With summer around the corner, people are looking to get out and enjoy the improving weather. This is especially true of people and their dogs. And, while there are a number of traditional places one can escape with their dog, owners are always looking for someplace unique and new to take their pets on a day out. According to the APPA, nearly one in five businesses now allow pets in the workplace. The local bar is quickly becoming a favorite spot for not just man, but man’s best friend.
According to the Humane Society, there are 54.4 million households in America with a dog. For any bar or restaurant, that’s an enviable amount of potential patrons. Popular sites like Bring Fido both guide locals looking for a night out to dog friendly businesses and can serve as a great research tool to seek out those businesses around you who have already made the transition. This is especially true if you’re bar is already located near these places or local dog parks. Finding a strong local community of dog-lovers already in place goes a long way into making the transition smooth and successful. Make sure not only to get your name on lists like these, but reach out to other local dog-friendly spots to make sure they all know that you’re the local bar to visit.
An increase in business isn’t the only benefit to becoming dog-friendly. Improved atmosphere is high on the list as well. A dog-friendly bar offers a unique atmosphere that can’t be matched by more closed off locales. It’s memorable, and a point in the bar’s favor that may elevate them above similar businesses that don’t share the same open policy of allowing Spot and Fido on the premises.
This benefit extends to employees as well. According to the Humane Society, Fast Company, and Forbes, those working in a dog-friendly place of business are more likely to experience higher morale, lower stress, less incidence of illness, and provide better communication between themselves and customers. The presence of a pooch acts as an icebreaker and conversation starter, making the business a more friendly place.
This isn’t to say that becoming a dog-friendly bar is all benefit, much as we would like it to be. There are a bevy of concerns and special circumstances to navigate when making the decision to go dog-friendly. First and foremost is the legality of such a move. While there is no hard and fast federal law with regards to allowing dogs into your establishment, regulations and rules vary from city to city.
The first major decision is how people with canine companions are going to be seated. Will your town allow them inside the building? Will they have to sit at an outdoor patio? If the former, should you have a separate area anyways so customers who are allergic or don’t wish to dine with the dogs can have an enjoyable night out?
Once you’ve got proper areas for everyone, the next hurdle is service. Many areas differ on whether the law allows for table service to a dog accompanied table. In areas where table service is disallowed, customers will have to order inside and take their own food and drink out to their table. This keeps wait staff away from the dogs and any allergens out of the kitchen. Even if table service is allowed in a bar’s area, asking customers to wait on themselves keeps the wait staff from tripping over leashes and from petting the dogs.
Next up on the list are cleanliness, and insurance. Let’s be honest. No matter how well trained the dog, at some point, nature will call. Setting aside an area where dogs can discreetly and sanitarily relieve themselves will keep the rest of the establishment clean. Having bags, cleaner, and separate disposal areas handy ensures a clean bar. Once you’ve got your space set and your rules in place, make sure to pick up insurance. While a well run and welcoming environment should preclude altercations between dogs, owners, and patrons etc., it never hurts to be prepared.
Having successfully navigated the litany of hoops, codes, and regulations required of a dog-friendly bar, the next step is making sure that the experience is a memorable one for all your patrons, both two-legged and four. It starts with the basics, leaving out water bowls for the dogs. It’s an easy gesture, but one that we’ve hugely appreciated in our past visits to dog-friendly establishments.
Next up: food. Setting up a dog menu serves several purposes. First, it’s an extra source of income. Simple fare like cooked hamburger or chicken, cups of crushed ice, or a shot of whipped cream are both an exciting treat for the dog and a quick item to prepare. Second, it shows that your establishment is not just willing to allow dogs, but welcome them by making an effort to make sure they are cared for. Third, and perhaps most importantly, it lowers the odds of accidentally making a dog ill. Owners treat what their dogs eat as differently as if they were human children. Serving dog food only at their owner’s request keeps everyone safe and healthy. Finally, consider donating a portion of dog menu proceeds to worthwhile animal charities. A business that takes steps to care for not just the patrons and their animals who visit, but for animals all over, will leave a lasting impression on any customers.
One of the best ways to make dogs and their owners feel welcome and also to get the word out that your establishment is to hold special dog days or themed events. Setup giveaways for free merchandise or gift certificates to your establishment. Take pictures of your patrons and their furry friends and put them up on your social media accounts or on a special display. Host charity events that encourage patrons to not only attend but donate to worthy causes.
There are innumerable benefits to making your bar or restaurant a dog-friendly one. It drives new traffic in, and creates loyal customers who will spread word of an establishment where they can take their four-legged friends. It increases morale, and makes the work environment a more fun and relaxed place for your employees. True, it takes work and a working knowledge of city and state regulations, a plan for health and to keep the peace. But the rewards, the fun, the gain to be had is worth it. According to the Humane Society, 63% of pet owners consider their animals not just companions, but members of the family. Treat them as such, and they’ll be as loyal to you as man’s best friend is to them.