Published on February 1st, 2018 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Dog Haus’ André Vener On Working With No Kid Hungry, Top Chefs & Hot Dogs
Known for its 100% Black Angus beef-based hot dogs, Dog Haus is one of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in the United States. As founded by partners Hagop Giragossian, Quasim Riaz and André Vener in Pasadena, California in 2010, Dog Haus already has 28 stores open across seven states. Open for lunch and dinner daily, guests can choose from one-of-kind Haus creations or customize their own from a wide array of unique toppings, all served on grilled King’s Hawaiian rolls.
But it is not all about profits and hot dogs when it comes to Team Dog Haus. As started on January 1st, Dog Haus is partnering with No Kid Hungry for a year-long collaborative chef series. Nine nationally-celebrated chefs representing regions of the country in which Dog Haus has locations are each creating limited-time gourmet, chef-driven menu items to be served at all Dog Haus stores throughout the year. January 2018 kicked off with current Top Chef contender Bruce Kalman of Union and Knead & Co. with his “Porchetta ‘Bout It” offering. Los Angeles-based Top Chef winner Brooke Williamson — of Playa Provisions, Hudson House, The Tripel, and Da Kikokiko — has created the “Salty Malty” Caramel Budino Shake. More chef collaborations will be announced in the coming months.
I had the pleasure of speaking with partner André Vener about the success of Dog Haus and its work with No Kid Hungry. More info on all parties named can be found online at www.doghaus.com.
Dog Haus is partnering with No Kid Hungry this year. How did that partnership come about?
André Vener: When we first started developing Dog Haus, one of the things we all felt passionately about was the idea of giving back. As we have grown we have sought out different organizations to partner with both at the local level with each store as well as the corporate level. We have always been supporters of No Kid Hungry through various events as they have always done an amazing job of partnering with chefs and restaurants to further their cause so it felt like a natural fit to take our commitment one step further! No child should ever go hungry and we are thrilled to not only be working with an incredible charity with this year-long campaign but to also be able to collaborate with some incredible chefs who have also been long supporters of the cause.
Did the chefs working with you on the No Kid Hungry campaign come to you? Were those people you’d known previously?
André Vener: A lot of the chefs we are working with for this collaboration are also chefs we have worked with in the past and have maintained great friendships with. We worked closely with those chefs who had other relationships with high profile chefs across the country to come up with the ultimate lineup. It was important to us that the chefs we work with represent all the amazing areas of the country we have plans to or have opened stores, so we sought out the very best that could represent those regions. We couldn’t be more excited with the stellar lineup of chefs we have onboard for this cause, after all, there are never too many cooks in our kitchen.
As this is a year-long partnership, do you have any events you have planned?
André Vener: We have an event planned for the end of 2018 at Santa Anita racetrack’s iconic and exclusive Chandelier Room called “Dog Haus Cares,” which will be an auction and charity event bringing together the culinary talent, public and key No Kid Hungry representatives. We hope this year will be the beginning of a long partnership and look forward to celebrating the chef talent we have worked with throughout 2018 while also giving our guests another chance to give back to No Kid Hungry.
Do you have a goal for the No Kid Hungry partnership?
André Vener: Our goal is to not only bring awareness to the issue of childhood hunger and to show our commitment to serving chef-driven gourmet food, but to also raise $100,000 throughout the year to go directly to the cause. We’re donating $1 from every NKH item directly, as well as creating a “roundup for charity” option on every check to ensure we hit our goal!
No Kid Hungry aside, what is coming up for Dog Haus?
André Vener: We ended 2017 on a high note with 28 stores operating across the country in seven states. We are hitting the ground running with more store openings planned for the first months of 2018 including our first East Coast location set to open in Bethesda, Maryland. Over the coming years, we will focus on continued expansion as we roll out over 450 stores that have been sold. Aside from that, we have a few menu updates and exciting partnerships underway you’ll have to stay tuned for!
Do you have a favorite item on the menu there?
André Vener: The Freiburger is my favorite menu item because I have a personal connection to it. I was born in Freiburg and have personal connections to Germany, as I was married there and my daughter was baptized there as well. The burger itself is inspired by my favorite sandwich in San Francisco with French fries inside, so I wanted to create my own version with white American cheese, French fries, haus slaw, burger patty, fried egg and mayo.
At what point did you realize that hot dogs were not just for barbecues, but rather could be gourmet fare?
André Vener: All three of us have always loved hot dogs and have childhood memories of enjoying summer BBQs full of grilled hot dogs and hamburgers. Before we created Dog Haus we would talk about how there really wasn’t a place to get really great hot dogs and sausages that could appeal to both kids and adults. So we followed that idea through and came up with Dog Haus — a fun place to get great high-quality gourmet hot dogs, sausages, burgers, or even now a fried chicken sandwich with unique toppings. We’re the first to do this and we’re glad we did!
Before finding success with Dog Haus, what path were you on with your career?
André Vener: Before starting Dog Haus in 2010, I’ve held a lot of leadership positions in the Pasadena area in the music and production realms. Most recently before Dog Haus, I was working with some restaurants in the local Pasadena area as well.
When not busy with Dog Haus, how do you like to spend your free time?
André Vener: Family and friends are really important to all of us and even though the business could take up all of our time we all make it a priority to spend time with family! I also own a house in Catalina so I love to spend time there.