Jul 28, 2023 - Food and Drink

Daddy's Dogs continues rapid Nashville expansion

Daddy's Dogs' El Papi Grande, which is topped with bacon and pico de gallo. Photo: Nate Rau/Axios

Like many entrepreneurs before him, Sean Porter started building an empire out of his garage.

Flashback: Weary from years working as a road manager for a slate of touring artists, he decided on a new career centered around another one of his great loves: the hot dog.

  • So Porter, known to friends and employees as Big Daddy, launched his company Daddy's Dogs in 2015.
  • He prepped the food in his garage and set up a cart at the Music Row roundabout.

On his first day, he sold one measly hot dog.

  • Luckily, he stuck to it, because a lot has changed since then.

What's new: Daddy's Dogs recently announced it is adding locations in Madison and The Factory at Franklin.

  • The new spots join several other locations, including the flagship in the Nations; satellite kiosks at Nissan Stadium, Geodis Park and Printers Alley; and multiple late-night carts.

Why it matters: The rapid expansion of Daddy's Dogs provides an important counterbalance to the influx of critically acclaimed restaurants like Locust and Bastion.

  • To be a truly great food scene, a city needs to blend high-end James Beard noms with vibrant street food, dive bars and food trucks.

Between the lines: The Madison location of Daddy's Dogs, which is expected to open next year, is unlike the other locations because it will have indoor dining and assemble-as-you-order counter service. (Think Chipotle or Subway.)

  • If it works, Porter says, it could establish a model for future franchising efforts.

State of play: The company has grown to about 45 workers since the Nations location opened five years ago.

  • "It's one thing to have 30 really high-end restaurants. But let's be real, not everyone can go to those," Porter says.
  • "To have something that's available to everybody, that's what we do. Hopefully, it's doing that gourmet thing without having to break the bank."

The intrigue: Creative marketing has made Porter something of a social media star and sets Daddy's Dogs apart from typical chains.

  • "I don't think very many owners would be comfortable getting naked in an apron and having some dude take a picture of them and blast it all over the internet. But, you know, I don't mind. I'm willing to see what happens and have fun with it."
  • "If you're not having fun, there's no point doing it."

On the menu: Daddy's Dogs serves their enormous hot dogs in grilled buns. The menu ranges from hot dog staples — chili cheese dogs, corndogs and Chicago-style — to creative monthly specials.

  • This month's special is the El Papi Grande, which is topped with bacon and pico de gallo.

The bottom line: "I don't want to serve something that isn't a banger."


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