MADISON — Make no buns about it: Finding a job right out of college in this dog-eat-dog world is no easy feat.
But if you relish a cross-country odyssey, love to meat new people and can mustard the courage to drive a 27-foot-long hot dog, piloting the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile might be just the travel adventure for you.
Frankly, these puns are a bit much for the average reader, but they’re part of the gig for the 12 “Hotdoggers” hired each year to crisscross the United States promoting the 135-year-old meat company.
“Once I saw the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, I literally thought ‘this is probably the coolest job in the country,’ and I set my sights on getting it,” says “Ketchup Kyle” Edwards, 23.
Mission accomplished. Edwards, who recently graduated from the University of Missouri, is a brand ambassador for Oscar Mayer. He co-pilots an eye-catching hot dog with “Habanero Hayley” Rozman.
They take people on rides in said hot dog, hang out at grocery stores handing out Wiener Whistles and coupons, chat with people, take photos, attend events, do media interviews and otherwise promote the company.
And they do it all while road-tripping across the United States. Edwards started in north central states such as the Dakotas, Wyoming and Minnesota before moving on to the Southeast.
Since embarking in June 2018, he has stopped at Devils Tower in Wyoming and Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Closer to home, Edwards has taken kids in his parents’ St. Louis neighborhood out for a spin in the Wienermobile.
It’s a paid, full-time, one-year gig open to graduating college seniors. The parent company, Kraft Heinz, encourages grads with degrees in public relations, journalism, communications, advertising or marketing to apply.
But the applicant pool is not limited to those candidates. Edwards majored in education, and he’s interested in acting and working in the entertainment industry.
Also required: a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 and a good driving record.
Rolling through history
There are 12 Hotdoggers driving six Wienermobiles around the United States.
“This is something that is definitely a piece of Americana,” says Edwards. “It’s not something you expect to see, but it’s something that brings a smile to your face when you see it.”
The first Wienermobile, a 13-foot metal vehicle, dates back to 1936.
“It was an idea created by Oscar Mayer’s nephew, Carl Mayer. It was kind of a dark time during the Depression, and so he thought we should make a hot dog vehicle,” says Rozman, Edwards’ partner.
“Habanero Hayley” hails from Wisconsin and studied marketing and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The pair recently teamed up midway through their Wienermobile adventure, when Hotdoggers switch partners and regions.
Rozman, 23, was out West before pairing up with Edwards for the Southeast stint.
“So out West, I had covered everything from California to Colorado. It was 11 Western states. We didn’t go to Wyoming and New Mexico, but everything else, were were there,” she says.
“Between the two of us, we’ll have covered most of the US besides New England, which honestly, this time of year, is fine by us,” says Edwards.
Before they set out, Hotdoggers attend Hot Dog High in Madison, Wisconsin, where they learn a bunload of hot dog puns, plus information about the company, the mission, how to give media interviews, etc.
And perhaps most importantly, how to drive a 27-foot-long hog dog, which is about like maneuvering a small RV. (They train with drivers learning to pilot peanut-shaped Planters Nutmobiles.)
No commercial license is required, but Hotdoggers log their driving and work hours like truck drivers do, and Wienermobiles undergo regular inspections.
So far, no fender benders, Edwards says. “We haven’t scratched our buns yet.”
Hotdoggers have per diems and corporate cards for food, vehicle expenses and lodging. And they receive benefits and a “competitive” post-graduation salary.
Wienermobiles aren’t actually packed with hot dogs, so they’re only served if stores and other venues that host events choose to grill them up. But everyone gets a Wiener Whistle, which were first introduced in 1952.
Hotdoggers mainly stay in hotels, which they book themselves.
They’re not allowed to book through Airbnb, but they do have some flexibility with lodging outside of hotels if the rates are comparable, says Edwards. At Cohen’s Retreat in Savannah, Georgia, Rozman and Edwards each had their own cottage.
The Wienermobile is their only vehicle, so they have to build in extra time when they take it to dinner or go grocery shopping in it, which they do.
Clearly, it draws some attention. When they want to be a little less conspicuous off duty, they use Uber.
Monday is usually a driving day, averaging a total of seven to eight hours. They typically have Tuesday and Wednesday off, so they always have an opportunity to get out and explore.
But “you can never be too in love with your schedule,” says Edwards, because special events pop up and their itinerary shifts to accommodate them.
Yet the perks are “unquantifiable,” he says.
Traveling the country and meeting all kinds of people in huge cities and tiny towns is one of the biggest benefits of the job.
“It opens your world up,” says Edwards. Hot diggity!