Enrollment Spikes at Hot Dog University - NBC Chicago

Enrollment Spikes at Hot Dog University

With high unemployment, many consider jobs they hadn't in the past



    Celebrate This Holiday Season in Lively St. Charles
    Getty Images
    A plate of hot dogs sit on a table at the annual Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island July 4, 2005 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Kobayashi won for the fifth year in a row eating 49 hotdogs in 12 minutes. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

    With the nation's unemployment hovering at 10 percent, many people are working in industries they'd previously overlooked or hadn't considered in the past.

    The New York Times over the weekend published a story about the return of the ski bum, American employees of the ski lodges in Aspen, Colo.

    For well over a decade, many of the people operating lifts and ladling soup into bread bowls at restaurants in Aspen and other resorts had come from Australia, Europe and South America. In the United States, the popularity of moving to a ski town after college or between jobs had waned.

    Closer to home, the "professor of hot dogs" expects to see enrollment in his class at "Hot Dog University" to jump 30 percent this year.

    A food industry consultant isn't surprised.

    "I think there will be a lot of people who will consider this that wouldn't otherwise," Technomic's Darren Tristano told Crain's Chicago Business.

    For years, Mark Reitman successfully ran his own hot dog cart, setting up shop during the Harley-Davidson 100th anniversary celebration, at the U.S. Cellular Days Tall Ships events and outside Prime Outlets stores in Pleasant Prairie, Wis.

    Wanting to share his knowledge, he opened Hot Dog University in 2006, a two-day business school offers would-be vendors the opportunity and experience to successfully launch a career in the mobile and retail food service business.

    The Vienna Beef company -- Chicago's Hot Dog -- took notice and last year brought him on as its "professor of hot dogs."

    The 62-year-old now teaches "The Art of the Cart," and -- with the economy and unemployment where it is -- is seeing more students than ever.

    Crain's profiled Reitman and his Hot Dog University in a Monday article, and examines how Vienna Beef is using the class to expand its reach into new markets around the country.

    "We have been trying to export Vienna to other cities for years, but it's very difficult," said Vienna Beef CEO James Bodman. "Hot Dog University has given us dozens of new accounts around the country, and it's priceless for us."