Frankly delicious: Cliff Eisenberg maintains a premium family tradition


The theatre industry is filled with long-established and family-owned companies. The executives who work at these companies, both operators and suppliers, are often more than just corporate employees. They have had a hand in making the company live longer, grow bigger, get better. This month we look at just such an example: Cliff Eisenberg, CEO of Kelly/Eisenberg.

Since 1929, Kelly Corned Beef Company and Eisenberg Sausage Company have produced high-quality gourmet deli products. Today, the third generation of Eisenbergs continues the tradition of providing premium gourmet deli items and top service for their customers.

Cliff Eisenberg graduated from the University of Chicago in 1976 and spent 10 years working at a national hot dog company learning the sausage business. He joined his father at Kelly Corned Beef Co., manufacturing and selling gourmet deli meats. Seeing an opportunity in the hot dog business, Cliff, his father and his brother together founded the Eisenberg Sausage Co. in 1993.

As Cliff recalls, “The hot dog industry had become dominated by Fortune 500 companies, producing least-cost formulated products. We saw the need for a high-quality beef hot dog that would give customers great flavor and bite without all the additives. We also had the good fortune to hire a great salesman, Ed Weinshenker, and to work with Robert Scribner of Scribner and Associates to help build our business with movie theatres.” Cliff rose to the top of the company as CEO, with his brother Howard as chief operating officer.

The key to family members being able to keep and grow their generational legacy is creative innovation and hard work. Cliff and his brother formulated a gourmet beef hot dog that was made from only two types of domestic USDA beef cuts. Cliff states, “I believe that many people avoid hot dogs because of the notion that they don’t know what they are made of. We have successfully grown our business by producing a hot dog with only premium ingredients, a 100% beef hot dog made without fillers, MSG, phosphates or corn syrup.”

Several years later, they introduced a Black Angus Sirloin hot dog as the highest premium frank available. The movie theatre industry was ready for a high-quality premium beef hot dog, and Eisenberg franks are sold at theatres nationwide. Their booth at CinemaCon has the longest lines, as theatre industry executives wait to get their Eisenberg fix every year! Seriously, check it out.

Today the company prides itself on producing and distributing gourmet delicatessen products and all-beef hot dogs of the highest quality. From corned beef, sausages and pastrami to all-beef hot dogs and more, Kelly/Eisenberg creates their products in state-of-the-art processing and packaging plants but in the “old tradition.” This means they remain committed to bringing together the finest cuts of meat with aromatic seasonings. Quality and taste matter most.

Cliff attributes his success with Eisenberg to this devotion to quality and taste. What does that mean exactly? Their hot dogs and Polish sausages contain no fillers or byproducts. They use 100% pure cuts of beef and fresh seasonings. He adds, “Our Steak ’N Franks are made with top-quality sirloin steak and other beef cuts. We add no extenders, no substitutes, no potato starches or milk solids. Just 100% pure beef, fresh seasonings and Worcestershire sauce, cooked the way it was intended—in a smokehouse.”

Some companies hang their hat on service, some on price, and some on innovation. Cliff has steered his company towards quality of product and that is where he sees their continued focus. Shortly, they will be introducing a new “All-Natural, No-Preservatives-Added” Angus Beef Frank.

Cliff has been married for 38 years and has three grown children. His daughter Dana has joined him at Eisenberg as the business development manager. He is thrilled to have her working with him to continue the family involvement with the business. But what he most wants to see is the continuation of a long-successful company that is bringing quality food product to its customers. In addition to theatres, Eisenberg franks and sausages are sold at many famous sports venues such as AT&T Park (San Francisco Giants), Lucas Oil Stadium (Indy Colts) and Notre Dame Football, to mention just a few. Cliff declares, “I’ve been extremely fortunate in my career to have worked with so many great people. Our customers, particularly in the theatre industry, have become like extended family to me. We owe a great deal of our success to our many friends in the movie biz.”

Cliff Eisenberg is also a devoted member of the National Association of Concessionaires, and his company is a longtime sponsor of the organization. He believes in participating in the industry as a team player and supporting the theatre business in particular with their programs at Eisenberg. He was the captain of the baseball team in college and still plays softball every summer. He enjoys spending time with his wife and adult kids and, yes, going to the movies. This seems to be one common thread among the executives we profile: They truly love this business.