Dogs: people like them, so you want them. Not just the work dogs – seeing-eye dogs, hearing dogs, activity dogs for autistic children – but companion dogs. The animals your customers like to have with them as friends and company. They come to your coffee shop to relax and feel at home, and that means bringing Fido with them.
Maybe you think you already run a Fido-friendly coffee shop because there’s a notice in your window saying ‘dogs welcome’. That’s a good start – but it’s also the bare minimum, and stopping at bare minimums sends a message. You’re telling everyone you’re not prepared to go that extra mile.
Dogs don’t generally get a choice of where their humans take them, but it’s up to them whether they enjoy it or not once they arrive. What’s likely to get you the paws-up from your canine clientele?
Dogs need to feel secure. Yappy dogs aren’t half as cute as their human moms and dads seem to think, but dogs only start barking in the first place when they feel they have a point to prove, usually when they feel insecure or threatened. Your front line is your staff’s attitude. Your waiters don’t have to fuss all over their canine customers – and face it, if they’re going on to handle food then we’d all rather they didn’t – but dogs can sense body language. If every cell of the waiter’s body is screaming that they would rather be a million miles away from the wolf, the dog will pick that up, and it will know why. Dogs also feel challenged by direct eye contact from a stranger, and when a dog bares its teeth it isn’t to deliver a friendly smile.
In short, your staff need to know how to act around dogs, and it may not just be a matter of being a natural ‘dog person’. You already invest in your staff’s more traditional training, so you can add this necessary skill to the roster.
Then we come to your layout – what is it? Open plan tables? Cubicles? Because we’re coming back to Fido’s sense of security. Dogs are pack animals – the pack being themselves plus Master / Mistress / Family – and they’ll defend their territory against other packs. So, even if your bar is open plan to human eyes, some kind of partitioning is needed to give the dogs a sense of being in their own space without intruders. Partitions don’t have to be high – just high enough for the smaller members of the party, even if the human members can see their neighbors and chat freely.
And since we’re seeing things through dog eyes – what’s the view like down there? How does it feel? The humans might not notice the cold draught whipping along at ankle level but Fido will. And it’s a sad fact – though many owners may deny it – that even the best-groomed dogs give off a stronger smell than humans, so any kind of absorbent floor covering is out. An insulated, laminated surface is best.
Now, a dose of harsh realism: no matter how great your service, your canine customers are never going to tweet about it, or give it a 5-star review on TripAdvisor, or enthuse about it to their friends. But their human friends just might. With an all-human party, you wouldn’t be all over some members and cut the others dead; so, with a mixed-species group, whatever service and courtesies you offer to the ones who walk upright, offer something in parallel to the ones on all fours. A complimentary desert bite and a refill for the lady; a gourmet-made dog biscuit and a bowl of water for her friend? Canine side dishes that come automatically with the main menu items? That is what will be noticed and that is what will drive the word-of-mouth.
A dog (and, let’s be frank, most humans) probably won’t notice whether a biscuit is gourmet-made or not – so make sure that the humans know! Whatever your coffee shop does to be Fido-friendly, make it clear. In your literature, on your website, anywhere your PR appears. You probably already tell the world about the sourcing of your ingredients or your green policies. Let them know this too.
And lastly, on the subject of letting people know – any establishment reserves the right to exclude its two-legged customers if they are disruptive, and the same should apply to the ones with four legs too. Unfortunately some dog owners can live under the impression their furry friends are exempt from normal laws of behavior, putting up – and expecting you to put up – with the kind of behavior that they would never tolerate from other humans. We can’t advise on the full law concerning canine customer relations in your state, but we can advise that for the sake of clarity and mutual understanding, your policy on dog customers needs to be clearly specified. Maybe a sign on the door that the humans can’t help noticing as they come in; maybe a couple of lines on the menu and the website.
According to a state-by-state survey of pet ownership in the US, Massachusetts has the lowest number of dog-owning households: a mere 23.9%. That’s still almost a quarter. At the other end of the scale, Kentucky and Missouri tie for the most with 45.9% - almost a half – each. Between a quarter and one half of the population are prepared to favor your Fido-friendly coffee shop over the more Fido-diffident establishment across the road. Roll out the non-absorbent red carpet and welcome them in. Learn more about getting a Coffee shop POS and have fun with the pets that come into your shop. We recently added best wet cat food in our store so make sure to check those out and welcome cats too in your shop.