When it’s past midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, there are few options for grabbing a bite in Downtown Binghamton. Since 2011, Binghamton Hots has been filling that purpose, and will soon expand to nearby college towns after its franchise plan was approved by New York state last week.
In 2015, Hots was ranked as the second-most iconic college-town restaurant by USA Today and later that year as the seventh-best college-town burger joint by College Magazine.
The Hot Plate, one of Hots’ signature dishes, was inspired by Rochester’s famous Garbage Plate. Both dishes include foods including hot dogs, French fries, macaroni salad and other sides, all topped with a homemade hot chili sauce. Hots also offers burgers, salads, wraps, subs and sandwiches.
Hots owner and Binghamton University alumnus David Whalen, ‘05, said he saw opportunity in Downtown with the opening of the University’s Downtown Center and the first student-housing complexes in the late 2000s. Whalen said his student experience at BU helped him in filling the void that was previously missing in the nightlife; he credited BU’s School of Management with building his initial enthusiasm for entrepreneurship.
“I began to see the potential after the first initial investments were made in downtown, I knew from a firsthand perspective what students were looking for and what this might become,” Whalen wrote in an email.
The restaurant has expanded its hours to provide lunch and dinner, as opposed to just late dining. It opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday and at noon on Saturdays, and stays open until 3:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Whalen said this has helped Hots reach customers other than college students.
Jeremy Maciarz, a junior majoring in psychology, said he’s happy to see the business flourish.
“I really enjoy eating at Bing Hots, and I’m glad to hear that they are expanding the business,” Maciarz said. “It’s cool to know that someone gained the skills they needed to chase their dreams from our school.”
Hots has also integrated vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes into the menu. It recently launched a new mobile app and is currently developing an online ordering platform.
Riane Parés-Kane, a sophomore majoring in human development, said Hots is a great option for college students who are off-campus.
“They have a great variety of foods, and great prices and hours convenient for college students — cheap and open late,” Parés-Kane said.
While college towns are first on Hots’ planned expansion, Whalen said he is planning national growth for the franchise.
“I envision a day when there will be a Hots at every major college and university in the country!” Whalen wrote. “That being said, I think in terms of evolving the business, we will certainly keep a strong eye on research and development in terms of the menu and improving the customer experience.”