Should Dogs Be Allowed in Restaurants? The Pros and Cons

Should Dogs Be Allowed in Restaurants? The Pros and Cons

Our canine companions are so important to us. They’re our best friend and members of the family. For some, dogs even act as service animals. Every restaurant wants to deem itself dog-friendly, but what are the pros and cons of doing so?

Dog-friendly restaurants are advantageous in that you open your restaurant to a whole new subset of clientele. You can also sell dog-specific treats and increase your income that way. The downsides of dog-friendly restaurants include messes and potential health code violations.

This article will explore in much more detail both the advantages and disadvantages of running a dog-friendly restaurant. Whether you’re thinking of opening an area dog café or you want to allow dogs on your outdoor restaurant patio, this is one article you’re not going to want to miss!

The Pros of Dog-Friendly Restaurants

To begin, let’s shine a spotlight on the multitude of reasons why making yours a dog-friendly establishment is such a wise idea.

Attract a New Subset of Clientele

According to a chart from Finances Online, in the United States, 90 million people owned dogs in 2019. 

Although there were a few fluctuations over the years, for the most part, the trend of dog ownership has only increased between 2000 and 2019.

That’s nearly two decades of data to go off of.

With so many dog owners, you can bet that a large portion of your audience owns a dog or maybe even several. 

How many times might a dog owner have wanted to dine out at a restaurant, but they felt bad about leaving their dog?

Thus, they decided to stay home, which chips away at your business, although unbeknownst to you.

Once you open up your restaurant to dogs, these people who have had to debate between a nice meal out or staying home with their dog will no longer feel so torn. They can bring their dog and eat at a restaurant.

It’s the very meaning of having your cake and eating it too.

You may notice a few months after making the change to welcoming dogs that your number of customers grows. You could develop more regulars who always bring their dogs.

More Earnings If You Sell Doggy Items on the Menu

The increase in clients will be reflected in your restaurant’s bottom line, which should continue to grow.

The earnings don’t have to stop there though. To offset the cost of your new marketing campaigns to advertise the dog-friendly nature of your restaurant, you might consider expanding your menu.

After all, you have a whole new subset of clientele, the dogs themselves!

Some dog-friendly restaurants only allow canine companions out on the patio. That’s fine, and if it’s what you want to do with your restaurant as well, it suffices.

However, dogs do get hungry, and if they see a steaming plate full of people food that’s within reach, they could try to take a big bite.

That’s why your restaurant should offer a limited dog menu full of tasty treats for everyone’s favorite four-legged friends.

You can ensure that the dogs eat what they’re supposed to. Plus, you can earn extra income when your new customers order off this menu for their dogs. It’s a win-win!

Outdoor Patios Are Very Appealing

Every restaurant wants more foot traffic. After all, foot traffic can sometimes translate to sales if someone who’s hungry passes by your restaurant and is enchanted by the décor or the menu posted outside the door.

An establishment with an outdoor patio is going to turn heads and grab attention.

 People like being able to see the food on the customer’s plates to whet their own appetite. Plus, an open environment of food, drink, and merriment is tempting to anyone.

Now you’re adding dogs to the mix, which makes your patio setup even more irresistible.

Someone who was out and about walking their dog might decide to make a beeline towards your restaurant once they realize that yours is a dog-friendly establishment.

Dog Lovers Will Naturally Be Lured In

You have to think that it’s not only dog owners who will want to visit your establishment, but all nature of dog lovers.

Whether those people are former pet owners, they run a rescue organization, they’re part of a pet shelter, or they’re veterinarians or veterinary assistants, you’re now opening up your audience’s reach exponentially by inviting dogs to dine or chill on your restaurant patio.

Even those who simply find dogs cute might decide to eat at your restaurant just to be closer to the dogs.

Sure, they can’t pet or play with the dogs (well, unless the dog owner grants them permission, that is), but they can at least be around the dogs while eating high-quality food that you prepare.

In that regard, you’re almost like a pet café in that you have animals around for the enjoyment of others.

 However, you don’t own the dogs, they don’t live at your café, and they’re ultimately not your responsibility.

That makes your restaurant’s policy far less of a legal and financial hassle.

Dogs Make Most People Happy

Why do most people smile when they see a dog? It’s not because the pup is cute, although there is that.

It’s because for many, many people, being around dogs makes them happy.

This is scientifically proven as well. Pets for Patriots, a pet adoption resource, states that “Studies have shown that even small interactions with dogs cause the human brain to produce oxytocin, a hormone often referred to as the ‘cuddle chemical.’

Oxytocin increases feelings of relaxation, trust, and empathy while reducing stress and anxiety.”

