top of page

Going to the Dogs: How to Attract Pet Parents to Your Restaurant

After staying at home with their precious pups for so long, it seems almost unimaginable for some pet parents to go anywhere without them. To help solve this pooch-parent dilemma, a new breed of restaurants has begun opening their doors to dogs.

According to a recent study, one-third of Americans are dog owners. And many, especially in walking cities like NY and Miami, take their dogs with them everywhere they go. While most restaurants don’t allow pets inside their dining rooms for health and practical reasons, there are ways to make sure your pet-loving guests aren’t left begging.

Dog -friendly promotions, pooch-perfect patios, and offering water and treats are simple ways to give your restaurant a dog-friendly vibe. Creating pet-specific menu items on your delivery menu is another playful initiative.

Even in some of the most dog friendly cities like San Francisco and NYC, finding a spot that welcomes four-legged companions isn’t easy. And while inviting pups to your restaurant can be challenging, creating a space for your pet-loving customers is a great opportunity to differentiate your business from the competition in today's dog-eat-dog dining world.

If you’re wondering what steps you can take to make sure your outdoor dining area can accommodate dogs or curious about how to handle the many challenges that arise when you add canines to the mix, read on.

10 Tips for Making Your Restaurant Fido-Friendly

1. Invest in Sturdy Water Bowls and Dog Treats

A simple, inexpensive way to keep your guests with four-legged friends happy is to provide dog bowls around the perimeter of your outdoor dining area. This is a great way to make your customers with dogs feel welcome at your restaurant. Train your host and counter service staff to offer the customers with dogs a dog treat when they stop by to pick up a to-go order. This will keep the dogs happy and the owners will love you for it.

2. Seat guests with dogs as far apart as possible

If your restaurant does allow dogs in the outdoor dining area, it’s important to train your staff to sit different groups of guests with dogs as far away from each other as possible. Dogs can often get excited or agitated in the presence of other dogs, so keeping some distance between them will help to prevent a difficult situation from becoming a disruption.

3. No petting allowed!

As tempting as it might be for a server to reach down and pet a cute puppy, it’s important that you train your staff not to touch or interact with the dogs. This will not only keep your servers on-task and prevent them from becoming distracted, but it will prevent your wait staff from having to constantly wash their hands each time they pet a dog.

And the less attention given to a dog in an already stimulating environment, the better. If your servers do their best to go about their normal service routine as if the pups were not there, the dogs will remain calmer and not feel the urge to keep bothering the new friend that keeps coming to the table.

4. Be well prepared to clean up messes!

One unavoidable realty of inviting dogs into your dining space is that there will be the occasional accident. So, it's important that your staff is ready to clean up a mess if it should happen as quickly and inadvertently as possible. If an accident happens, train your staff to stay calm, address it immediately, wash their hands thoroughly, and keep on moving. No one should get excited or overly distracted because after all, if you are welcoming pets, you have to be willing to accept all things dog.

5. Create a dog menu

Ready to generate some real puppy love with your pooch parents? Come up with a few items on your menu specifically for dogs. This can be as simple as offering rawhide bones or other treats or as inventive as creating a few dog-friendly dishes like beef patties or chicken breast strips. Offering dog-friendly menu options will help keep the dogs busy while their owners dine in peace. Your customers (and their dogs) will love you for it.

Take a page out of the Starbucks playbook by offering pet parents a simple-to-make frothy beverage. On the coffee giant's "secret menu," popular "puppuccinos" are an excellent draw for humans who enjoy pampering their pups as they sip on their own morning brew.

Note: Be sure to work with a veterinarian or dog nutritional expert when creating a dog menu.

6. Include man’s best friend on your delivery menu

If you aren't quite ready to invite dogs into your restaurant space, you can still be top dog among pooch parents that order from your delivery menu by offering dog-friendly menu items. Once a guest orders from the dog menu, collect data and use it to your advantage. The next time that customer orders from your delivery menu, adding a simple dog treat wrapped in a cellophane doggy-specific-bag is an inexpensive but hugely effective way of fetching a customer-for-life!

7. Be ready if things get “ruff”

Though most dog owners will know when their pup is being too disruptive and will voluntarily leave if need be, every dog has its bad day and there may be times when you have to step in and ask a guest to leave. Train your FOH staff to ask for help if a dog is being too much of a nuisance or if another customer complains.

