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The Up and Coming Restaurant Concept—Pet Entertainment

It appears that pet-friendly restaurants have a new contender—pet entertainment. The biggest brand in this arena is MUTTS Canine Cantina—a brand that began its journey entertaining mutts and men in 2013. It combines a restaurant and bar with an off-leash dog park. For those of us that love our four-legged friends, it’s hard to imagine any place more inviting.

This unique, dog-friendly venue currently has two locations—Dallas and Fort Worth. Recently, MUTTS Canine Cantina signed its first multi-unit franchise deal with the city of Austin—a city that makes its dog-friendly culture known. In fact, according to WalletHub’s annual pet-friendly city list, it is the fourth most pet-friendly city in America.

Three neighborhoods in Austin will be fortunate enough to be the new home to this upscale dog park mixed with a cool cantina. According to QSR Magazine, the neighborhoods being considered are Round Rock, West Lake, Leander/Cedar Park, and Central/Downtown.

These dog parks offer walk-up bars, HD TV’s, free WIFI, and casual food options such as hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, and grilled cheese. The doggie menu consists of a pupsicle made with beef broth, peanut butter, and an edible bone, or a doggie dog that’s made with 100 percent beef frank. Much to your dog’s dismay, MUTTS also has dog washing stations.

MUTTS Canine Cantina has partnered with Fransmart, a franchise development concept that is also behind companies such as The Halal Guys and Qdoba Mexican Grill.

Their goal is to expand to 40 major markets in the U.S.

Another brand that caters to dog-loving patrons is Lazy Dog, a business that was first established in 2003. When it first began, the name and restaurant was not inspired or designed to be a pet-centered establishment. In fact, it was meant to remind guests of the feeling that one gets when welcomed home by your best friend—the family dog. Only when a guest showed up with their dog in hand, and they determined that dogs could legally dine on the patio, did they welcome patrons that came with their four-legged friends.

Lazy Dog currently has 26 locations with at least 5 additional openings expected in 2020.

While most patrons with dogs are allocated to the patio, there are a few other restaurants like MUTTS that offer more. One of these is The Watering Bowl in Denver which offers their four-legged guests a 7,000 square foot private dog park. It is Denver’s first dog friendly tavern, but, if our crystal ball is correct, certainly not the last.

Do Dog-Friendly Restaurants Make Financial Sense?

Unfortunately, only a few states have laws permitting dogs on restaurant patios. Fortunately, that number is growing as citizens rally for states to take a look at outdated laws and health codes. States currently allowing Fido to dine on restaurant patios include Florida, Tennessee, Maryland, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, California, New York and Rhode Island. Virginia recently passed a law permitting dogs in breweries and in winery tasting rooms. In June of 2019, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas signed in a law allowing pets on restaurant patios, at the discretion of the restaurant. Ohio and Virginia recently sponsored bills allowing dogs on patios.

Keep in mind that there are those restaurants that have been allowing dogs on their patios for years, despite their state’s health codes. I sense health inspectors cringing.

If you Google dog-friendly restaurants, its clear that this venue is a growing trend. Whole websites are dedicated to leading patrons and their dogs to restaurants where they will both be welcomed. These include Bring Fido, Yelp, and Trips with Pets.

The benefits of being a dog-friendly restaurant are clear—the increased market share you experience by offering a place for patrons and pets to enjoy a relaxed setting and a meal together. Another plus is the increased social media presence and the dog-friendly menus that offer another stream of income. Bacon Strips and Hot Dawgs are just two of the choices Fido will have at Nauti Dawg Marina Café in Lighthouse Point, Florida.

Of course, there are negatives to contend with as well. These include guests that are uncomfortable around dogs and dogs that are uncomfortable around other dogs or people. Fortunately, most owners know which dogs should and should not visit public places. There is, however, those that wear rose colored glasses and are blissfully unaware that their pooch has unsocial tendencies. For this reason, it’s important that you stipulate required behavior, much as you do for unruly patrons. Wear shirts, shoes, don’t smoke, and we have a right to refuse service just because we feel like it. Don’t bark, or bite, or excessively drool on nearby patrons.

With the tide turning and states advocating for doggie patios, we expect to see an increase in “pups on the patio” events and “yappy hours.” Those of us whose best friends have four legs will be sure to keep an eye out for these up-and-coming events.  

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