Tube Steak carts are completely waterproof and contain a 2.5-cubic-foot fridge, an 8.5-gallon fresh water tank and a 12-gallon waste water tank. They are built to Canadian highway specifications enabling a franchisee to tow them at highway speeds.

Along with improving the design of the cart, Moynes and Collie recently took their concept one step further. This summer they introduced to the city streets a replica 1911 Model T Ford produced by Gould Manufacturing of Winnipeg. Called the "Classic Car Cart," vendors sell the same quality products they do from the original Mr. Tube Steak carts.

"We are geared to produce 50 of the new Car Carts this year, and have enough material inventory to build 40 regular carts at any given time," explains Collie.

Quality of the food was of prime importance to the Mr. Tube Steak team. They negotiated a contract with J.M. Schneider Inc. for all wiener, smokie and hamburger products, thus assuring customers of consistent quality whether they bought a hot dog in Manitoba or British Columbia. In addition, McGavin Foods Limited bakes a bun exclusively for Mr. Tube Steak to fit around their 3.2-ounce wieners and 5.5-ounce smokies. All condiments are Heinz and Coke is sold exclusively.

"We felt that Canadians would be willing to pay a little extra when they were guaranteed a quality product for their money," states Collie, "and so far we've been right." Hot dogs at a Mr. Tube Steak cost $2, smokies cost $2.95 and a hamburger $2.50.

Training for franchisees is divided into various sessions, the first dealing with the cart concept of storing and thawing food. The second has the franchisee attend a Health Department seminar to ensure that all food is handled and prepared in accordance with provincial regulations. And the prospective franchisee gains practical experience on the cart by assisting an existing franchisee. There are district managers in each province who direct the training. In Manitoba, the Hancoxs are key operators that help with the practical training of the new people.

Mr. Tube Steak charges $8,000 for a standard cart, and $14,000 for the Classic Car Cart, each with five-year licensing rights.

With 102 new franchise sales pending as of June, Collie foresees a brisk business, stating, "We are going to be the fastest-growing franchise in Canada and we plan to sell 400 units in the next 12 months. We want to become the McDonald's of the street cart vending business."

PHOTO : Steve Moynes, founder, and marketing boss Brian Collie enjoy a hot dog served from the new Classic Car Cart.
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Title Annotation:Small Business; Mr. Tube Steak
Author:Taylor, Barbara
Publication:Manitoba Business
Article Type:company profile
Date:Oct 1, 1990
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