Don't confuse the products of Vienna Beef (formerly Vienna Sausage Manufacturing) with those soggy little wieners packed in jars. Its beef wieners are the hot dogs Chicago calls its own. The company first unveiled its frankfurters (made from a secret Viennese recipe) at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. In addition to sausages and deli meats, Vienna Sausage also makes cheesecake on a stick (WünderBar), other desserts (Pie Piper), pickles (Chipico Pickles), soups (Bistro Soups), and kosher foods (King Kold). Vienna Beef's products are available worldwide. The company sells to outside distributors, grocery stores, restaurants, sports and other entertainment venues, club stores, and hot-dog stands.
With its eye on selling an extra 1 million hot dogs -- the typical figure for each baseball season -- Vienna Beef beat out Sara Lee's Ball Park franks in 2011 for top dog at Wrigley Field. The move marks Vienna Beef's return to Wrigley after nearly 30 years. Sara Lee had been the hot dog supplier to Wrigley Field since 2008. Thankful that the field's existing partner contracts were up for renewal, Vienna Beef is now banking on well-attended major league ballparks in Chicago.
In recent years, Vienna Beef has expanded its core product line. It has spiced up its dogs by rolling out a Jalapeno Cheddar Frank. Chasing after the hamburger slider craze, the company has also produced its own version of Pups, mini hot dogs served in multi-bite buns.
To ensure that its training is consistent for prospective operators of Vienna Beef carts and hot dog stands, the company enlisted the help of Mark Reitman, Ph.D. (professor of hot dogs), as part of its Hot Dog University. Reitman heads up informational courses at the site of the Vienna Beef plant, where he discusses condiments, tongs, and the best way for a cart or stand operator to make money.
Wife of chairman emeritus Jim Eisenberg, Elin Eisenberg, died in 2010 at the age of 73. Elin's grandfather Sam Ladany, an immigrant of Austria and Hungary, founded Vienna Beef after introducing the Chicago-style hot dog in 1893 at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. – less