Pictured above, Wacked out Weiner owner Kris Roberts (left) joins in girlfriend Kaci Mayo (right) as the couple welcome customers to the restaurant.
By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
Hot dog lovers are in for a treat.
Just four months ago, the specialty hot dog franchise Wacked Out Weiner settled in 227 Broad Street in downtown Gadsden, appeasing all cravings and leaving customers wanting more.
W.O.W. originated in Foley with Mark and Laurie Clifford. The couple wanted to develop a family-friendly restaurant that delivers fast meals without compromising quality or freshness. Since its initial success, W.O.W. franchised into several different locations throughout Alabama, even establishing a residence in Florida.
W.O.W. Gadsden owner Kris Roberts discovered W.O.W. while attending a conference for Rock-N-Roll Sushi, which he previously co-owned. Roberts spoke with a fellow Rock-N-Roll Sushi operator about bringing something quick, affordable and delicious to Gadsden. When the business owner mentioned hot dogs – Roberts’ favorite food – he was hooked. Roberts sold his share of Rock-N-Roll Sushi and plunged into bringing W.O.W. downtown.
Roberts commended the Cliffords for providing him with a fantastic menu while granting him the freedom to personalize the Gadsden location. While the franchise gives the restaurant its structure, Roberts puts his own twist on W.O.W. Gadsden, brainstorming new innovative ideas to make the restaurant memorable.
“If we want to try something different, they’re super open to listening to us,” said Roberts. “If I want to sell soup in the wintertime, they think that’s as great idea. They’re really good at listening to people that have franchises with them. We can kind of do our own thing [in Gadsden]. We can run with it a little bit.”
W.O.W.. does not shy from possibility. Branded by Nathan’s Famous all beef hot dogs, the restaurant also uses Conecuh smoked sausage and Conecuh jumbo Cajun sausage to accompany a steamed bun and all the ‘fixins’ guests can imagine.
With 40 toppings, W.O.W. offers endless customizable hot dogs for customers to curb any craving. From traditional garnishes like sauerkraut, homemade Coney style chili, sweet relish and Chow Chow to comfort food flavors such as white cheddar macaroni and cheese, loaded baked potato salad and coleslaw, visitors can mix-and-match toppings to create whatever delicacy their stomach desires. Adventurous guests can even select options like the specialty Sailor Hank – a dog that features peanut butter, grape jelly, crispy bacon and Fruity Pebbles cereal.
Roberts noted that aside from the classic Chicago dog and the Wacky Macky (a specialty dog featuring white cheddar macaroni and cheese, bacon and Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce) the Sailor Hank earns the title for their most popular meal.
He recalled one customer in particular who piled his dog high with every single topping on the menu, resulting in a colossal creation requiring a fork. The customer ate each bite, though, and he loved the taste.
If those combinations still leave customers wanting more, never fear. Roberts plans to introduce a creation designed by his girlfriend, Kaci Mayo, titled “They Call Me Tater Salad.” This special all beef hot dog is drizzled with spicy mustard and BBQ sauce, topped with loaded baked potato salad, sour cream, chives and bacon. It also features W.O.W.’s Weiner dust, a proprietary franchise blend of peppers and seasoning for added flavor.
Roberts’ experience with Rock-N-Roll Sushi was his introduction into restaurant ownership and all the responsibilities that come with such a grand business venture. He and his former business partner tackled the endeavor together, quickly establishing a successful restaurant and a favorite eatery in downtown. With more wisdom in his pocket, Roberts carries the lessons he learned from his first restaurant to W.O.W., determined to develop a solid foundation for the franchise to thrive.
“What I learned the most from working at Rock-N-Roll Sushi was how important it is to be face-to-face with the customer as the owner,” said Roberts. “You hire kids to come in and work, but it’s very beneficial to be the person the public sees when they come in and eat. I’ve got several people who will come in and we’ll just talk and talk and talk. They’ve come in a few times. I think that it’s very important for a restaurant to not be mechanical – it should have a heart and soul. My biggest thing is to meet with people, talk with people and get to know folks. It’s my favorite thing…it’s why I stuck with the restaurant business.”
W.O.W.’s heart and soul rests with its people. A family operated location, Roberts’ son, nephew, nieces and girlfriend all strive to promote the business and provide customers with the utmost service. Both Roberts’ son and nephew adopt his mantra of friendliness, explaining to customers their own personal favorites on the menu and assisting visitors with any questions that might arise. Roberts shared that while a family business is a different from other employer-employee relationships, his motivation to excel is stronger because of his staff.
“With family, you can’t handle things a lot of times like you would other people,” said Roberts. “Even if they do something crazy, you have to remember ‘I’ve got to see this guy at Thanksgiving.’ That is something really important and something a lot of people lose with employees. They get detached from that person. You never lose that when you’re working with family. I think that’s important regardless, whether you’re working with family or not. When you’re working through things, you find a way to do it the best you can, because you’re doing it for someone you really care about.”
While Roberts envisions expanding the W.O.W. franchise to other neighboring cities throughout Etowah County, his focus for now remains in Gadsden and toward those who walk through his doors each day. Together, Roberts and the friendly staff at W.O.W. create a warm and inviting environment, where visitors feel comfortable, relaxed and welcome time and time again. With a limitless array of options to try, W.O.W. emerges as the perfect place to sprinkle a little fun into every meal.
“I hope [the customers] have fun,” said Roberts. “I hope they enjoy the food, and I hope they want to come back. That’s the biggest thing with me is the want to come back. I love going to a restaurant where I cannot wait to get back in there.”