German hotdog stands that don't stand still

Frank Schubert is a 'grillwalker,' a sort of German hotdog stand on foot, zigzagging through the busy shopping artery of Zeil. 

Isabelle de Pommereau
German food vender Frank Schubert plies his trade as a ‘grillwalker.’

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Frank Schubert is not to be avoided on the Zeil, one of Germany’s busiest shopping arteries, his big, colorful umbrella standing high above the crowd of shopping dwellers.  

In fact, as winter continues its icy grip on Western Europe, with lows dipping to minus 4 degrees F., his umbrella has become one of the most welcome features of the financial capital’s landscape. From under the cheerful plastic cover wafts a scent familiar to Germans – that of sizzling bratwursts, or sausages.

Mr. Schubert is the latest manifestation of Germany’s entrepreneurship streak. He is a “grillwalker,” a sort of hotdog stand on foot. With his tall umbrella providing protection against the wind, the snow – and the occasional pigeon dropping – Schubert makes a living zigzagging through the financial capital selling sausages in a roll with mustard or ketchup at $1.75 a piece, his equipment consisting of a propane gas canister strapped around his waist and a portable grill hanging over his shoulder. 

Curiously, it was Germany’s obsession with red tape that gave birth to the Grillwalkers.

Back in 1997, Bertram Rohloff came up with this concession concept that requires no permits and weighs roughly 35 lbs. Since then, his Berlin company has built more than 70 Grillwalkers, selling them for $7,000 to customers around the world. 

In Frankfurt, the Grillwalker idea was a blessing in disguise for Frank Schubert. For years, he had been making a living as a bike courier. But the spread of electronic filing associated with the Internet hit his business hard. Now he is glad to have a job. Sure, he enjoyed being on a bike better. On the other hand, nothing beats being outside all the time and, occasionally, stumbling upon a nice person. 

“It’s not for everybody,” he says.

People are sure glad to see Schubert. On the coldest day on record so far this year, they don’t even have to take off their gloves to grab a meal. 

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