A confluence of German engineering and sausages is sparking an entrepreneurial bonanza for the Grillwalker, "a one-man mobile sausage-cooking machine," reports Nicholas Kulish in the New York Times (9/24/09). It’s really pretty clever. Bertram Rohloff came up with the idea back in 1997 when he couldn’t get the permits he needed to open a sandwich stand. The rule in Berlin was that a permit was needed if his stand touched the ground, so Bertram figured he could just wear a grill like a cigarette tray and strap a small propane tank on his back like a knapsack (image).
Today, he has "15 employees selling sausages around the city in teams of two; they take turns wearing the grill and reloading the sausages, rolls and condiments." He is also renting Grillwalkers via subcontractors "in cities around the country" and "has sold the equipment, at $7,100 a piece, to customers in Bulgaria, Colombia, South Korea and elsewhere, including one to a man in Nebraska." There’s even a Grillwalker on its way to South Africa, in advance of the World Cup.
Bertram says the Grillwalker not only gives him access to prime tourist locations, but also enables his team "to follow the crowds." He uses bright orange umbrellas to stand out — although the Grillwalker’s novelty attracts plenty of attention by itself: "Tourists unaccustomed to seeing a kitchen stroll around on two feet gawk, gape and take pictures." The Grillwalker sausages also cost much less than those sold by traditional vendors, who say their quality is higher and hygienics are better. But Lydia Eiglsperger, a Grillwalker customer disagrees: "I don’t think it’s unhygienic," she says. "Standing out there, they can’t hide a thing."