INSIDE DISH: King David Dogs nabs bigger digs

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Inside Dish

Welcome back to IBJ’s video feature “Inside Dish: The Business of Running Restaurants.”

Our subject this week is King David Dogs, the high-end downtown hot-dog spot created by the grandson of a local 1940s butchery entrepreneur. Fed up with his job selling commercial property insurance, Brent Joseph decided to gamble on resurrecting the family brand and opened the first King David Dogs location in November 2006.

The King David brand was originally developed by Indianapolis-based Hene Meat Co. Joseph’s grandfather William Hene, and William’s brother Paul, started the firm in the 1940s after emigrating from Germany. Located at 16th Street and Capitol Avenue, the company offered a wide array of meat products, but the most popular was the signature “King David” quarter-pound, all-beef hot dog that also sold in area grocery stores. Hene Meat Co. ceased operations in the 1990s.

“I’d always regretted not being able to do something with the meat company and the King David brand,” said Joseph, 36. “And my wife said, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s get the hot dogs made and open a restaurant.’”

After excavating the original recipe for the franks from a family attic—written in the original German, no less—Joseph cut a deal with Milwaukee-based Usinger’s Famous Sausage to produce the hot dogs. He then spent about $180,000 of his personal savings on startup expenses for King David Dogs, which opened in a small downtown storefront at 15 N. Pennsylvania St.

“I basically took everything I had and took some savings that were left to me from my grandfather. I was able to take money that he left me and put it toward something he created,” Joseph said.

Joseph initially liked the downtown spot, hoping to capitalize on office workers looking for a quick lunch. But the 24-seat locale proved to be challenging: It wasn’t on any of the obvious foot-traffic routes for Circle Centre mall or the city’s convention facilities, and it wasn’t connected to a major office complex, which drove down sales during winter and other periods of inclement weather.

The location started turning a profit in 2009. (Joseph estimates that he has invested about $230,000 total in the restaurant so far, including funds to keep it afloat in the early days.)  In late 2008, a King David Dogs outpost opened in Concourse B of the Indianapolis International Airport. Airport concessions firm HMSHost Corp. worked out a licensing agreement with Joseph to take change of and operate the restaurant. (Joseph declined to provide details on revenue related to the deal.)

“We weren’t sure if we’d be able to staff it and handle that,” Joseph said of the airport location. “The build-out was quite costly. It wasn’t something we’d be able to take on ourselves. We thought we should leave that to someone who is more professional and has experience operating in airports.

“The negative about it is, I can’t put my employees out there, and I don’t have as much control over the employees there as I do here. But the exposure, I think, makes up for that.”

Gross sales at the downtown location hit about $250,000 in 2010, Joseph said. Concerned that the spot was close to maxing out its sales potential, Joseph started looking at options for expanding. He landed on a 3,700-square-foot space at 135 N. Pennsylvania St. in M&I Plaza.  

The much larger restaurant with room for as many as 70 seats is slated to open in mid-September, replacing the current location. Joseph has high hopes for the new restaurant, which will be located across the street from both the Chase Tower and Regions Bank Tower.

“We’re hoping to close to double our sales, with catering opportunities that are located in that building alone, as well as buildings across the street,” Joseph said. “And having triple the seating, I think, will help us tremendously.”

Joseph estimates that he’ll invest $80,000 to $100,000 in the new location, with the landlord covering some related costs. He has secured a small-business loan to finance a chunk of his expenses.

“I would have to say that my stress level is not near what it was when we opened this location originally—making the investment that I did and wondering if it was going to work,” he said. “I’m a little more confident in what we’re doing, in the brand and in the product.”

In the video at top, Joseph recounts the origins of the King David brand and his own extension of the family business. He also discusses the importance of location in attracting lunch customers and his hopes for the new eatery. In the video below, Joseph reflects on other elements of running the business, such as finding reliable employees and justifying $4-plus prices for an item that can be found at convenience stores for pocket change.

King David Dogs
15 N. Pennsylvania St.
(317) 632-3647
Concept: Hot-dog shop using family recipe for quarter-pound, all-beef franks dating back to the 1940s.
Founded: November 2006
Owners: Husband-and-wife Brent and Hannah Joseph
Startup costs: $180,000
Gross sales: $250,000 (2010)
Employees: 4
Seating: 24
Goals: To open a new location at 135 N. Pennsylvania St. that will allow seating for 65-70 guests. The Josephs expect that annual sales could double at the new location, which would replace the current eatery, through increased seating, catering opportunities and its stone's-throw proximity to some of downtown's largest office complexes.
Good to know: The King David Dogs eatery located in Concourse B of the Indianapolis International Airport is operated by HMSHost Corp., a world-wide specialist in airport concessions, which has a licensing agreement to run the King David Dogs location.