As adorable as pups are and as great of an opportunity this is to attract dog-owners to your business, you have to make sure you’re still providing an excellent dining experience for everyone, even those who don’t have dogs. Like dealing with difficult customers, experienced managers should be trained to handle a “ruff” situation.

8. Set up a cart at a local dog park or charitable event

If you really want to meet dog lovers where they live, set up shop at a local dog park or neighborhood event. (See our blog post, Festivals Heat Up New York City: Setting Up a Mobile Restaurant, Bar, or Food Cart for more great ways to set up shop remotely this summer.)

9. Promote your paw-some pet policies on social media

If you’re new to the dog-friendly world or if you’re upping your puppy game, be sure to let prospective customers know by posting your new pet-friendly policy on social media. Just the mention of the key phrase “dog-friendly” will surely attract a lot of attention so be sure you’re prepared for a pack!

10. Visit other dog-friendly establishments

Even if it means traveling to another city that has dog-friendly bars or restaurants, it’s a great idea to seek out the advice of other fido-friendly establishments.

Dog at a dog-friendly bar
Lucky Dog!

Know the laws

As of 2023, there are 23 states that allow dogs in outdoor patios areas of restaurants by state law or through administrative regulation. This breaks down to 14 states that have a law allowing dogs (or other animals) in outdoor dining areas and 6 states that do the same through state regulations which have the force of law.

States that allow pets in outdoor dining areas by law:

  • Florida was the first state to enact a law on dogs in restaurants in 2006. The law allows a local unit of government to adopt an ordinance that acts as an exemption to the state's FDA Food Code.

  • Illinois' law requires that a locality first establishes an ordinance allowing dogs in outdoor dining areas. Municipalities with populations of 1,000,000 or more may enact ordinances that allow dogs in outdoor dining areas of restaurants.

  • Minnesota's law is similar to Illinois, allowing a statutory or home rule charter city to adopt an ordinance permitting food and beverage service establishments to allow dogs in designated outdoor areas.

  • Tennessee's law is a bit more rigid in its restrictions, applying only to certain counties and municipalities with higher populations.

  • Maryland adopted a law in 2011 that gives restaurant owners discretion to allow dogs to accompany patrons in outdoor dining areas of restaurants.

  • New Mexico's law, enacted in 2011, is very similar to Maryland’s.

  • In 2014, California added amendments to its law stating that if a food establishment owner allows it, patrons may bring their pet dogs to an outdoor dining area.

  • New York's law, adopted in 2015, allows” companion dogs" in an outdoor dining areas at a food service establishment if the owner allows it.

  • Rhode Island’s recent law lets restaurant owners allow a patron's dog to accompany the owner in the outdoor dining area.

  • Colorado enacted a law in 2020 that allows a person to have a pet dog in an outdoor dining area of a retail food establishment if several conditions are met.

  • Delaware amended its law in 2020, allowing the owner of a food establishment or beer garden to permit leashed dogs.

  • Alabama is the newest state to enact a law. As of 2021, a pet dog that is under the control of a person shall be permitted in an outdoor dining area of a food service establishment.

Laws to allow pets indoors or onto patios in less receptive states have been put forward, but as the issue remains tied up in the courts, some cities are making their own laws allowing dogs to enter restaurant spaces. In 2019, Texas began allowing businesses to advertise themselves as pet-friendly, offering their outdoor patios for use to leashed pets even though Houston had already been allowing pets in restaurants for a decade.

Other states allow leashed dogs in outdoor areas by state regulation.

States that allow pets into outdoor dining by regulation:

NOTE: These laws DO NOT apply to service animals, which as defined by federal law are dogs who do work or perform tasks for individuals with disabilities, are allowed in places of public accommodation. Unless service animals are disrupting the business/restaurant, they are allowed into any dining area, but not the areas where food is prepared or stored.

Visit this site for a detailed list of states with laws and regulations on the books.

New Breed of Social Club

Bark Social, a new “social club for dogs” in Philly’s Manayunk hipster section is the third location by co-founders, Luke Silverman and Jeff Kurtzman. Like the bar's first two locations, in Canton and Bethesda, Maryland, Bark Social caters to humans as a sports bar, beer garden, and café—and to dogs as a dog park to meet and socialize with other canines.

