From a humble beachhead established in Hollywood more than seven decades ago, the storied hot-dog institution Pink’s is slating a national expansion.
“We are getting inquiries from licensees nationally. Typically, from operators in airports, amusement parks, casinos, cruise ships, stadiums, or open-air entertainment centers such as Universal City,” say Gloria Pink, Co-Owner.
“We have perfected the product and service, and the brand-name is becoming famous nationally.”
Pink’s has been loved by generations of stars and movieland denizens, operating from its now-iconic location at Melrose and La Brea in the heart of Hollywood.
From Alec Baldwin to Adam Sandler to Bill Cosby to Jay Leno, celebrities have braved long lines with commoners to get such only-at-Pink’s creations as the Martha Stewart Dog (named for the creator), the Ozzy Osbourne Dog, the Lord of the Rings Dog, or the Three Dog Night (three dogs in giant tortilla).
On a good day, more than 2,000 hot dogs are downed at Pink’s, and the ordering line stretches for a block.
With 30 varieties of hot dogs (and 12 types of hamburgers) patrons keep coming back.
Pink’s hot dogs are especially beloved for their natural casings, which “snap” when bitten into, bursting with proprietary flavors and spices.
The late Hollywood kingpin Aaron Spelling once told The New York Times he didn’t like Pink’s hot dogs much, and so ate there only “three times a week.”
Pink’s is never out of style—for example, the regular opening montage to the CBS late night talk show “Craig Ferguson” features a shot of Pink’s. The original hot-dog stand also recently hosted an entire episode of the “America’s Next Top Model” show, moderated by Tyra Banks.
In recent years, under tight quality control and with limited publicity, Gloria Pink along with her husband, Richard, and sister-in-law, Beverly, have presided over a seven-location expansion, establishing outlets at Harrah's Rincon Hotel & Casino near San Diego, CA; Knott's Berry Farm in Orange County, CA; Los Angeles International Airport; the Hollywood Park Casino near Los Angeles; Planet Hollywood Hotel in Las Vegas, Universal City Walk in Los Angeles; and the Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio.
In addition, there are several seasonal stands, including the Greek Theater in Los Angeles; the Los Angeles County Fair; the San Diego County Fair; the Ventura County Fair; the Orange County Fair; and the Southern California Fair.
The new locations have shined, and other venues are clamoring to license their own Pink’s.
“The controlled expansion is extremely successful, and has proven the right operators can bring Pink’s quality to a larger audience,” says Pink.
To preserve exacting standards, Pink’s selectively licenses to experienced companies that have 500 or more employees within their food-and-beverage divisions, currently operate several restaurants, and who can adhere to strict, licensed operating procedures. The licensees will operate and staff the new Pink’s.
Though a national expansion has begun, the essence of the Pink’s hot dog remains in family hands, through the Pinks.
“Pink’s hot dogs are a family tradition, always sustained by quality and Pink’s unique creations. People won’t stand in a long line for a hot dog unless it is really, really good,” Pink says.
While amusement parks are probably first up to bat, Pink is high on stadiums, large hotels, casinos, and cruise ships as well.
“As to stadiums and arenas, every sports fan in the country deserves the sheer luxury of booing the visitors while biting into a snapping Pink’s hot dog,” she says.
The success of the new Pink’s in the Cedar Point Amusement Park, in Ohio, was particularly heartening, say Pink.
“That proved beyond doubt that Pink’s hot dogs and creations were not just a regional fling, but a national love affair. We are ready for the national stage.”
The growing Pink’s empire is a long way from its humble beginnings, a success story itself worthy of celluloid immortalization.
In 1939 on the streets of Hollywood the founders, Betty and Paul Pink, bought a rolling hot dog cart with $50 of borrowed money.
A friendly hardware store owner let the pair plug the cart into his electrical outlets. The original Pink’s sold out almost daily at 10-cents a dog.
The Pink elders erected the original permanent stand—the same one standing today—in the jubilant postwar Hollywood of 1946, with $4,000 borrowed from the Bank of America.
Nearby, such movie-studio goliaths as Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. provided plenty of customers—think Spencer Tracy or Howard Hughes—alongside war-time workers and returning sailors and soldiers.
In the intervening decades since, Pink's hot dogs have almost become a cliché for movie “wrap” parties and serving television show audiences including the Ellen DeGeneres, Ryan Seacrest, and Martha Stewart shows, and the ABC show, The View.
Movieland legends abound about Pink’s; film titan Orson Welles holds the record for eating the most Pink’s hot dogs in one sitting—18—while Bruce Willis proposed to Demi Moore at Pink’s counter.
In postwar Hollywood, movie actors searching for work began posting their 8-inch-by-10-inch “headshots” on Pink’s walls, a tradition still ongoing.
In addition, Pink’s has more than 200 photos on its dining-room wall, personally signed to Pink’s by entertainment celebrities.
Pink’s was famous decades ago in Southern California, but in the era of cable television the hot-dog stand gained international notoriety from producers who drove by and saw the perennial long lines and film-world buzz.
Hungry to fill airtime, producers have done one cable-TV segment after another on Pink’s for entertainment, food, and travel networks around the world.
A notation on Pink’s became de rigueur in city guidebooks or restaurant review publications and websites. It may be the most famous single hot-dog stand in the nation.
As much as the staple of Pink’s—the hot dog in a bun—has stayed the same over the decades, in other ways it is evolving.
New varieties of hot dogs are regularly introduced at the original Pink’s, making the stand a constant laboratory where hot-dog frontiers are bravely explored.
Where else can one dine on an expertly prepared Polish Pastrami Reuben Dog, or Planet Hollywood Dog replete with Polish Sausage, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, bacon & cheese, or a 12-inch-long, thick sausage filled with jalapenos?
The full history of the hot dog is still being recorded, adds Gloria Pink.
“It has been written by the most erudite of hot-dog historians that the Frankfurters of Germany gave us this king-staple of foods five years before Columbus set sail for America, “ Pink says.
“We have been working at making the hot dog better for more than 70 years—and now, like a Hot-Dog Columbus, we are also setting out for America!”