Whatever Happened To Hot Dog Chain Lum's?

People of a certain age will remember the hot dog chain Lum's. Famous for steaming hot dogs in beer, the popular franchise started in Miami Beach in 1956 when owner Clifford Perlman purchased a hot dog stand, according to Florida Backroads Travels. In 1969, it was listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and by 1972, Lum's had 400 franchises nationwide, including a presence in both Puerto Rico and Europe.

After building his fortune on hot dogs and beer, the glamour of Las Vegas called. Perlman purchased Caesar's Palace in 1969, paying $60 million for the casino. The Las Vegas Sun said under Perlman, the resort boomed, expanding by 1,200 rooms in 13 years. Perlman brought in Frank Sinatra to headline a regular show at Caesar's, which lasted for a decade.

An avid sports fan, Perlman was credited for turning Vegas into a major sports hub. Working with legendary boxing impresario Don King, he promoted major boxing matches at the casino under the "Fights of the Century" moniker, including 1980s world heavyweight title fight between Larry Holmes and Muhammad Ali. Caesar's also hosted the Alan King Tennis Classic and the Caesars Palace Grand Prix.

Firmly ensconced in Vegas, Perlman sold Lum's to John Y. Brown, the chairman of Kentucky Fried Chicken, in 1971.

Lum's goes from boom to bust

Even though the Lum's brand was built on hot dogs, according to Burger Beast, the new ownership under John Y. Brown chose to add burgers. Namely, the one from OIlie's Sandwich Shop, a tiny, 20-seat burger joint in Miami Beach. Per the Bitter Southerner, Brown paid $1 million to owner Ollie Gleichenhaus for his liberally spiced burger recipe.

Brown put the Ollieburger on Lum's menu and then proceeded to open a chain of burger joints, called Ollie's Trolleys, building to 100 nationwide.

But not even the Ollieburger — or comedian Milton Burle, who Brown hired in 1975 as Lum's TV pitchman (via the Democrat and Chronicle) — could save the franchise. By 1978, Lum's restaurants dwindled from 400 at its height in 1972 to 273. Brown sold off the remaining restaurants to Wienerwald, a Swiss chain. But, as MeTV explained, Weinerwald's specialty wasn't hot dogs, but chicken and schnitzel; this culinary mismatch was not lost on Americans. By 1982, Lum's filed for bankruptcy.

While most of its restaurants closed, a few Lum's stalwarts remained, including the final holdout in Bellevue, Nebraska, which, according to the Omaha World Herald, closed its doors in 2017.