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News Tue Apr 07 2009
Knowing just how hard it is for some people working in the Loop to make it up to encased meats emporium Hot Doug's, Nico Westlund, a nationally ranked bike messenger, and his friend Gary Michaels have launched Hot Doug Drop, a service that lets you email or fax in your order and have it delivered to one of two "drop" locations in lobbies of the Mercantile Exchange, 20 S. Wacker Dr., and Chicago Board of Trade, 140 W. Van Buren St., at 11:30am and 1:30pm. The service was launched a couple weeks ago for the benefit of friends who worked at the trading centers. "I used to deliver Bari Foods, and saw how much the people at the BOT appreciated having Bari in the middle of the day," Westlund said. "The idea of having Hot Doug's at a boardroom meeting is so appealing." The service was expanded beyond friends at the end of last week, and its Facebook page already has 170 fans.
Hot Doug Drop is unaffiliated with the restaurant, and charges $1 per dog for delivery. Hot Doug's owner Doug Sohn is not pleased.
"The problem is, he's charging a fee," Sohn said. Unlike the person who created the @hotdougs Twitter account -- "That doesn't bother me, as long as they're not saying anything negative and they're not doing it outside my bedroom window," Sohn quipped -- Hot Doug Drop is profiting off the project, which in Sohn's eyes makes it morally questionable. After all, a big part of the Hot Doug's experience is the anticipation -- going and standing in line. If Hot Doug Drop turns out to be a big success, those orders are going to slow down production for the in-store customers, who've spent up to an hour waiting outside the store. Hot Doug's doesn't allow phone-in orders on Saturdays, and requires a $10 minimum on take-out orders on Fridays in order to accommodate the crowds, so the burden of fulfilling orders for delivery might be too much to bear. The fact that someone else is essentially setting up a for-profit delivery service, albeit a small and targeted one, on the back of his business without his consent also clearly bothered Sohn.
"I know the guy who started it, and I'm going to talk to him about shutting it down the next time I see him," Sohn said. When I spoke to Westlund today, he knew the conversation was coming. "It went from us having 30 dogs to it ramping up to where we might be too much of a burden on Doug," he said. "We've been refining the process, and it may refined into powder," and acknowledged that it probably would have been a good idea to run the idea past Sohn before building the business beyond a few friends. Westlund hoped to meet with Sohn today to discuss how the Drop might team up with the restaurant to keep it going.
We'll keep you posted on whether the Hot Doug Drop survives. In the meantime, you may want to get your order for tomorrow ready now.
UPDATE: Hot Doug Drop has posted notice on its website that it's halting delivery temporarily. According to the statement on the site, "We're taking time off for Passover and working out some kinks with the Sultan of Sausage... Please be patient, as we may have angered the Big Dog." We'll keep an eye on developments in the coming days.
UPDATE 2: Hot Doug Drop Down but not Necessarily Out -- follow-up with Westlund & Sohn