Frank Zaccanelli has always been an entrepreneur and has had a passion for sport. Whether it was part of the ownership group of the Dallas Mavericks or in other lifestyle pursuits, the Syracuse, New York resident has always had a bit of a flair for the dramatic in his business success story.
Zaccanelli has now combined his passion for brands and his love for sports as the CEO of Dallas-based Hoffman Hot Dogs. While it may seem that the hot dog business may be a bit mundane, it is among one of the most competitive and successful fast food endeavors in the United States. How is Hoffman different? It starts with an ownership group that includes Roger Staubach and Jim Boeheim, and a marketing plan which has an aggressive expansion plan to go after some of the biggest consumer brands in the business on a national level, working with restraunteur Phil Romano…the man behind Macaroni Grill and Fudruckers…to make Hoffman America’s Hot Dog. Zacanelli has also looked to make a splash in the competitive eating world, bringing on world champ Takeru Kobayashi to promote the brand from coast to coast.
We caught up with Zacanelli to talk hot dogs, consumer trends, and the lessons learned from The Mavs.
You were a part of the group that helped resurrect the Mavericks in Dallas. How did you get involved in ownership?
We found out that Don Carter, the original owner of the Mavericks, was ready to sell the team so we approached him with the interest to buy. We also were very much in-tune with what it took to acquire the team and to build the new arena, which was the financial centerpiece of the deal.
What was it like working with Ross Perot Jr. any lessons learned from his successful dad?
It was great working with Ross Jr. He made everyone feel like a partner in the company and I always felt that he had great confidence in my decision-making. Everything and anything you ever wanted to learn from businesses could learn from a man like his father.
This new business with Hofmann’s has a lot of star power, what was it like to get such bold face names to invest?
I had prior relationships with everybody and have done business with most everybody that is involved here for the most part. I have always been a believer that the better quality of investor you have in a deal the better the outcome of the deal.
How will you use them in the marketing process to grow the business?
I think that their visibility in the Hofmann Marketing advertising and branding lends credibility to our products and more importantly ads visibility to people who have never tried our products. We believe that once someone tries the Hofmann products they’ll be sold on quality and taste.
Most people would look at the hot dog business as a pretty basic consumer product…how do you intend to use sports to grow the franchise?
We believe that sports and hot dogs are a synonymous tradition throughout the world and that there is nothing more deeply intertwined into our American culture. We intend on reaching out to our vast sports network to further brand and distribute the Hofmann products.
Are there best practices learned from the Mavs or other businesses that you will apply here?
The best practice not only in the Mavericks but also in any business is to listen to your customer.
What appeals to you about sport as an entrepreneur?
Sports have been a very important component in my life and have taught me many things about teamwork and hard work. I grew up playing basketball & baseball and have been fortunate enough to participate in sports at the high school, college, and pro levels.
You also brought in a certain eating world champion…how will you use Kobi as a partner and is there an event franchise you are looking to build out there as well?
As a worldwide brand ambassador for Hofmann, I see Kobi doing for Hofmann Hot Dogs what Michael Jordan did for Nike. As part of this strategy, Hofmann has created the Kobayashi business division to create a Kobi line of hot dogs as part of the Hofmann family of products. Kobi plans to work in direct collaboration with fifth generation Hofmann Hot Dogs founder Rusty Flook to create a new brand of hot dog to distribute in the U.S., Asia, and beyond.