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« Hot Doug Drop: Delivering Encased Meats to the Loop Chicago Becomes Roundy(s) »

News Wed Apr 08 2009

Hot Doug Drop Down but Not Necessarily Out

nodougdrop.jpgIt didn't take long for our story about Hot Doug Drop to make the rounds about town yesterday, but before the day was done, the unofficial Hot Doug's delivery service was put on hold after restaurant owner Doug Sohn talked with Drop owners Nico Westlund and Greg Michaels. The services website was updated with the message, "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 had that discussion with Doug," Westlund told me this afternoon. "Things are cordial and this morning we were able to meet to discuss things." He said Sohn didn't give them much hope that a full-blown delivery service would return, "but we may be able to use this notion of group buys in some way," operating more like a catering set-up than its current form. "The possibilities are still there, and we're excited to be able to work with Doug," Westlund said.

Sohn was less encouraging when I contacted him after the restaurant closed today. "I told them to present something to me, that I'm always willing, certainly, to listen, but that I wouldn't be hopeful."

Quality control was a major concern of Sohn's in the discussion this morning, Westlund said. According to Sohn, it wasn't the only concern: "The liability aspect started to occur to me, among so many factors, and I was like, yeah, this is going to stop."

Westlund said that the response to news of the service has been overwhelmingly positive, with people requesting drop locations in other neighborhoods around the city, such as Wicker Park. He shared that interest in Hot Doug Drop had him thinking about a broader "bike concierge" service that could deliver delicacies from a number of restaurants -- Kuma's Corner, for instance, which suffers from the same high demand-to-space ratio problems as Hot Doug's. If something along those lines ever develops, we'll let you know.

As for Sohn, he reiterated that he has "absolutely zero plans" to expand in any way. "The part that I like to do, I couldn't do if I were bigger or more that one or a larger kind of set-up. You know, it's the day-to-day, talking to the customers, making up prices as I go along -- you know, that aspect of the job, that's the part I like. And I would totally forfeit all of that if I were to change anything for the bigger."

For the rest of us, it's back in line. Don't worry, it moves fast.

 

tommy d / April 9, 2009 2:16 AM

not sure why people are so enthralled with this Hot Doug's place whose owner is a control freak. he is lucky to have business in this economy. time for someone to duplicate his gig and take over his business! gee whiz

clodius / April 9, 2009 9:51 AM

Tommy D -

It's called quality control and keeping the purity of the brand. It's the reason there are lines out the door and why he doesn't want his name on a product that gets squashed and cold traveling halfway across the city. Luck has nothing to do with it.

jackson93 / April 9, 2009 10:34 AM

it's not being a control freak to not want someone profiting from your hard work. it's also not being a control freak to want to present your product and your business the way you want - that's called being a business owner. doug could sue this guy, but he's just asking him to stop. that's a more decent response than most people would have.

jen / April 9, 2009 11:42 AM

blah blah blah tommy -- if you don't like it, don't patronize the business. the fewer people in line the better for me!

art / April 9, 2009 12:22 PM

I just saw a banner on the EL this morning that Grub Hub delivers 1500 restaurants to your door. Or 1200? Somewhere in that range. All of these deliveries are made by automobile (I'm sure there are a few walking deliveries but not likely). Bike messenger should become legit and start his own order guide with these cool independents and scoot around town with a little fleet of bikes delivering food without creating a carbon footprint.

jen / April 9, 2009 1:20 PM

also, andrew, i see the trib picked up on your scoop:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-talk_hotdougapr09,0,1779125.story

MSM is dead.

E L / April 9, 2009 1:33 PM

There's a shorthand way to refer to "business owners who are also control freaks":

Successful.

William / April 9, 2009 5:43 PM

What Mssrs. Westlund and Michaels provided was a service that was clearly deceptive, if not outright illegal, and Mr. Sohn has the right to be miffed.

Additionally, poster "Tommy D" is ostensibly not familiar with one of - no joke - Chicago's finest eateries. Suggesting that someone could "duplicate (Sohn's) gig" is laughable. Hell, I'd love for there to be multiple Doug's locations with more square footage, but absolutely not at the cost of the quality of Mr. Sohn's brand.

Andy Swindler / April 9, 2009 6:59 PM

Couldn't agree more. I'll admit that first couple of times I ate there I found myself asking these questions. Why doesn't he expand, etc.? Well, the easy answer is that he doesn't want to since he knows it would diminish his passion for the business. That passion is EXACTLY why the food and experience are so good.

Brand is more than a formula, it relates to every aspect of the experience with a company and its product, and that's why people go back for more.

Kronon / April 9, 2009 9:06 PM

Additionally, poster "Tommy D" is ostensibly not familiar with one of - no joke - Chicago's finest eateries. Suggesting that someone could "duplicate (Sohn's) gig" is laughable.

Wait a minute here---I have eaten at Dougs a few times. Granted, it is good food--but it certainly isn't something entirely un-reproducible.

His recipes are really quite simple--very creative, mind you, but simple in terms of prep.

I've worked in the restaurant biz for years and I can tell you that it would be quite easy to replicate Doug's menu.

He is making a pretty simple product--the reason its so good is because of quality control over ingredients & prep. That doesn't require any culinary sense, necessarily--rather a good business and organizational acumen (which Doug clearly has).

There are A LOT of obstacles to start a restaurant--being able to duplicate the food is actually the easiest part.

More difficult is finding help, location, financing, etc....

I think that it would actually be pretty easy to replicate Doug's gig if you had a sense of quality control and the willingness to put up with the non-food BS aspects of the restaurant industry.

Doug's is good--but it aint rocket scien

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