If you think you’re seeing more and more dogs enjoying a lazy Sunday morning in the local dog-friendly cafés, you’d be correct. This year, more small food businesses have opened their doors to dogs than ever before, opting to give their furry customers a drink and a bite to eat rather than banishing them to a lonely outpost.
While the biggest concentration is in inner-west Sydney, dog-friendly cafés, bakeries and patisseries have popped up all around the country – and the world. Common features include water bowls and dog treats. But for Mikaela Crimmins, founder of the website pawclub.com.au – which lists pooch-friendly places to visit around Australia – being dog-friendly cafés is more about the attitude of staff.
“It’s not necessarily the physical things they give you, its just they give you permission to have your pet there,” she said, acknowledging Australians are having fewer children and placing a higher importance on their pets.
“A lot of people in Glebe, Sydney, don’t have children so pets become their children. In the more high-density areas where people don’t have backyards or only have small backyards, parks and cafés become imperative. In a way, they want to share that experience of going to a café with their pet because that pet has become an extension of their family. It’s also nice to be around people who are on the same wavelength.”
There are a lot of ways to capitalise on Australia’s love of pooches. Here are just a few suggestions on how to draw in local animal lovers.
Pet patio: Government healthregulations prevent pets from being inside food establishments. However, there’s nothing stating they can’t be welcomed anywhere in the venue. Outdoor seating areas or ‘puppy patios’ are becoming a popular way to allow pet owners and their dogs a way to eat and drink together. Put out dog bowls filled with water and make sure there are a few hooks or posts to tie leads up to.
Social media: Dogs rule the internet, and business owners can guarantee a bunch of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ by putting photos of pets visiting with their owners of Facebook or Instagram. West Juliett in Sydney’s Marrickville even has the popular hashtag #dogsofwestjuliett to show off their four-legged visitors.
Expand the menu: Specialty bakeriesmaking biscuits, cakes, muffins and other nutritionally-appropriate treats for dogs are now commonplace in farmers’ markets, so why not team up with a local producer to add a canine touch to your menu? Or, if you’ve got the time, have a crack at developing your own recipe. Not all ingredients can be eaten by dogs, however. Queensland-based business Sweet Chops is dedicated to baking gourmet treats for dogs, with owner Cindy Hodson saying chocolate is definitely out, and not all dogs are tolerant of wheat. “Peanut butter is a good source of all-natural protein and a source of vitamin H, which is great for the coat. Carob is also a safe alternative to chocolate that dog-friendly cafés can eat, and the vitamins and minerals in it are vital in the promotion of healthy bones, teeth, eyes and coat,” she said.
Promote yourself: A lot of dogowners are constantly on the look-out for new places to go, so spread the word. Send a press release to publications for pet owners, share the news on social media, put notices up in the local dog park or consider donating some handmade treats to a local animal shelter in exchange for a ‘shout-out’ (or just because you care).
Full disclosure, the Baking Business team are ‘dog people’.