Should dogs be allowed inside eating establishments?

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dog on restaurant floor

Should dogs be allowed inside eating establishments? It’s a long-debated question in the hospitality industry and one that has never really gotten an answer. There are so many different rules: it depends on the restaurant, it depends on the dog. I always find this debate fascinating, because on both sides there are strong arguments that must be listened to. In this article I look at some of the thoughts and opinions to reach a conclusion about whether welcoming dogs into restaurants enhances or diminishes the customer experience.

Why should dogs be allowed in eating establishments?

Dog in Cafe

As man’s best friend and loyal companions, it’s quite common practice to want to stop off for a bite to eat or drink with your dog by your side. The Kennel Club website talks about the laws around having dogs in restaurants and cafes: “There is a misconception in the UK that dogs are not allowed in premises where food is served, such as restaurants and cafes. This is not the case: it is only food preparation areas that are out of bounds, not areas where food is served and sold. The only legal obligation on the owner of such a place is to make sure there is no risk of contamination and that all food preparation areas are up to specified hygiene standards, as set out in EU Regulation (EC) 852/2004, Annex II, applied in the UK by the Food Hygiene Regulations 2013.” This says that legally, although animals are not allowed in food preparation areas, there is nothing stopping them being allowed in dining rooms.

There is also an argument to be made that people want animals there. Animal cafes have been around for a while but have become increasingly popular. The cafes, combining coffee shops and shelters, charge people for a table and allow them to play with the animals whilst dining. If people are going out of their way, and even paying, to eat around animals, who’s to say they don’t want to dine in the same room as a pooch?

It’s also worth considering potential profit from going dog-friendly. After all, like us, dogs have appetites. Restaurants and cafes could monetise this easily by providing doggy-dining-options alongside their usual menus. More than just a metal water bowl in a beer garden, selling gourmet dog food will ensure even the four-legged patrons leave happy. A report from MORETH>N published in May 2018 found that every year an estimated £24.5 billion is spent on dogs in the UK, so owners are already splashing the cash on their pets. There are already a handful of restaurants around the world that have done this and found it to be a great success. St Luke’s & The Winged Ox, a pub in Glasgow that was voted best dog-friendly pub 2017, has found great success in being a pro-dog pub. Its Instagram features ‘dog of the day’ to showcase their most adorable patrons.

Why shouldn’t dogs be allowed in eating establishments?

Dog in Window

As far as I can see, there are two main reasons people argue that dogs shouldn’t be allowed inside eating establishments: cleanliness and behaviour. As The Kennel Club said, there is no law that means dogs aren’t allowed inside restaurants, but there is one that means they wouldn’t be allowed in kitchens. I think people are very aware of an animal’s cleanliness, and often assume it to be something that can’t be controlled. But with proper cleaning, there is no reason why a dog-friendly pub would be any less clean than a dog-free one.  

Behaviour can also be an issue. Dogs can be erratic and depending on how well trained they are, may not be comfortable sitting still for the duration of a meal. Dogs also may take a fancy to whatever is being dished up and try their luck for a quick meal. However, these characteristics don’t apply to all dogs, and many are well behaved, mild tempered and quiet. In fact, I see very little difference between a dog and a child behaviour, both are impulsive, can be hard to control, messy and loud.

I’ve previously written about whether people are looking for adult-only dining experiences, and many of the points I made in that article also seem to apply to this argument. Just as with children, I believe people are well within their right to seek out dog-friendly experiences or to eat without the presence of dogs. After all, allergies deem that some people wouldn’t be able to have a positive dining experience at all with a dog around.

For those who do though, I predict we will see an increase in restaurants and cafes allowing dogs in as there are many positives to be found. I believe these establishments should make sure to clearly label and pose themselves as dog-friendly places (just as family-friendly restaurants are very vocal about it.) After all, it’s these customer-first experiences that diners love, and I believe allowing a pet into a dining room is just another way of making the customers’ needs and wants a priority.