  • 3 Juno
    What a coincidence, I just finished reading the book 3 Juno. Could not put it down. It deals with the prophetic book Malachi as well as Job and the battle of Goliath and David. Compelling story of what could have been. I just checked the website and they are currently giving away 100 copies to commemorate this dig. Definitely worth your while.
  • Subscriber??
    Just wondering what is going on. All of a sudden every article now requires a IBJ membership. looks like i'll have to start getting business news elsewhere.
  • Right on Joe
    I agree with the hours. Open it up late and on weekends. I'd come down there every week. We need good places to grab a bite in that area. Everything closes so early.
  • The Best Dog Around
    I am a huge hot dog fan in general, but few dogs compare to King David's. They're absolutely terrific. I also like seeing a local businessman succeed in a very challenging restaurant environment.
  • Hours
    Please find at least one or two days a week that you can extend hours or for a brief period on saturday! I love KDD, but work out of DT and dont get back until after hours. Try to find a happy medium for residents as well.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Good Day I am Mr (Victoria Wright) from United state of America, i stayed in NEW YORK, and i have a broke up business, until i found this company email who help me to gain a loan for business,, and now i want to used this short medium to congratulate the below company for the fast and safe money they loan to me without any form of collateral, i loan 500,000USD from the company to save my business and lots more, i saw their mail on the internet, everyone always give testimony for what they did, so i quickly contacted them and they all did everything for me without stress and my money was sent to my account just 3 days later, i was surprise and i feel so glad, now i have a standard business control agent who help me, now i will advice those who need urgent loan to contact him at the bellow email:zenithfirm12@gmail.com

  2. NOTICE:This is to inform the general public that Vampires are real. My name is James Franklyn.,am an agent of vampire,am here to introduce our new world trend to you,a world of vampire where life get easier,we have made so many persons vampires and have turned them rich,you will be assured long life and prosperity,you shall be made to be very sensitive to mental alertness,stronger and also very fast,you will not be restricted to walking at night only even at the very middle of broad day light you will be made to walk.In case you are wildly oppressed by some unscrupulous persons we can still help you fight them.Your protection is assured immediately you join.Just contact the bellow email if you are interested we are here to attend to you anytime you want us. Contact the bellow email for more details. Email:vampirescreed@hotmail.com Sincerely: James Franklyn.

  3. Bravo! Someone else that is willing to speak the truth! Bravo!_____NBCSN is available in almost 2 MILLION more homes than just a few years ago, but Indycar STILL gets less total viewers than it did just a few years ago when NBC took over Versus. Attendance and ratings cratered with the end of season races (just when the title battle got "interesting" HAH!__________And now...new race in Basilia, where Miles celebrated the "rich history" of Indycar racing there. Rich history? What, 7 events in the 100 years of AOW? Yep, some history. Well, at least its an oval. It's not??? Are you kidding me??? Gosh darn road racin furriners.

  4. PURITY RAY LOAN OFFER........ Have you been denied by your banks,or are you in need of of an urgent loan to pay of your bills we are capable of giving loans @ cheaper rate to interested individuals, student, companies and members of the public in need of finance to settle bills, we do offer considerable loans which you can count on. For more information on our various types of loan,then you will have to contact PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM, to help you achieve your desire LOAN APPLICATION FORM TO BE FILLED BORROWERS INFORMATION * Full name:………………………. * SEX * ……………………………. * Country………………………….. * State:……………………………. * Land:…………………………….. * Occupation:…………………….. * phone number:…………………. * Telephone: ………………………….. * Age:………………………………. * Amount needed as loan:……… * Loan Duration:………………….. * Propose of Loan:……………….. * Annual revenue:………………… * Monthly Income:……………….. * Guarantee:………………………. * Payment: monthly or annually Email.....purityrayloanfirm@gmail.com Thank you and God bless Mr Purity Ray PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM we tend to serve you better

  5. Problem: most of the people responding to this article don't know about this service AT ALL! Why? Lack of awareness. This isn't IndyGo. This is CIRTA: might as well be the mattress company because they are asleep at the wheel - something like 3 directors over the last year? Playing with federal grant money is great! This "region" wants commuter rail service, has spent MILLIONS on Transportation studies yet can't even support a commuter bus line? This is largely for suburban riders to get to downtown - not for "service people to work in our hotels and restaurants" ! Get your head out of your backside!! These are professionals, students etc. that don't want to fight traffic, save some money on parking, gas, stress.... if CIRTA would put their federal money into widely promoting the sevive to Greenwood, Fishers & Carmel instead of finding directors and studies - this would be a successful service. Our family uses(d) it daily for the last several years - but the recent uncertainty & now unreliability due to cuts from Carmel has been a problem. Now, costs us an additional $350/month for gas & parking ( $4200/year) plus vehicle wear, service, environmental impact ... YES - this REGION needs this this type of service in order to keep growing and getting the people it needs to fill skilled positions in downtown Indianapolis. Think outside of your own car !!!