Rise and Grind: A Hot Dog Success Story
What happened when a small wagyu beef retailer got a huge boost from some press coverage.
During his time the U.S. Army, combat veteran Patrick Montgomery learned to think on his feet. He couldn’t have known at the time that an increased demand for all-beef hot dogs would one day put those skills to the test.
Montgomery founded Kansas City Cattle Company in 2016, an online wagyu beef retailer. In early August, Food & Wine gave a hot dog from the company a glowing review:
“This hot dog blew us away. The umami! The spice! The beefiness! It was basically like eating a steak in a bun, or an elevated “tube steak,” if you will,” it read. “Although it doesn’t strictly remind me of a hot dog in flavor, I’m 100 percent sold—it also stands up to toppings really well, and the flavor still comes through.”
The company, which sells more cuts of wagyu beef than packaged meats, hadn’t seen this level of press ever. After three days, KC Cattle Company racked up $250,000 in sales—more than double its sales over the previous seven months combined. It completely sold out of every product on the site, from $9.99 soup bones to a $135 beef package.
Though unexpected, Montgomery welcomed the boon in business. “After a brief celebration when we realized this was going to be big time, a cold sweat rolled down my face as I figured out a plan to get 7,500 packages of hot dogs out the door in the next six to seven weeks,” he said.
Complicating matters, the hot dogs were one of the company’s worst sellers, and the company only had 40 packages of hot dogs in stock when the article hit.
Montgomery got to work immediately, rebuilding his business literally overnight. He mobilized his available livestock, touched base with vendors and processors, and hired additional employees to help with the skyrocketing demand.
He also recognized that, at this scale, the company’s costs were unsustainable. Thankfully, getting thrown into the proverbial fire has its perks. “Our problem with shipping a pack of hot dogs for $37.99 was we were still losing money on shipping. Luckily, I had 4,000 orders as negotiating leverage.” The company now enjoys far more favorable shipping terms, something Montgomery said was critical to the company’s ability to stay afloat.
Overnight success spurred permanent changes to the way the company operates. It no longer offers back-ordering, and instead relies on weekly inventory updates to its mailing list and Facebook community—many of whom are repeat customers.
Months later, Montgomery said he still doesn’t have a grasp of the right inventory levels. Every time he adds more, the company continues to sell out. (Get those holiday orders in now!)
His advice to others in similar situations comes straight from his military training. “Don’t panic,” he said. “Fear and negative thinking don’t help you in a situation like this. You just accept this is your Super Bowl, and it’s time to step up to the plate. Rise and grind, baby!”