For the eager beaver who wants to break into the drive-in business but hasn't the capital to do so, there's a lesson to be learned from Mrs. Doris Cole, proprietor of the little "Brown House" in Auburn, Ind. By all standards, the Brown House should have remained the simple hot dog stand of nine years ago, for:
1) it violated the rules of a good location 2) it didn't advertise or promote 3) the menu was too simple 4) there was no thought of expansion 5) and, of course, it was a hot dog stand.
Today, the inconspicuous hot dog stand has grown into a busy carry out operation with an annual sales volume of $70,000 to $80,000.
Checking her books, Mrs. Cole is able to report that the Brown House shows a gain of $50 daily over the same day a year ago and $100 each weekend over similar weekends a year ago.
Of course, the little hot dog stand has grown too, but not as a result of capital investment.
Actually, the Brown House has grown in two jump and now measures 25 ½ by 11 ½ feet. An 8 by 11 ½ foot addition was made last winter--the original little Brown House was 6 by 8 feet. It rests on a small plot of ground which is leased at $15 monthly, with an option to purchase.
The Brown House annual payroll of approximately $35,000 covers six neighborhood housewives working the lunch hours from eleven to one and six to seven housewives working the dinner and evening shift. Approximately $15,000 is spent on food, supplies, utilities, etc.
First sales nine years ago were limited to custard cones, expanded shortly after to hot dogs and hamburgers.
Mrs. Cole operated the business from the start, assisted by her husband in the evenings and on weekends. Since his death two years ago, Mrs. Cole has operated the business with the assistance of her sister, Mrs. Naomi Harper.
While hamburger sales are the backbone of the Brown House operation, a chicken dinner and fish dinner are good sellers. The chicken dinner consists of one-half chicken, french fries, cole slaw, salad, biscuit and butter for $1.25. The fish dinner, a good seller on Fridays, consists of breaded fish, a good portion of french fries, cole slaw, roll and butter and tarter sauce for $1.00. Hot dogs are fortified with a meat sauce which has a hamburger base. Hamburger patties weigh three ounces.
The balance of the menu consists of coffee, milk, cold drinks, malted milks, shakes, etc.
Most patrons drive up to either of two windows, give their orders and take them home or eat on the premises. The lot can accommodate 20-25 cars. A good percentage of the orders are called in by telephone with a time set for pick-up.
The remarkable efficiency developed in preparation of food, storage of various items and necessary clean-up, stems from efficient use of space.
Both sides and one end of the small building are lined with kitchen equipment, work areas, beverage dispensers, make tables, etc. The other end of the small building has additional equipment on either side of the centered door.
By careful placement of equipment, Mrs. Cole has been able to create space in the center of the building for other equipment and work tables. Thus, the little building has two working aisles running lengthwise. With all the obstacles confronting Mrs. Cole to make the little Brown House, a growing venture, the big success factor is a high-quality, limited menu. Under the skilled hand of "housewife cookery." Auburn residents have learned by word of mouth that the little Brown House is big in value, big in quality and big in service.