Food & Drink Awards 2019 Page 59 Located in the heart of Belfast, just across the road from the Ulster Museum, is a Gourmet HotDOG house like no other on this side of the Atlantic. We caught up with Nicholas Turkington to find out more… HappyDOG Hot DOGs: Best Takeaway Restaurant 2019 - County Antrim ‘The concept is simple,’ says Nicholas. ‘Fresh, local produce, handmade in store to provide a gourmet street food offering unlike any other.’ It sounds simple, but it certainly seems to be a recipe for success. HappyDOG Hot DOGs has set itself apart from the rest of the fast food sector with its use of quality ingredients, precision cooking and making everything in-house. “Sourcing all of our own ingredients, producing our own sausages and even pickling our own pickles puts us in control,” states Nicholas. It’s this control over every aspect of the restaurant, from food to staff, that really pushes HappyDOG Hot DOGs above the rest of the pack. “Each element from the bread, sauce, sausage and toppings are under constant scrutiny to ensure they are the best.” Nicholas points out, and indeed the variety of combinations that can be made from the various options is staggering, creating a veritable smorgasbord of culinary delights. “With 6 sausages, 3 types of bread, 10 sauces and 14 toppings to choose from, we are sure there is something for everyone,” Nicholas’s pride over the menu, and its diversity, is evident. “In the beginning we added a vegetarian sausage or DOG to the menu thinking this would help to satisfy a customer base that we didn’t feel would become a huge part of our business. We quickly noticed a change in peoples’ eating habits and many were asking for a vegan option. As such we invented the veganDOG which is becoming one of the most popular options on the menu.” It’s this ability to adapt to changing times and tastes and explore unfamiliar territory that really distinguishes HappyDOG Hot DOGs in the food industry. To Nicholas, however, setting his business apart from the rest has been the easy part. “We are selling something that no one else is and I ask you to search for another Gourmet hotDOG House this side of the Atlantic. We are the first ones doing what we do, so standing out is the easy part.” Certainly, another key to Nicholas’s vision is the way his staff are trained. Not content to rest on his laurels, each new team member undergoes a two-week induction process, learning each and every process behind the making of the perfect hotDOG. “This teaches the individual everything, from the particular way we chop lettuce, to the way we interact with the customer, and how to cook the perfect fries,” Nicholas says. By all regards, this diligence has paid off. By making sure that his staff have the confidence of knowing how everything is made and put together allows them to wholeheartedly focus on exceptional customer service. When asked what challenges he has faced running the business, and why it has managed to succeed, Nicholas says “there is always a honeymoon period when you first open the doors but to build a long- lasting customer base who frequent your establishment on a regular basis takes time. As such the most important thing to ensure success is to maintain your consistency. Each DOG has to be as good as the last, or even better.” This determination to serve food of a consistently high standard is at the heart of the whole business and undoubtably a major factor in its continuing success. Looking forward, Nicholas has just opened a second kitchen, and is looking for ways in which that can be used to further expand the business. “This is primarily a prep kitchen that will be used to increase our usage production and experiment with seasonal special ideas that we can run throughout the year.” Alongside the second kitchen are plans to expand into the events market, perhaps attending festivals, city events or Christmas markets. With extra capacity opening up, and new opportunities presenting themselves, it seems that this DOGs day is far from over. Contact: Nicholas Turkington Company: HappyDOG Hot DOGs Email: [email protected] Telephone: 07503 419740 “Each element from the bread, sauce, sausage and toppings are under constant scrutiny to ensure they are the best... With 6 sausages, 3 types of bread, 10 sauces and 14 toppings to choose from, we are sure there is something for everyone.”