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Despite the name of this fast food chain, it does not serve up the famous German cutlet “Wiener Schnitzel”. The start of this mysteriously named hot dog business began in the 1960s in California and is, even to this day, popular with Americans. But what is behind the name of this chain? This article will unravel the interesting mystery behind why Americans refer to hot dogs as Wiener schnitzel.

Whether you are at a baseball game or grabbing a quick bite to eat from a street vendor, you will most likely come across America’s most popular meat dish – the wiener. Especially popular at BBQ parties in the summer, they are served in a bun with a tasty sauce and this you can call a hot dog! This somewhat explains the meaning behind this fast food chain’s name, since the sausages are called “wiener” in English as well as German. Another explanation has been given by the founder himself. He claims this extraordinary name is being used as a simple marketing trick. His goal was to attract the attention of soon-to-be consumers with the strange label.

The hot dog is conquering the U.S.

Wienerschnitzel, the first and for a while the only business of its kind, was founded in 1961 by John Galardi in Wilmington, a suburb of Los Angeles. As a matter of fact, the first shop is still in business today with a lot of flair and a nostalgic atmosphere for all its fans. In December 2013, the Los Angeles City Council added the original building to its registry for historic and cultural landmarks. What once started as a single booth, is now serving more than 120 million hot dogs per year and calls itself one of the best-liked fast food chain across the States.

The founder of Wienerschnitzel, John Galardi, discovered the world of fast food as an employee of Taco Bell at the age of 19. There, he met his mentor and role model Greg Bell who inspired him in many ways. Only four years later, John Galardi founded his own business – the business with the strange name “Der Wienerschnitzel”. The German article “der” was dropped in 1977, thus shortening the name a bit. Nowadays, Wienerschnitzel has become very widespread with over 350 locations in ten states and Guam. The first generation of buildings had a recognizable A-Frame style with significant red, yellow and white designs. Moreover, Galardi became well-known for establishing one of the first known drive-throughs. His drive-through guided customers and their cars right through the middle of the building. The strategy behind this new idea was to reduce costs. He made the most out of the slender and sleek structure of the building, fast customer service and optimized the use of a persistent space problem. This remarkable efficiency was beneficial for the customers who could get a regular hot dog for 15 cents, a chili dog for 30 and soft drinks for a mere 10 cents.

Hot Mops Wienerschnitzel Fast Food Special

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Even today, Wienerschnitzel is a family-owned business which takes its responsibility towards its employees and customers seriously and strives to provide a unique experience combined with good quality. The founder John Galardi seemed to have written his own marvelous “from rags to riches” story. Growing up on a farm in the country, he later went on to earn a fortune – but not without some ups and downs – in his career as a businessman. He died at the age of 75 in 2013.

A standard order? Not at Wienerschnitzel

The menu at Wienerschnitzel includes a range of 14 different hot dogs, some burgers and fries. Getting ready to order, you can choose between three different types of sausages, a wheat or pretzel bun and a huge selection of toppings like chili, bacon, cheese or even something fancy like kraut. The chili dog covered in a special hot sauce has been a particular favorite on the menu since the very first day and is a must-try.  Those with a sweet tooth can get their fill of treats from “Tastee-Freez”. Desserts vary from milkshakes to ice cream and more. All in all, Wienerschnitzel’s prices have also stayed very reasonable.

Social commitment

In March this year, Wienerschnitzel sponsored the second annual hot dog tour for the homeless. The event was organized with the help of the non-profit organization “Skate for change”. The truck stopped in 13 larger cities spread across California, Texas, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico and targeted communities with a large homeless population. Donations included, besides hot dogs, clothes and other goods. In the same breath, the people in charge also used this occasion to go into the schools and give lectures hinting towards social responsibility and caring for people who are less fortunate.

Would you like to live the American Dream? Get to know people with similar stories like John Galardi or even be one of these people? Or do you simply want to eat one of the famous chili dogs from Wienerschnitzel? It is never too late to register for the Green Card Lottery and take part in the American lifestyle. Who knows? You could write the next rags to riches story in the United States of America!

Key Facts 

Official name: Wienerschnitzel

Official website: www.wienerschnitzel.com

Established: 1961

Founder: John Galardi

First Store: 900 West Pacific Coast Highway, East of Figueroa Street Wilmington, Southern California

Bestseller: Hot dogs

Slogan: "World’s Most Wanted Wiener"

Milestones:

  • 1961: Opening of the first hot dog booth
  • 1962: Drive-through opened
  • 1968: Offer of $20 million for the business
  • 1973: First hamburgers added to the menu
  • 1975: Peak expansion for the fast food chain Wienerschnitzel
  • 1986: Dennis Tase becomes president
  • 1990: Franchise with “Tastee-Freez”
  • Today: 120 million hot dogs per year; 350 locations all over America

Interesting facts:

  • The first hot dogs were sold for only 15 cents, the famous Chili Dog for 30 cents and soft drinks for 10 cents
  • The idea to sell baked beans as a side dish to the hot dogs failed, instead they serve fires
  • The campaign “We’re not just hotdogs” was initiated in 1981 and featured the baseball star Reggie Jackson 
  • John Galardi took a 5-year-long break at the age of 39 and lived e.g. on a boot in the Bahamas
  • The annual “Wiener Nationals - Race for the Underdog” have been taking place since 1995  and boasts awards and lots of fun
  • Celebrity: Mariah Carey's Ex-husband Nick Cannon used to work for Wienerschnitzel but got fired after taking orders at the Drive-Thru making funny jokes about customers in their cars: “I got fired,” Cannon says. “I had to do the drive-through, so I would be telling jokes through the window, picking on people in their cars. You put a microphone in front of me...I’m going to tell some jokes” (NYTimes). Oops!

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