Remember, it wouldn’t only be your lucky customers who would be around the dogs, but your waitstaff as well. They too would be able to reap the above perks so they might feel happier on the job.

Marketing resource Survey Monkey reports that happier employees have less absenteeism due to reduced stress, lower rates of turnover, and greater productivity.

The Cons of Dog-Friendly Restaurants

Although you might feel convinced to allow dogs onto the premises, we encourage you to read this section as well. The following downsides can impact your restaurant business and thus must be weighed carefully.

Dogs Will Make Messes

Even the most well-behaved dog can have its unpredictable moments, especially when put in an unfamiliar situation like being on a restaurant patio with a boisterous group of people and plenty of other canines.

Perhaps the dog gets overexcited and vomits whatever it ate. Maybe the dog urinates and/or defecates.

It doesn’t matter which bodily function; your restaurant is going to have considerably more messes if you decide to allow dogs.

Since these messes will be contained to the outdoor patio, it’s easy enough to hose them off, but it doesn’t change that being around fecal matter or vomit is anything but hygienic.

Your customers could raise a fuss about the dog having made waste, and they wouldn’t be in the wrong for that at all.

Even if your staff was lightning-fast in removing the messes, customers who paid just as much money as everyone else will be exposed to the mess for at least a couple of minutes. That’s not fair to them.

Plus, it’s not exactly hygienic for a cook or bartender to have to stop what they’re doing to handle dog urine or feces. They’d had to be very careful in disinfecting themselves before they return back to work.

When they pause what they’re doing, they also interrupt the flow of service. People are waiting longer for their food and/or drinks, and they’re not going to like that.

You could hire someone just to clean up dog messes, but that’s not exactly a job that anyone will be eager to fill.

It’s either that or deal with these messes as they happen, and both situations are difficult.  

Dogs Can Be Disruptive

Even if a dog doesn’t make a mess, the overexcitement of being around so many other people and dogs can cause them to start barking.

Then they keep barking, and keep barking, and you get the point.

When someone has a crying baby at a movie theater or restaurant, the right thing to do is to try quiet the baby immediately. Barring that, it’s best to go into a quieter area and take care of the baby there.

This way, no one’s experience is disrupted for too long.

You’d have to hope that the customer with the loud dog would think to take their dog away from the situation as well.

Yet what happens if the dog begins barking as soon as they’re back at their seat? You’d have no choice but to ask the customer to leave before the other customers at the restaurant can complain.

If you allow the boisterous dog to stay and don’t say anything, then surely other customers will leave, griping about the disruption of their quiet dining experience.

The customer with the loud dog could be offended that you asked them to take care of their dog, and so they might not come back to your restaurant.

You’d have to decide if the needs of one or the needs of many matters more, which is a tough situation to find yourself in.

Those with Pet Allergies or Canine Aversions Could Drop Your Business

We talked in the last section about how most people love dogs, but most people don’t mean everyone.

Some people had a traumatic experience around dogs and thus don’t like them. Others are allergic to dander and can’t have a dog around. More still just simply don’t like dogs due to their personal preferences.

Once these people hear that your restaurant is allowing dogs onto the outdoor patio, you can expect to get some pushback. 

You already know if you’ve managed a restaurant for long enough that you can’t make everyone happy, but you want to make most people happy, at least.

Your customers can be split down the middle. Some will be fine with you allowing dogs while others won’t be. Whoever is unhappy could decline to eat at your restaurant again.

Unlike the situation in the last scenario, where maybe a few of your customers drop off, you could potentially lose customers in droves.

You won’t lose as much business from dog owners if you never allow dogs on the patio. They don’t expect to be able to bring their dog anyway and wouldn’t begrudge your restaurant for not allowing it.

You Have to Pass Very Strict Health Codes

Dogs and foodservice are not the best combination, as many pet café owners have found.

You should expect that the number of health codes your restaurant would be expected to pass would go up considerably once you welcome dogs.

Even though the dogs aren’t going into the kitchen, and they don’t live in the restaurant, your local health inspector still must clamp down on your health and safety requirements.

If you fail to live up to those expectations, especially more than once, that would likely result in your restaurant being shuttered.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve seen both the pros and cons of allowing dogs in restaurants, you have a decision to make.

The upsides are great, as you can expand your customer roster and make more money in the process. Plus, having dogs around makes a lot of people happy.

The disadvantages though are quite heavy. Those among your customers who don’t like dogs will be displeased with your decision, and you could lose their business for good. Plus, if you don’t pass strict health code laws, your restaurant could be shut down.

Only you can decide how you want to proceed with your restaurant. We hope the information in this guide helps with your decision-making!


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