Americans will spend an estimated $58B on their pets in 2014 and restaurants are realizing the buying power of dog owners.  Like their furry friends, dog owners tend to be loyal and if a restaurant accommodates their desire to dine with Fido, they’ll keep coming back.

Hotels embraced this trend years ago and began capturing more dollars by opening rooms to travelers and their furry companions. From a recent article in Lodging Magazine: “Most pet owners consider their pets as part of their family, like their kids,” says Brian Harris, general manager of Kimpton’s Hotel Lumen in Dallas. About 10 percent of his guests bring pets. “They want to be able to travel with them and not being able to accommodate those guests would definitely affect our business.”

Increasingly, restaurants are looking to capitalize on this growing market.  For diners who view their dogs as family, this is welcome trend.

Does allowing pups in restaurants increase profits?

dog-friendly restaurants and hotelsThere are no hard numbers yet (that I was able to find), but antidotally, dog-friendly restaurants are reporting positive (or would that be “pawsitive”) uptick in business.  Eateries that go the extra mile with a special dog menu or “yappy hours” are faring even better.  The National Restaurant Association reported on restaurants “collaring the market” by adding a dog-friendly vibe.  They found a restaurant in Huntington Beach, CA that is raking in an extra 5% revenue just off their dog menu!  And, of course, those dogs don’t dine alone.

From the NRA article: “Washington, D.C.’s Argonaut restaurant capitalizes on canines by offering a doggy happy hour on Saturday afternoons. The weekly event, launched about five years ago, invites dog owners and their pets to relax on the eatery’s patio. “We were looking for a way to fill the afternoon void between brunch and dinner, when we noticed everyone in the neighborhood out with their dogs,” says managing partner of Scott Magnuson.”

I’m a dog lover with two little pooches.  I know when I find a cafe, bar or coffee house that allows my dogs to come with me, I stay longer and consequently spend more money.  In researching this article, a number of bar and restaurant managers said dogs add to the sociability of their patios, creating a more party-like atmosphere with strangers interacting.  More sociability = longer stay = more orders = higher profits!

“Being dog friendly endears us to customers.   Beyond increased bottom line profit, we’re creating good will” says Jamie, Manager of Bernardo’s in Sacramento, CA.

Is it legal to allow dogs in restaurants?

States determine laws prohibiting or welcoming dogs in restaurants‘ outdoor spaces, not the federal government.  Cities and counties can impose their own restrictions.  The only federal law regarding canines is around service dogs in the American’s with Disabilities act.  Service dogs are allowed in any business entity where the public is normally allowed to go.

Public health is the main concern around dogs in restaurants.  As long as dogs are up to date with vaccinations, they pose no real public

dog-friendly restaurants, hotels health issue.  Of course, restaurant personnel must practice proper hand sanitation if they touch a doggie diner.

Each state has different restrictions when it comes to dogs in restaurants.  In California, for example, outside dining for Spot and Fido is legally ok, as long as the dogs don’t have to pass through the indoor dining area.  Denver recently enacted dog-friendly patio dining laws, joining cities like Atlanta, New York City, Chicago and Nashville.

A survey of Denver residents conducted by KWGN showed great support for allowing dogs in restaurants.  Local restauranteurs are looking to fetch greater profits by opening their outdoor spaces to canines.

From the survey: ““We bring out ice water for the dogs. Sometimes, I bring out a meatball,” said Michele Mulei, the owner of Odyssey Italian Bistro on 6th Avenue in Denver, who allows some dogs to sit on his business’ patio.

“Honestly, I think it really enhances the dining experience and really, people will probably stay longer and maybe spend more money,” Mulei said.”

If your restaurant is dog-friendly, be sure to register with BringFido.com for visibility with more potential customers who want to dine and travel with their dogs.

Is your restaurant dog-friendly? What do you think about allowing dogs in restaurants’ outdoor spaces?  Let us know your experiences and thoughts in our comments section.