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. President Obama has referred to the ACA as "Obamacare" any number of times; one thing it is not, if you don't qualify for a subsidy, is "affordable".

  2. One important correction, Indiana does not have an ag-gag law, it was soundly defeated, or at least changed. It was stripped of everything to do with undercover pictures and video on farms. There is NO WAY on earth that ag gag laws will survive a constitutional challenge. None. Period. Also, the reason they are trying to keep you out, isn't so we don't show the blatant abuse like slamming pigs heads into the ground, it's show we don't show you the legal stuf... the anal electroctions, the cutting off of genitals without anesthesia, the tail docking, the cutting off of beaks, the baby male chicks getting thrown alive into a grinder, the deplorable conditions, downed animals, animals sitting in their own excrement, the throat slitting, the bolt guns. It is all deplorable behavior that doesn't belong in a civilized society. The meat, dairy and egg industries are running scared right now, which is why they are trying to pass these ridiculous laws. What a losing battle.

  3. Eating there years ago the food was decent, nothing to write home about. Weird thing was Javier tried to pass off the story the way he ended up in Indy was he took a bus he thought was going to Minneapolis. This seems to be the same story from the founder of Acapulco Joe's. Stopped going as I never really did trust him after that or the quality of what being served.

  4. Indianapolis...the city of cricket, chains, crime and call centers!

  5. "In real life, a farmer wants his livestock as happy and health as possible. Such treatment give the best financial return." I have to disagree. What's in the farmer's best interest is to raise as many animals as possible as quickly as possible as cheaply as possible. There is a reason grass-fed beef is more expensive than corn-fed beef: it costs more to raise. Since consumers often want more food for lower prices, the incentive is for farmers to maximize their production while minimizing their costs. Obviously, having very sick or dead animals does not help the farmer, however, so there is a line somewhere. Where that line is drawn is the question.