Ketchup, mustard or both?
The most difficult part of preparing a hot dog used to be picking the toppings. But in today's mashup-loving food world, the hot dog is the topping.
On Thursday, Pizza Hut plans to debut a new spin on the summer staple—a pizza with 28 bite-sized hot dogs baked into the crust and served with a side of mustard.
"I think people love hot dogs. In our case, people love pizza, and they're willing to mash up foods more than ever," public relations director Doug Terfehr said in a phone interview.
Pizza Hut is hardly alone at finding new ways to incorporate hot dogs into their menu. In the burger world, Carl's Jr. and Hardee's are selling what they call the "most American burger ever." It's a Black Angus beef patty topped with a split hot dog and potato chips.
In October, Wayback Burgers debuted the limited time Frank-N-Burger, which included two beef patties, a hot dog, American cheese and barbecue chips on top.
Abroad, KFC released the Double Down Dog, a hot dog wrapped with a fried chicken bun, in the Philippines earlier this year.
Even at the baseball field, where the hot dog is practically an institution, the humble frank is getting revamped. A minor league team in Delaware came up with its own spin on the meat—a hot dog sandwiched between two Krispy Kreme doughnuts and topped with bacon and drizzled with raspberry jam.
While these wacky creations are still few in number, they come amid signs the hot dog market is warming up.
Between 2013 and 2015, the appearance of hot dog entrees on menus rose 5 percent, according to Technomic's MenuMonitor, while the number of hot dogs served at restaurants rose nearly 3 percent in the two years ended in March, according to market research firm NPD Group.
So what's driving restaurants to release these wacky hot dog mashups?
"These products do not have to be profitable for them to be successful," said Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic.
Instead, they are meant to capitalize on buzz marketing and spur people to think about the restaurant and then visit, he added. They also play off two broader themes in the food space: an overarching mashup trend and more interest in the hot dog.
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At Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, the idea of a burger topped with a dog has been in the works for about a decade.
"It's kind of a Fourth of July picnic on a bun," said Brad Haley, Carl's Jr. and Hardee's chief marketing officer.
"We're not into doing burgers just for kind of the buzz factor. They have to taste good and sell well—otherwise we wouldn't do them."
If that is the case, expect more hot dog mashups on to pop up on menus.
"I think this is an industry where if something is successful, it becomes a trial for other brands," Tristano said.