How to make your Cafe Dog Friendly

How to make your Cafe Dog Friendly

The trend for dog ownership is at an all-time high as more families embrace canines as members of their family, childless couples consider these furry companions their children, and empty nesters embrace being pet parents. It’s no surprise that dog-friendly restaurants and cafes are a growing trend. This is being slowly adopted throughout the industry and now is the time to implement and refine the process of transitioning to this trend if you’d like to stay ahead of the game and your competition.

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Keep up to date with regulations for Pet-Friendly dining in your area

Check out if you’re able to offer pet-friendly dining and what you need to do to meet regulations for your district. There is an array of advice for business owners online such as:

This 2003 article presents different opinions about dogs being allowed in cafes, bars or restaurants in New Zealand.

Food Safety Standards for pets and assistance animals in New Zealand and Australia. 

Provide a “mutt menu” or “doggy-dining menu” for your canine guests and include your establishment’s rules you expect of their humans while they visit your premises. Some of these rules may include:

  • Ensure your dog has been exercised before visiting our café to minimise any messy accidents.
  • Your pup must have up-to-date vaccination and worming to visit our establishment
  • Your dog must be on a leash that is in your control. The lead cannot be tethered to a table or chair to avoid spills.
  • While we understand dogs can be whiny or boisterous, we encourage you to maintain appropriate behaviour in your pet to allow other diners a satisfactory experience.
  • Unruly or untrained dogs are not encouraged to dine at our establishment.
  • Dining with us is not the time to socialise dogs with dogs. If you’d like to socialise them, we recommend a local dog park. 
  • Do not place your dog on the table, a chair, or your lap. Please bring a rug or mat to place on the ground at your table if you would like extra comfort for your pet. 
  • Do not let your dog eat from your plate or drink from your glass. We will provide dedicated crockery if your dog orders from our pup menu. 
  • Please don’t be upset if people refuse to be seated by you or we ask you to kindly leave if your dog is impeding on other dining experiences. We want you to enjoy yourself but we also want other guests to appreciate the ambience of our establishment. 

These are just a few tips to include and there are many others you may want to consider. Ensure the wording is appropriate so as not to offend or make the owners feel their patronage is less respected than others. However, they must understand your terms and conditions to ensure all your guests dine in comfort with the joy of man’s best friend in attendance. 

Your staff must know the difference between Service Dogs and domestic pets

It is also important to note that service and companion animals have the right to special privileges reserved for domestic pets. They’ve been through stringent training to qualify for these rights and your staff must be aware of the difference between service dogs vs domestic pets.

The Department of Conservation outlines disability assist dogs accessing public venues in this article.*

The Auckland Council outlines rules for dogs in public places as well as access and exceptions in this article.*

Service dogs, particularly Guide Dogs, have access privileges to venues (including those that don’t allow dogs) which is legislated. In the instance of vision impairment dogs (Guide Dogs), it’s permissible for your staff to ask the guest how they’d like to proceed. Some guests will prefer their Guide Dog follow you to the table and they will follow. Others will prefer you take their arm and the Guide Dog will follow. It’s good manners to ask a vision-impaired diner how they would like to be shown to their table. 

There are many other tips for establishments to cater for vision-impaired guests which we’ll include in a separate article in the future. 

The links provided above are correct at the time of publishing and Reward Hospitality is not responsible for outcomes contravening these publications. They’re published as an example of legislation and readers are encouraged to seek legal advice or research legislation that is current or active for their locality. 

Dedicated areas for diners with pets and those without

Allocate a dedicated area for pet-owning guests in an external environment without making them feel like they’re being alienated. Designing your venue to include pet owners is an art form but it has the potential to reap you profitable rewards. 

Some diners aren’t necessarily pet-haters but they’d like the opportunity to enjoy their meal without the annoyance of being in the company of pets. Many of them will enjoy their visit while gushing about the cuteness of a puppy at a nearing table, however, they’d prefer this from a distance. Ensure your diners without pets can enjoy their visits as well. Give them a space to adore from afar while enjoying your menu by offering ‘a-paw-priate’ space between diners with pets, and those without, without it being obvious segregation. The art is in the finesse of your dining layout. 

It is also vital you keep in mind that tables and chairs for pet owners need wider division between them than those for diners without pets. 

Diners with pets will also need an open space with grass for urine walks and time out away from others. 

Dedicated crockery and utensils for doggy dining

Offer a menu, which we’ll discuss below, dedicated to your canine patrons. Ensure their crockery is distinguishable from the human variant and that they’re up to the task for animal consumption. 

