Michigan State University (MSU) students and local residents have a newer option for freshly-made, fast, affordable food in the downtown East Lansing dining scene. University Weiner, a small takeout restaurant, opened in August 2023 and has been a hit for late-night grub to-go. But it’s also been discovered and enjoyed by the greater community.
MSU students and co-owners Ben Pikus and Louis Azor of More Than Vintage (MTV) partnered for their latest business endeavor earlier this year. University Weiner, in the alley at 551 East Grand River Avenue in downtown East Lansing, provides fast-casual takeout hot dogs.
When thinking about what EL was missing, hot dogs came to mind.
Pikus lives in East Lansing and is studying supply chain management at MSU. When brainstorming new business ideas, he and Azor started thinking about what the area was missing. Hot dogs came to mind, he said.
University Weiner, which opened on Aug. 19, was formerly the restaurant That’s What Cheese Said.
“We got really lucky with that location,” Pikus said. “We were walking by and it caught our eye. We had talked about a super small building where we could produce the amount of food we needed. It worked out perfectly.”
Over the summer, from June to August, the co-owners put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into making their idea a reality.
“We were in there every day working on it, setting everything up,” Pikus said. “We don’t have outside funding so it’s really us putting in that work, those man hours, painting it, remodeling it, wiring everything.”
It’s all about simplicity at University Weiner.
Simplicity is the name of the game for University Weiner, as the restaurant is solely a pickup window with no inside dining. The menu keeps it simple too, consisting of the beloved American culinary classic – the hot dog. There are no sides offered, but customers can buy drinks.
The menu includes many Michigan-made products.
“We’re a Michigan company,” Pikus said of the business, which has four employees. “A lot of people here are from Detroit and a lot of people know Koegels. We actually get all our hot dogs and chili directly from Koegels, so that’s really cool. We’re working with a factory in Flint. We also carry Faygo [pop], a Michigan-based brand.”
The hot dogs are fresh and never frozen, Pikus said. The menu allows everything to be ordered weekly, ensuring optimal freshness and taste, while reducing waste.
“That’s something I pride myself on,” he said. “We get onions, tomatoes, and peppers at the start of the week and use them throughout the week.
Local diners, especially busy students, have been impressed with the new food option’s late-night hours.
“We understood that there was this gap in a quick, really affordable, fast-food place where you can get your hot dog in less than 10 minutes,” Pikus said. ”I think that’s really been taken well by the community.”
Spartan basketball and football athletes have shown an appreciation for the restaurant too. Pikus hopes to launch more specialty partner merchandise and brand deals with athletes.
MSU duo is proud to be inspiring other students.
Aside from providing a craving fix or a late-night snack, Pikus is proud the business has also inspired other students to think about entrepreneurship.
“One of the coolest things has just been seeing kids our age getting inspired to just pursue something they want for themselves,” he said. “It was definitely a risk to get this up and running, but we bet on ourselves. Anyone can really do whatever they want to do. It just takes believing in yourself and working hard.”
Pikus and Azor have enjoyed working with and contributing to a growing small business community within East Lansing’s downtown district and hope to expand their business model to other college towns in the future.
“East Lansing has been our home and that’s where we started,” Pikus said. ”But we really want to expand this not only in the Midwest, but also to college campuses down south.”
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