Eye on Hospitality: Hotels and Restaurants are Going to the Dogs

Eye on Hospitality: Hotels and Restaurants are Going to the Dogs

By Paul Schlienz

Americans love their dogs, and increasingly, the hospitality industry is catering to dog lovers. Pet-friendly hotels are easy to find, and dog-friendly restaurants, once a curiosity, are becoming much more common.

Any pet owner who’s ever had to leave a pet in a kennel during a vacation knows how painful the separation can be for animal and owner. Fortunately for the many pet parents who also love travel, taking Fido or kitty along for the journey is increasingly practical.

A substantial proportion of the lodging industry is not only tolerating pets, but is actively courting pet owners by offering pet-oriented amenities. According to a 2014 American Hotel & Lodging Association survey, 60 percent of U.S. hotels now accept pets, up from 50 percent in 2006.

And we’re not just talking about budget motels. Indeed, 80 percent of luxury hotels accept pets, making this high-end sector of the lodging industry its most pet friendly segment.

“The dominant industry trend is that pets are being treated as members of the family,” said George Puro, an analyst who authors the annual “Pet Market Outlook” for the research firm Packaged Facts. “People want to travel with them. They don’t want to leave them behind in kennels.”

With approximately 79 million pet-owning homes in the United States, or 65 percent of all households, according to the American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owners Survey, this market is much too big for hotels to ignore.

Additionally, pet lovers tend to be well-off financially. According to Packaged Facts, 53.7 percent of total pet-market expenditures come from households with more than $70,000 annually in income.

Restaurants, too, now more than ever, are attempting to appeal to pet owners.

“I believe that you will see this as a more common trend,” said Lyle S. Houston, owner of a dog-friendly restaurant in Upstate New York. “More than ever, our culture caters to our dogs as if they were children. They are such a huge part of our lives in this country; and with good reason, such loyal and loving companions.”

There are now even restaurant chains that bill themselves as dog-friendly. A good example of this trend is the Kentucky-based Double Dogs Chow House, which encourages customers to bring their dogs with them on the patio, and whose tagline is “Sit. Stay. Eat.”

Unfortunately, as Double Dogs recently discovered when it opened a restaurant in Lexington, Ky., not all health codes have caught up with this pet-friendly trend in restaurants. As a result, at least for now, Double Dogs will not be able to welcome dogs to its Lexington location.

Nevertheless, there are signs that laws are catching up with customers’ desire to dine out with their furry friends. One indication can be seen in Ohio where a bill is now in the Legislature that would allow dog owners to take their pets onto restaurant patios so long as the restaurants follow all other health and food codes.

“We believe it’s up to the business owner if it makes sense to allow dogs on patios,” said Joe Rosato, director of government affairs at the Ohio Restaurant Association. “You’ve got to make yourself different and standout so you can attract consumers of all kinds.”

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