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Did you know that there is an entire website devoted to finding dog-friendly restaurants called bringfido.com?

As Millennials—that group that’s getting married later and later and increasingly opting for pups over kids—take over, it’s no surprise that dog-friendly restaurants are a growing trend.

Just pop the term into Google and you’ll see results from across the country designed to tell pup parents where they can dine with their fur babies. Besides Millennials, there’s also a growing number of empty nesters who once had kids at home but are now pup parents instead to fill the space that their kids once occupied.

If you’re in the restaurant business or are thinking about becoming a restaurant owner, you may want to get on the dog-friendly bandwagon.

Here are 5 tips if your restaurant is considering going dog-friendly.

outside patio with many people sitting around enjoying the day

1. Ensure your Staff Understands the Difference between Pets and Service Dogs

Here are 5 great tips from our friends at Restaurant Canada for handling service dogs & guests with sight loss (source):

  • If a guest enters your restaurant with their dog and you aren’t sure if it is a guide dog, it is better to ask rather than to start by saying “No dogs allowed.” You will know it is a guide dog if it is wearing a harness and guiding someone with sight loss. It is also helpful to ask how you can assist. Some people may have their guide dog follow you to the table, or they may prefer to take your arm and ask the dog to follow along.
  • When you reach the table, it is helpful if you place the person’s hand on the back of their chair so that they can orient themselves
  • Whenever you are placing something on the table, let the person know and ideally describe where it is (e.g. “I’m putting your water on your right”). If you understand how the clock analogy works for describing locations that it is beneficial (e.g. “Your glass is at your 3 o’clock”).
  • If you are chatting with them, always let them know when you are leaving, so they are not left talking to themselves.
  • When someone with sight loss asks for directions (e.g. to the washroom), it is most helpful to ask if you can guide them there. If they prefer verbal instructions, be specific and avoid gestures or describing it as “over there” (it sounds obvious, but it happens!).


2. Publicize Your Pet-Friendly Restaurant Status

It’s confusing when you’ve seen or heard of a place that’s pup friendly, but it doesn’t clearly state it on the restaurant’s website.

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As a responsible dog owner, I always want to make sure I’m following the rules and not bringing my dog somewhere he shouldn’t be, even it seems like it might be ok. Plus, no one wants to gear up for a night out just to get turned away at the door. Because practically everything is done online these days, having to call and wait on hold to talk to someone instead of just quickly glancing at a website might be enough to deter potential customers.

3. Consider Location

If you’re wondering how to start a restaurant that is dog-friendly, rather than transitioning to one, the closer you can locate yourself to dog-centric spots the better. This could mean dog parks, groomers, pet stores, or even geographic features like lakes and rivers (pups love to swim!).

Doggie foot traffic will naturally be swinging by your place. If you’re already in a spot that’s not in a high traffic area, set up a small grassy area if you can and create relationships with local pet businesses. That way you can help each other advertise and the businesses will think of your establishment when they have customers who are wondering where to go to grab some food with their puppy pal.

outside restaurant with chairs

4. Provide Amenities For Fido

Restaurant customer service that is dog-friendly can make all the difference. Have your hosts or servers bring water bowls to the table when they bring water for humans. It’s a free and easy thing to do that makes owners feel like their pup is genuinely welcomed. If you want to go above and beyond, have a steady stream of dog treats available as well, or even offer a small menu of food just for dogs. Every dog owner knows that pups have a steel trap memory for places where they can get food. A few whines or a tug on the leash when they remember your spot as they walk by can be what seals the deal to return.

5. Be Smart About Space

Even if a restaurant is clearly designed for dogs, your awesome food and drinks will still likely draw patrons who don’t love pups too. Most places solve this by having pet-friendly patios only. That way, dog lovers and dog dissenters can stay separate while both enjoying the lovely grub you’re serving up. When it comes to seating, make sure that those with dogs are seated in spots where their dogs won’t be in the way or risk being tripped over. Dog parents won’t want to come back to a place where their fur baby was trampled on.

Check out Upserve’s restaurant customer service handbook!


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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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