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Bar and line of restaurant

There are a ton of decisions to be made when becoming a restaurant owner.

As millennials opt for more pets over babies, pet-friendly restaurants are becoming more of a restaurant industry trend.

Should restaurants be pup friendly or shouldn’t they? It can be a divisive subject: traditionalists and health code fanatics are understandably on one side and pet lovers are on the other. As far as laws in the U.S. go these days, most leave it up to the owner of each spot to either accommodate them (in line with health codes) or not.

That doesn’t mean it’s an easy choice for restaurateurs to make. Either way you go, one group is happier than the other, but it really comes down to the kind of space and clientele you want to have. It’s something you’ll want to weigh carefully since it will have an impact on the kind of place your spot is (or will become).

outside restaurant with chairs

The Pros: In Favor of Fido

According to the ASPCA, just under half (about 44%) of U.S. households own a dog. Of course, not every single one of them is inclined to dine with their pup as well.

Nonetheless, pet parents are a sizeable portion of the population just waiting to be lured into your place by standing out as a spot that allows dogs. Besides straight up seeking out places where they can dine with their furry pals, all it takes is a sign on the sidewalk to turn people out walking their dog into customers. Even if they only stop for a quick water bowl break for Fido and one beer for themselves, that’s a sale you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

There’s also something to be said for being ahead of the curve. Restaurant industry trends for millennial consumers tell us that in the coming years, more guests will be looking for a place where their fur baby will be welcome as well.

happy guests

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Last, if your spot can manage to be child and dog-friendly, families that consist of both kids and puppies will likely be returning customers to a place where their entire family can enjoy a night out all in one spot.

Street view of a Cafe terrace with empty tables and chairs,paris France

The Cons: Leave Lassie at Home

As  Food and Beverage points out, “for every pet lover that crosses your restaurant’s threshold, there’s going to be another member of the community who dislikes eating in a business that caters to animals.” While the stats point to this population dwindling (the percentage of people owning a dog has gone up 6% in the last few years), the reality is that they do still exist and they’ll likely opt for somewhere else that is entirely pup-free.

Another con to consider is the extra step and awareness that you have to impart on your employees if dogs are allowed. They all have to know (and follow) the rule that hand washing is required immediately after petting any pup in the space. Depending on your crew, that could be easier said than done. Perhaps the most central con to the debate is the extra cost associated with allowing furballs into your restaurant. As clear as you can make it that dogs need to be well behaved, accidents will happen and that means cleaning them up properly, whether that’s shampooing carpets or replacing a chewed up chair leg.

Yet, when all is said and done, at the end of the day the choice is yours. Not only whether or not to allow dogs, but what exactly your pet policy is (or will be) and what the rules are that dog owners have to follow. It’s also not an all or nothing affair. Dogs can be allowed in certain parts of your restaurant (like on the patio) and not in others, which is an option many owners take to mitigate some of the cons while still leaving the doors open for the pros.

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Cinnamon is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and journalist who paid a large part of her way through college and graduate school by serving. Her work has been published with outlets like National Geographic, the Washington Post, Pacific Standard, and more. You can read more about her at www.cinnamon-janzer.com.
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