An obvious choice for animal equipment is dog plates and bowls. But if you’d like to step it up a bit, how about providing a classy set of melamine crockery for animals like this melamine range. This range is designed for humans but they’re a step up if you want to serve your pet menu in quality crockery that is non-porous (so they won’t host bacteria), and they’re also dishwasher, oven, and microwave safe making them the perfect ‘high-class’ crockery for your fur-guests.  

Develop a Pawfect menu

Many ingredients are toxic for dogs and should not appear in their menu in any way shape or form. It’s a long and detailed list that includes some dairy products, chocolate, coffee, anything containing xylitol, and many others that can become confusing. For instance, apples are fine for dogs however apple seeds are very toxic. 

The best course of action to approach developing your pup-friendly menu is negotiating a deal with your local veterinarian who can review and provide advice about your menu as well as tips about your venue layout. 

There’s an array of cross-marketing activities you can negotiate with your local vet like:

  • Review our puppy menu and venue layout every three months and we’ll host an event for your top 10 clients 
  • Review our puppy menu and venue layout and we’ll put your business details on our puppy menu as well as a sign in our windows highlighting we’re dog friendly with your logo
  • Provide an audit of our puppy services once a month and we’ll give you a $X credit for your staff to purchase their lunches that month. 

There’s an array of cross-marketing activities you can negotiate and veterinarians are in a highly competitive industry so they’ll be open to the discussion.  

Train staff in puppy-service etiquette

Ensure your team are equipped to handle puppy service and take into consideration that most of your staff will have no idea what is right and wrong when it comes to serving guests with pets. The best course of action is to seek professional advice to train your team. Here are a few basic tips you’ll need to consider. 

Understand the difference between service dogs and domestic dogs

We’ve highlighted this point above however it’s vital we mention this again. 

Sit guests with domestic dogs as far away from each other as possible

This prevents canines from interacting and becoming over-excited which may lead to unplanned disruptions. When it is necessary to place canine guests near each other, try to match seating arrangements based on dog size and temperament. 

Staff should never pat the dogs

First and foremost, engaging with the fur-patrons is distracting. Beyond that, the time taken to constantly wash hands (and the logistical nightmare of ensuring this happens after a dog is handled) is not conducive to your business. No one wants dog hair served in their food, so it is vital minimal interaction between your staff and the furry guests is maintained. 

Further to this, strangers giving dogs attention makes them excitable which may, in turn, lead to a less than desirable dining experience for your non-pet-accompanied guests. Encourage your staff to treat the cutest of pets as though they are the most arrogant and unapproachable customers with as little interaction as possible to ensure all patrons enjoy their dining experience. 

Be prepared to clean up messes

Dogs will make a mess while drinking water and eating. Have cleaning utensils like dedicated cloths, dustpans and mops close at hand to deal with minor messes. It goes without saying, dog poo bags will need to be on hand with a dedicated receptacle that is well sealed and nowhere near dining, service, or food prep areas. Dog owners are required to bring their own poo bags in every instance but it pays to be prepared. 

Know when to say no

If a dog or puppy is becoming a disruption and causing a less than desirable dining environment, staff need to be well trained in how to approach and communicate with the dog owners. In extreme circumstances, they need to be well equipped to be able to respectfully request pet owners are asked to leave. 

How to attract pet owners

If you’re able to pull off the enviable position of being a dog-friendly business, you need to shout it loud and proud via your website and social media platforms. Ensure you have your dog-friendly menu on your website as well as your terms and conditions for pet owners to visit your establishment. 

Social media is a powerful form of advertising for businesses that have achieved dog-friendly status. Create unique hashtags to promote your pet-friendly establishment and encourage your guests to post about their experience using these hashtags so their friends and colleagues hear about their awesome experience. This enhances your brand awareness which is a powerful tool in this modern age. 

Another concept for consideration is campaigns like puppy parties or a ‘menus for mutts’ with puns that are so entertaining your patrons share your brilliance online with their friends. If you’re delivering an experience beyond their expectations, your guests will post about it to their family and friends because valuable pet-friendly experiences are few and far between (and get a lot of responses on social media) in the current climate. 


Reward Hospitality helps your business be pet friendly

The first step towards converting your business to becoming a pet-friendly establishment is expert advice about the rules, regulations and requirements required. We have a team dedicated to specific industries offering guidance and advice based on their career and expertise assisting other owners within those dedicated fields.