Since opening in 2011, Dat Dog hasn’t traded on a reputation for nutritional value. Rather, customers chose one of its sausages and piled on toppings such as crawfish etouffee, guacamole, blue cheese and barbecue sauce.
But Dat Dog now is bulking up its health-conscious options to woo diners with dietary preferences such as ketogenic, paleo, low sodium or diets avoiding white refined carbohydrates.
“Lifestyle-focused menus are becoming more and more important, especially with our core demographic, the millennial generation,” says Dat Dog CEO Paul Tuennerman.
Dat Dog partnered with Eat Fit Nola, a nutritional initiative that works with restaurants and foodservice providers to develop healthy menu options that meet criteria around fat, sugar, sodium and protein content.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, all the Eat Fit options traded the signature griddled white bun for a lettuce wrap, a treatment known as “greenie weenie” style. No pork or beef dogs make the cut, which has strict guidelines around animal and trans-fats. The lone meat option is the “Green and Grilled” special, a grilled chicken breast with coleslaw, Dat sauce, cheddar cheese and onions, wrapped in romaine. The other three involve plant-based sausages, such as the Veggie Supreme, which tops a vegan bratwurst with dill pickles, onion and tomato.
Given that plant-based items make up 11% of sales, Dat Dog had an incentive to make them appealing. Tuennerman says all the plant-based sausages were vetted by the restaurant’s culinary innovation team. The sausages that made the menu are so meat-like that customers often believe they’ve been given pork or beef by mistake, he says. PETA recognized Dat Dog’s vegan spicy chipotle dog as one of the country’s 10 best All-American Vegan Hot Dogs of 2019.
Dat Dog will test a new option at the upcoming Voodoo Music + Art Experience, historically a strong sales venue. The restaurant is working with Eat Fit to wrap its products in a whole wheat tortilla. If it works, that option may appear on the regular restaurant menu.
“At 58, I have to watch what I eat,” Tuennerman says. “We felt it was important to provide nutritious, delicious options for people who want to eat clean, watch their weight, manage diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol while still having the brand experience.”
Eat Fit menu options are available at all five Dat Dog locations.