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. Paul (2014-04-14 17:53:08) My name is Mr Paul Ferdinand, i am from Chicago USA, married, i have been searching for a genuine loan company for the past 3 months and all i got was bunch of scams who made me to trust them and at the end of the day, they took my money without giving anything in return, all my hope was lost, i got confused and frustrated,i find it very difficult to feed my family, i never wanted to have anything to do with loan companies on net, so went to borrow some money from a friend, i told him all that happened and he said he can help me, that he knows a loan company that can help me, that he just got a loan from them, he directed me on how to apply for the loan, i did as he told me, i applied, i never believed but i tried and to my greatest surprise i got the loan within 24 hours, i could not believe, i am happy and rich again and i am thanking God that such loan companies like this still exist upon this scams all over the places, please i advise everyone out there who are in need of loan to go to richardstrustfunds@gmail.com they will never fail, your life shall change as mine did.

  2. What became of this project? Anyone know?

  3. Scott, could you post an enlarged photo of the exterior of the building? This will be a great addition to Walnut Street. This area will only continue to develop with additions like this. Also, please give us more updates on the "Cultural Trail light" expansion. Also a great move for the city, as long as there is maintenance money set aside.

  4. Great story IBJ! Citizens don't have a real sense of the financial magnitude of supporting Indy's sports and tourism sector. The CIB was a brilliant idea for creating a highly integrated public-private partnership to support this sector from the economic activity it generates. Unfortunately, most folks think the benefits of that economic activity accrue directly to the City budget, and it doesn't. So though the CIB is facing lean times (covering its costs while maintaining minimally acceptable reserves), the City is operating with deficit - less tax revenue than expenses each year - with a very fragile reserve balance. That's why it's so challenging for the City to fund basic needs or new intitatives (e.g. pre-k education; new jail), and some credit rating agencies have downgraded Indy from it's past stellar AAA status. More reporting on City finances would be welcomed.

  5. Sure, I'll admit that it bugs me to see that the IBJ.COM censors it's blog posts almost as much as the D of I does when someone points out the falsehoods and fabrications. _____But I think it bothers me almost as much that Captain/Defender/Disciple get his yanked too. You see, those of us with a sense of integrity, humanity, compassion, and a need for fact based opinion WANT to see all of his screeds posted. It makes our point so much better than we can do it ourselves.