Making your restaurant four-legged friendly
Americans love their canines like kids, and restaurants are learning that catering to canine-owning customers can be a fruitful concept. “Dog-friendly” restaurants attract both millennials and empty-nester pup parents and often boast boosts in base and increased loyalty. According to the experts, joining the pack of restaurants going to the dogs (in a positive way!) is much easier than it looks.
Typically, due to national health regulations, only outside dining areas and patios can be designated as dog friendly (The exception is that service animals are allowed to enter most establishments). There are no set "criteria" for a dog-friendly restaurant, however, Morgan Sampson, owner of Brunch in Milwaukee, says the simple addition of dog water bowls and biscuits creates an atmosphere of acceptance.
A dog lover herself, Sampson, who opened her first location in 2016, said she keeps it simple and doesn’t create menu items tailored to four-legged customers. “Our servers know to recommend interested parties a plate of bacon, a pancake or an order of scrambled eggs with cheese,” she says.
MUTTS Canine Cantina, with locations in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, takes the dog-friendly concept one step further. Opened in 2013, the establishment offers food and drinks for dogs and owners, as well as an adjacent off-leash park.
Kyle Noonan, co-founder, created both locations to offer a place where owners can watch pets play from the patio as they sip margaritas or enjoy local draft beer. Menu items like the “Doggie Dog” (a 100 percent beef frank, perfectly portioned for a doggy bite) and the “Pupsicle” (a savory frozen treat with real beef broth, peanut butter and an edible bone) leave customers literally begging for more.
Connecting dog owners with accommodating venues is the job of organizations like BringFido. Melissa Halliburton founded the company in 2005 after she adopted her dog, Rocco, and was frustrated by the difficulty of finding pet-friendly accommodations. BringFido’s website (www.BringFido.com) and mobile apps connect dog owners to pet-friendly places with one million unique visitors per month. There are currently approximately 60,000 active restaurants listed on BringFido with no charge to be listed. The site is updated regularly, and user reviews are sourced.
So, spruce up your outdoor seating, purchase some quality water bowls and treats and perhaps add a simple, reasonably priced doggie menu item (a hamburger patty or slice of bacon will suffice). And then, sit back and let the dog days of summer begin!