Do You Know Who You Are Getting Your Hot Dog From?

"I have great experiences working with my guys," said Andrews, who is legally blind.

Ex-felons have a better chance of finding employment at local businesses like Felony Franks than at large corporations where formal background checks are needed to protect liabilities, said Eric Mayo, author of "From Jail to a Job." Every state and company has its own criteria, but most background checks only scan the last 10 years.

"There's a cultural bias against people with felony records," Mayo said. "It's just like any handicap, you just have to work harder to overcome it."

Job seekers with felony records should look at opportunities with smaller businesses, companies that have a history of hiring previously incarcerated individuals and personal contacts. And if asked about the crime, applicants should always be honest, Mayo said.

But most businesses that hire ex-felons do not use that detail as a marketing strategy.

"Will consumers be uncomfortable? Will that be a turnoff? To some, maybe," said Ron Paul, president of Technomic, a Chicago-based food supplier consulting company. "A lot of it is going to come down to how the restaurant looks, how clean and attractive the employees are, what the condiments are like."

Aside from the theme, Felony Franks faces a competitive market. Chicago, considered the country's hot dog capital and home of the famous all-beef style dog, has 1,800 hot dog stands in the metropolitan area, exceeding the number of Chicagoland McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's stores put together, the Chicago Tribune estimated.

"I'd give it an A for creativity and for the rest of it, we'll have to see in three to six months," Paul said.

Since Felony Franks' grand opening, Andrews said business has been good. He hopes to open a chain of stands in other cities.

In his first week on the job, Fitzgerald said the customers have been "fine."

"I've been through a lot and I don't expect much," he said. "I have an opportunity to get some things back on track. I'm just grateful for this job."

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