Does Nathan’s Famous Belong in the Same Category as Subway?

Does Nathan’s Famous Belong in the Same Category as Subway?

Understanding how diners around the world categorize the humble hot dog.


Would you place quick service restaurants (QSRs) like Nathan’s Famous and Wienerschnitzel in the same category as Subway and Jimmy John’s?

That is to say, is a hot dog restaurant really a sandwich restaurant?

Understanding how current and future customers refer to food items is crucial to turning browsers into buyers. Details, down to the wording of a restaurant menu, can mean the difference between attracting and turning off a potential customer.

That’s why businesses rely on Premise’s platform to connect them with customers around the world every day, providing them with reliable insights that inform crucial business decisions, regardless of how big or how small those decisions may appear to be on the surface.

In this case, we wanted to get more insight into how people think of certain foods, so we sought to answer that age old question once and for all:

Is a hot dog a sandwich? 

This critical question about the quintessential American foodstuff has long been the subject of controversy. 

It’s a debate that has raged on for years, with top tier publications like The Guardian, The Verge, and The Takeout analyzing and dissecting the merits of both sides of this particular argument. 

In February, we asked 4,000 of our Contributors in eight countries to chime in on this debate. 

We first asked Contributors whether they are familiar with sandwiches. Those that answered affirmatively were then shown a picture of a hot dog, after which they were asked to decide whether or not it is a sandwich.

Here’s what we learned:

Is a Hot Dog a Sandwich?

Our data shows that the United States tends to classify hot dogs differently than the rest of the world.

60.1% of non-American Contributors indicated that hot dogs are, in fact, sandwiches, while only 28% of Americans classify a hot dog as a sandwich. 

However, while the vast majority of Americans think a hot dog is not a sandwich, our researchers found a difference in classification among urban, suburban, and rural residents.

Our data shows that:

  • 40% of respondents who live in a city center or a metropolitan area think a hot dog is a sandwich
  • 28% of respondents who live in a rural area think a hot dog is a sandwich
  • 23% of respondents who live in suburban/peri-urban areas think a hot dog is a sandwich

In other words, trends among even basic things like food vernacular aren’t necessarily uniform within a specific region. That’s why it’s crucial to have accurate, up-to-date geotargeted data at your disposal to better understand specific attitudes and behaviors and how they vary based on the specific region that you are looking to target.

Ultimately though, and in a finding unlikely to resolve the hot dog-as-a-sandwich debate, the strongest negative correlation among these countries was with sandwich familiarity: The more Contributors in a given country who knew about sandwiches, the less likely they were to think hot dogs were sandwiches.

What this means

Premise provides data for every decision for clients across all industries from restaurants to government better understand the mindset of their target audiences. Understanding even the seemingly simplest details can help you better understand the mindset of your target audience and adjust your business plans accordingly, down to even the syntax on your menus. 

Prior to entering any new market, whether it’s a new city, region, or even country, restaurants should enlist Premise’s vast Contributor network to learn:

  • What local attitudes are towards key menu items
  • How potential competitors are positioning and pricing similar menu items
  • Seek out and identify key differentiators in attitudes and behaviors in different regions within a particular country in order to best tailor your offerings.

Ready to uncover new opportunities for expansion? Get in touch with us today.