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National Restaurant Association - Collaring the market: Restaurants capitalize on canines

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Collaring the market: Restaurants capitalize on canines

The Park Bench Cafe in Huntington Beach, California is going to the dogs, and co-owner Mike Bartusick could not be happier about it. Nestled among the trees in Huntington Beach Central Park, the restaurant is popular with park-goers and their pets. “On a beautiful spring day, we might have 30 dogs on our patio and lining the grass near umbrella-shaded tables,” said Bartusick.

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Park Bench Cafe

When Bartusick opened the Park Bench Cafe 25 years ago, it quickly attracted a steady stream of walkers, joggers and families with their dogs. Seeing customers feed their pooches off their plates gave Bartusick an idea: Why not make doggy dishes?

Today, the restaurant’s Canine Cuisine menu features eight items, including the “Hot Diggity Dog,” an all-beef hot dog cut into bite-size pieces, and the “Rover Easy” with two scrambled eggs. Bartusick estimates that 5 percent of the operation’s revenue comes from these dishes. “Of course, if a dog is coming to eat, he’s going to bring his owner also,” says Bartusick.

Pooches on the patio

While few restaurants cater to canines to the Park Bench’s extent, other operations are finding ways to welcome dogs and attract their owners. At New York’s Cornelia Street Cafe, dogs are welcome to join their owners at the eatery’s sidewalk tables. Servers offer the canine customers bowls of water, which are much appreciated by the pets and owners alike, says general manager Angelic Puglisi. As a special touch, the cafe uses a ceramic doggy bowl, inscribed with the restaurant’s name and a drawing of a dog bone.

A happy hour for the dogs

Washington, D.C.’s Argonaut restaurant capitalizes on canines by offering a doggy happy hour on Saturday afternoons. Dog owners and their pets can relax on the eatery’s patio during these events, which can fill a void between brunch and dinner. 

Through a cross-promotion, local pet supply shop MetroMutts provides the pups with doggy snacks and other giveaways. Argonaut offers water for the pooches and drink specials for their human companions, including half-priced hush puppies.

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A pug peruses the menu 

Because of safety concerns, only service animals are permitted on the patio at all other times, according to Argonaut co-owner Scott Magnuson. “The last thing that we need when we’re busy is for someone to trip on a leash,” he said. Instead, pups are welcome to stay directly outside the patio fence, where they are still brought water.

Keeping out of the doghouse

Before you decide to cater to canines that are not service animals, consult your local health code. You should also establish some rules for everyone’s happiness and safety. For example, Argonaut specifies:

  • Dogs are not allowed inside the bar or restaurant area.
  • Dogs are asked to keep their paws off the tables and chairs.
  • Attendees are responsible for cleaning up after their dogs.
  • Each attendee can bring a maximum of two dogs; additional dogs require separate handlers.
  • Each dog must carry current tags and contact information.
  • Any incidents of dogs fighting or biting another dog or person will be reported to the Department of Health and Animal Control.
  • Dogs not behaving within the rules will be asked to leave.

 

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