There has been controversy surrounding Franktuary’s ketchup policies in the six months that our Lawrenceville location has been open. It seems as though a few customers were inadvertently charged $.50, $.75 or reportedly as much as $1.50 for ketchup. There has also been controversy surrounding the spelling of ketchup/catsup/ketsup/catchup since it first appeared around 300 BC. This condiment has a long history, so let’s learn about it before we redress any accidental overcharges.
In Chicago, most street hot dog stands have signs like the following:
Franktuary’s roots are more tied to New York than Chicago, but New Yorkers know that mustard is the only condiment appropriate for hot dogs. I can find no documentation for this theory but if you feel a personal need to test it, New Yorkers are everywhere, or I can lend you a few.
Foodies tend to agree that ketchup is a flavor masker due to its high sugar and acid content, but ketchup originally included neither tomatoes nor sugar. Ketchup is believed to have originated in China around 300 BC as a fermented fish and vegetable condiment called ke-tsiap. It made its way to Malaysia where it became kechap or ketjap, traveled to England, and entered the American lexicon in 1742 as a recipe published in The Compleat Housewife: Or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion by Eliza Smith. Gentlewoman Smith’s recipe includes “white wine vinegar, shallots, anchovies, white wine, vinegar, pepper, lemon peel, horseradish, cloves, ginger, mace, and nutmeg.” Note the lack of tomatoes. Or sugar. Or high-fructose corn syrup, which will have its own blog post soon enough. H. J. Heinz Co. began producing ketchup with ripe tomatoes in their signature keystone bottle in 1876, and in the 30s established a breeding program that would eventually create tomato hybrids perfected for the making of ketchup.
Franktuary’s official position on ketchup is that it is a necessary evil to provide it for franks – this is Heinz country, after all – and it is culturally relevant to provide it for our french fries, though I myself prefer the thick European mayonnaise, which will be on our menu soon, served with pommes frites all over that excellent continent. Our ketchup stance is backed up by the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council in their Hot Dog Ettiquette guide: “Don’t…Use ketchup on your hot dog after the age of 18. Mustard, relish, onions, cheese and chili are acceptable.” I will freely admit that our menu and food presentation are in obvious disagreement with several other principles established by the NHD&SC.
The history of ketchup is varied, but the merchantry of it is pretty obvious. Armchair economists will not be surprised to find that “there is no such thing as a free ketchup.” Every penny of ketchup is built into a restaurant’s cost structure, just like every watt of electricity, every drop of water, and every square of toilet paper. Such unglamorous truths! Ketchup has never been provided free to Franktuary, we purchase it with real money we earn running our business. In fact, at the moment, a case of #10 Heinz cans costs $28.29. Successful restaurants have balanced pricing structures that are high enough to keep them afloat and low enough to attract customers and retain business. Pricing with a customer base in mind involves some fairly complex math, science, and guesswork.
Whether you’re a ketchup lover or hater, Franktuary strives to be the kind of restaurant that serves delicious, high quality food in a beautiful, friendly environment with a pricing structure that makes sense for you and allows us to keep the lights on and continue providing jobs for all of our great employees. But we do believe that the less you order ketchup, the more you help yourself taste your food and eat outside your comfort zone. Give it a shot, and you’ll make Dirty Harry proud!
And if you feel you’ve been wrongly charged for ketchup, please firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll gladly refund you the money you were charged PLUS a giant #10 can of ketchup. It wasn’t intentional, regardless of the management’s ketchup opinions!