Food Friday: Dat Dog, not just a man’s best friend

Dat Dog currently has three locations spread across the city of New Orleans. The Freret location of the establishment is a city hot-spot; the colors of red, blue, green, and yellow exude from every table and chair in the casual food joint. Dat Dog is known for their customizable hot dogs, featuring eight total types of meat dogs, four vegan dogs, and over thirty toppings. The average meal ranges from eight to twelve dollars, features a total of 64 menu options, and there is usually little to no wait for service and food.

Dat Dog’s way of personalizing hot dogs connects within the idea that personalization of food is known for improving individuals’ quality of life. The personalization of foods allows individuals to choose meal options that fit their preferences based on food history, dietary restrictions, or sensory sensitivities – all which Dat Dog caters to. Their menu features categories like “Chicken & Fish” for the pesce-pollotarians and “Eat Fit NOLA” for those following the city’s healthy-eating guidelines. The availability of such extensive choices makes people feel both unique and catered to when they are able to have it their way. It is also shown that people are less likely to be unsatisfied with customization and the decision-making process while personalizing their order. When people customize their order the first time, they are more likely to stick with it to make things easier the next time because they know it will turn out the same.

By breaking down their menu into sections based on type of food/dietary restrictions, the customer can locate their desired food selection with ease – thus expressing authority over what exactly they choose to eat.This appeal of customization extends beyond picky eaters or dietary restrictions and has even set a new trend in the food industry, which Dat Dog has latched onto. Restaurant’s such as Starbucks, & Pizza and Sweet Green – to name a few – that feature customizable menu options are increasing in popularity around the United States. The increase within customization creates an atmosphere where any individual’s health goals, taste preferences or dietary restrictions can be accommodated.

They are so well-liked because they allow individuals to express autonomy in choice, while expressing themselves through food. Eating environments such as Dat Dog allow consumers to know exactly what is going into their meal and offer a promise of control and knowledge to the public.

Dat Dog’s menu items can be described as stereotypical “comfort foods”. Comfort foods are those that tend to release an emotional response or trigger a temporary stress release effect due to dopamine release. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that induces our human experience of pleasure. Comfort foods have been researched to contain high calorie content, which in turn causes a dopamine flood to induce pleasure. Highly caloric food includes sugar and carbohydrates, which Dat Dog exemplifies through their hot dog buns as well as their snow cone bar (among other delicacies).

While humans do need food for biological needs, food serves a multitude of purposes beyond satisfying this innate desire. Eating serves as an emotional support and socialization factor in our society. Dat Dog is located a short bike ride or walk to Tulane University and Loyola University campuses where many students seek out stress relief; in fact, according to research by the Associated Press, 80% of college students frequently experience stress in their daily lives in a three month span comparable to about a semester at these universities. In these stressful instances, many college students long for the feeling of home, causing them to crave comfort foods that remind them of past happiness.

One example is pizza; it is commonly eaten in social settings around friends and can improve moods and extend comfort, while building connections between people. Dat Dog has outdoor and indoor gathering spaces for large groups to socialize, eat and drink. Research has shown that high caloric food and social laughter are said to release endorphins in the brain. As mentioned earlier, comfort foods and these group settings release endorphins which can make students feel joyful to counteract their stress in a given moment. These foods are thus connected to personal relationships and desire from each person’s own take on their hot dog dining experience.

It is proven that comfort food reminds us of past social ties and can decrease the feeling of loneliness in times of isolation and can bring on effects of nostalgia to lonely or homesick college students. Dat Dog has many large picnic tables in their outdoor seating area tthese tables are long and shared tables where people typically sit close to others they don’t know. This not only fosters closeness between the individuals you are dining with, but also between the other patrons in the restaurant who were previously unknown to you. At Dat Dog, it is not uncommon to overhear conversations and laughter between groups of people who were strangers merely minutes ago.

Additionally, Dat Dogs ordering style involves ordering up front, paying as soon you arrive, and sitting down after. The waiter then comes up to your table once to deliver food and the rest of the time there will be no interruptions. This allows customers to socialize fully with who they are dining with without any unwanted interruption that may disturb a train of thought or flow of conversation.

Most U.S. cities proudly serve hot dogs; they are an American classic. Hot dog stands litter the streets of tourist hot spots like New York City and D.C., and while toppings differ  based on location, a few features always remain the same. Hot dogs are accessible, easy to eat on the go, and appealing to virtually everyone due to their ability to be fully customized. Dat Dog has capitalized on the idea of what makes a hot dog feel like home to such a diverse crowd, providing dozens of toppings and thousands of possible combinations that give virtually every customer the ability to find the topping that they associate with home. Hot dog sales skyrocketed 127% in 2020, becoming America’s top pandemic food-of-choice. This data illustrates that when American citizens were in need of comfort during the emotionally and physically taxing times that the COVID-19 pandemic induced, they turned to a surefire remedy: hot dogs. Americas second place favorite food is a hot dog. Dat Dog is able to capitalize on this by attracting consumers to come eat one of the most well-known foods in the US. The blunt truth is there is no universal comfort food, as everyone has their own upbringing and culture; yet, hot dogs are well-loved and individuals preferences for how they like their hot-dog are perfectly catered to by Dat Dog.



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