The truth about dogs and restaurants - SmartBrief

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The truth about dogs and restaurants

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This post is by SmartBlog on Restaurants and Restaurant SmartBrief contributor Janet Forgrieve.

Last week we wrote about the balancing act eateries sometimes perform in their efforts to create family friendly experiences that don’t alienate their adult patrons. In many markets, that conversation has grown to include our furry, four-legged “children” and, judging from some of the feedback these new rules have attracted, some see dining with animals as preferable to eating alongside small children.

“I’ve eaten with some animals who behave better than some kids at restaurants,” Jacksonville Beach city councilman Rick Knight told The Florida Times-Union, after the council unanimously approved a rule allowing the city’s eateries to admit pups on their patios, provided they follow a strict set of rules. In the Florida beach town and other municipalities and states across the country, officials are moving to permit dogs at restaurants largely as a way to regulate a practice that’s grown increasingly common anyway.

North Carolina health officials recently changed the rules to allow restaurants to permit people with dogs and even cats to bring their pets along when dining on the patio, after many of the state’s restaurants had started advertising “pet-friendly patios,” despite provisions in the previous rule that technically limited animal attendance to service dogs.

Jacksonville Beach’s rules are designed in part to put hygiene regulations in place, including a prohibition against servers touching pets while they’re handling food and a rule banning dogs from sitting on chairs and tables. As with the issue of children at restaurants, opinions on welcoming pets run the gamut from “why not?” to “why on earth?,” as evidenced by a recent spate of letters to The Tennessean. Some consumers just don’t believe animals belong in public places that serve food, which means restaurants run the risk of losing some human guests if they opt to allow animals. But others say they’re fine with the policy, provided pet owners are responsible and the dogs know how to behave.

While the new rules let restaurants decide whether to allow animals in their outdoor dining areas, they put the onus of regulating the behavior of the pet patron where it belongs — squarely on the shoulder of the animal’s owner. Eateries allowing animals in their outdoor spaces must depend on pet owners to be responsible enough to know whether their dogs are suited to dining in public with people. Several sources offer etiquette tips to pet parents looking to include their furry small fry in their restaurant visits, including understanding the rules before heading out to dine.

Most of the time, patrons looking to keep their pets under control while tempting food aromas waft around them must bring their own dog food. But some establishments are opting to enhance their menus with dishes fit for Fido. At the Harbor Café in Santa Cruz, N.M., the owners actively encourage humans to bring their furry friends, and have created a special menu that caters to the dogs, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reports. Treats such as lamb and rice jerky and pigs’ ears are boosting business, the eatery’s owners say, as a growing number of area residents make the restaurant a regular stop and at least one group of dog lovers regularly brings in groups of 30 or more. “It promotes a fun atmosphere,” said co-owner Max Corwin. “Definitely awesome entertainment.”

Do you allow dogs on your restaurant patio? If so, has the policy impacted your business for better or worse? Leave a comment.

Image credit, mcdomx, iStockPhoto