Unlike a traditional dog park, at Bark Social, owners don’t have to watch their dogs.

Trained “bark rangers” are there to pick up poop and break up fights so guests can relax.

Located in a former diner and parking lot on Manayunk's famous Main Street, Bark Social is part of a new breed of social activity. The dog-centric sports bar includes 75-inch flat-screens everywhere, 30 beers from a self-service tap system, cocktails, food, coffees, free wifi, and retail store with toys and clothing for dogs and humans. The outdoor beer garden is attached to a gated off-leash dog park complete with water tubs, sprinklers and a self-service dog-bathing area with complimentary towels.

Top 9 Dog-friendly Establishments in NYC

Everyone knows New Yorkers love their pups. One of the dog-friendliest cities in the US, there are more pooch patios opening around the five boroughs every day. Here are just a few.

An Upper West Side waterfront spot built into an elevated stone structure, Boat Basin is a popular dog-friendly dining destination.

W 79th St, New York, NY 10024

Complete with doggy water fountains, canines aren’t just allowed at this family-friendly restaurant; they’re enthusiastically welcomed.

1678 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10128

An unfussy neighborhood bar in Long Island City welcomes dogs both indoors and on its spacious outdoor patio.

45-58 Vernon Blvd, Long Island City, NY 11101

On the restaurant’s side patio and front terrace, humans can settle in and order their own steak off the regular menu while their furry friends can dine on a high-end canine-specific menu with fancy options like a 16-ounce grilled ribeye steak for $42, pan-roasted salmon for $28, and grilled chicken breast for $16.

Pooches are allowed at this casual dining restaurant where dog owners and their furry friends can enjoy shakes and fries at this neighborhood spot located right next to one of the city’s best dog parks, Jemmy’s Run. Specially made dog biscuits are available.

Madison Ave & E 23rd St, New York, NY 10010

6. d.b.a.

There’s a long-running debate as to whether the name stands for “doing business as," or “don’t bother asking,” but whatever you call it, dogs can tag along and hang out on the roomy back patio (and sometimes inside too!) at this perennially popular East Village pub specializing in beer and whiskey.

A seat at this bustling Greenpoint restaurant that Heath Ledger helped conceive is desirable real estate for dog-owning diners.

An exceedingly dog-friendly Williamsburg spot, lots of pups can usually be found hanging out both inside and outside on the spacious patio.

Dogs can often be found moseying around inside and on the back outdoor patio at this casual shot spot serving cheap beer, unusual cocktails, and brandy-spiked frozen coffee confections. Games like shuffleboard make this laidback location a popular destination for dog-diners.

1108 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216

10 Top Dog-friendly Restaurants and Bars in the US

New York isn’ alone in its love for dogs. Pet-friendly establishments are popping up all across the nation. Ready to be inspired? Check out this list of "top dog" eateries and bars across the US.

  1. CreekSide Sedona (Sedona, AZ)

  2. The Block (Saint Louis Park, MN)

  3. Woof’s Bar (Santa Clara, CA)

  4. Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar (Naperville, IL)

  5. Wet Dog Tavern (Huntington Beach, CA)

  6. Toller Patio (Dallas, TX)

  7. Waikiki Brewing – Kakaako (Honolulu, HI)

  8. Blue Ridge Winery (Saylorsburg, PA)

  9. 10 Barrel Brewing (Bend, OR)

  10. Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grille (Saint Augustine, FL)

Must Love Dogs?

In this very new world order, dogs are becoming more and more a part of mainstream American society. Though not every restaurant is conducive or appropriate for dogs, there is an apparent trend heading towards a more pooch-friendly social order. But not all restaurants are conducive or appropriate for four-legged guests. So, in the end, whether or not to make your restaurant dog-friendly is up to you.

Get Sauce Delivery

By Eileen Strauss


Thanks for subscribing!

Get a Taste of Our Secret Sauce
Stay up to date with the latest restaurant delivery news

Bringing in






Driving Repeat Business

Making Delivery Work

*Sauce recovers over 98% of restaurant delivery refund claims.

Commission Free Direct Delivery

Access To Unlimited Supply Of Delivery Drivers

Live Mobile Order Tracking

Live Delivery Support

Refund Reconciliation Management

Virtual Telephone Answering

Feedback Collection & Management


bottom of page