This past summer I was in Longboat Key, Florida for my company’s annual summer get-a-way seminar. It’s a fast-paced week of educational meetings, beach activities, social receptions and group dinners, but as far as work goes, if you can do it on a beach in Florida, it’s a good day.

I usually have one night during that week without commitments or dinner plans. My brother-in-law and I were craving hamburgers, French fries, chicken wings, fried cheese; anything greasy that we don’t normally eat. We asked around for recommendations and decided on the Salty Dog Restaurant just over the causeway off of Longboat Key Island.

“Their ‘Salty Dog’ was featured on Man vs. Food a few years ago. And the locals love it,” the resort concierge told us. We were sold.

We sat down and ordered a pound and a half of peel n’ eat shrimp to start followed by two Salty Dogs.

It was love at first sight.

The Salty Dog is a fully loaded foot-long hot dog deep-fried in beer batter and then placed into a bun. To make it interesting they top it with grilled onions and mushrooms, sauerkraut, four kinds of cheese and four strips of bacon. The owner, who is a British transplant that settled in Sarasota, calls it a “heart attack on a plate.”

The crazy part: they sell about 150 of these… a day.

Just to get a handle on the magnitude of this, we added up all the calories while we were eating. Here’s what we came up with:


  • Foot-long hot dog with bun = 560
  • Deep fried in beer batter = 250
  • Grilled onions and mushrooms = 50
  • Sauerkraut = 30
  • Eight slices of cheeses = 560
  • Four strips of bacon = 280
  • Basket of fries = 600
  • Total calories = 2300

It’s world famous and it was fabulous.

So the question is, how do they sell 150 Salty Dogs every day (Which by the way is what this entire article is about)?

Is it about the hot dog?

Do people walk into this restaurant and think to themselves, “I’m really craving a hot dog,” see this on the menu and then order it?


In fact, are hot dogs typically popular items on restaurant menus to begin with?

No. Maybe on kid’s menus.

What’s even more interesting is that I’m pretty health conscious. I normally would not ever order a 2300 calorie meal. That’s more than I eat in an entire day. In order to get me to buy this, you would really have to sell me. But they didn’t. Why?

What is it that people are actually buying? They are buying all the stuff on the hotdog. The condiments, the packaging, the service, the creativity, the environment, the experience… the story. “It was on Man vs. Food and I ate it!”

It’s the thing that doesn’t seem to be the point, that is actually way more important than we think.

The hot dog is the main point of the dish, but it’s not the most important part.

Sure a better hot dog is appreciated. They could have created the world’s healthiest hot dog. It could have been their own proprietary recipe and it could have been the best tasting hot dog ever. They could have bragged about how great this hot dog was. They could have centered the whole menu or the whole restaurant even around this amazing hot dog. And what happens? Nothing. No sales.

Because the truth is, if you want to sell 150 hot dogs every day, it’s all the other “stuff.”

When it comes to your business it can be real easy to focus on the… well… the business. It’s natural to make the whole thing about the quality of the product or service.

It’s the main point, but it’s not the most important part.

And when people are buying your “service,” it’s actually all the other “stuff” they’re buying: the friendliness, the environment, the experience, the story, the condiments.

We can market “better mousetraps” all we want. We can build our entire career and businesses around it. In the end, you may not get the results you were expecting.

When it comes to marketing, one of the best questions you can ask is, “What are we selling?” Look past the actual product. Look past the actual service and talk about all the other “stuff” that doesn’t seem to be important… but is actually the main point.