Making It a Great Dining Experience for Everyone

While nearly 87 million U.S. homes have a pet, around 34% of families are still pet-free. That means a key to making pet-friendly outdoor dining a success is to make sure it’s comfortable for people who don’t have pets, too.

Here are some ways to approach this.

Have a pet code of conduct and communicate clearly

  • A list of rules for pets – or code of conduct – can help provide clear guidelines about expectations for pet parents and pets. We suggest you post your rules on your website and communicate it to guests through signage. See a sample here
  • You can make your communications fun, for example by using the voice of a pet to emphasize both what’s required and why. See a sample here

Educate about responsible pet ownership

Signage or table tents with tips can help reinforce responsible pet ownership and encourage a positive experience for all. Writing them in the voice of a pet makes them stand out. For example, messages could include:

  • Love the Leash. Keep me on my leash to protect me, my surroundings and the other people and pets here.
  • No Nibbling. Don’t let me chew on plants, cords or other items that could be harmful. Give me a chew toy instead!
  • Stay With Me. Never leave pets unattended in a public place. I may get scared and I’m happiest with you!
  • Clean Up. When I gotta go, I gotta go. Help me anticipate when I need a break, and alert staff if an accident happens.
  • Ask First. Always ask permission before touching an unknown pet. Teach kids to do so too!
  • Make New Friends. But approach other pets with care until you know how the meeting will go.

Clean frequently to help guests with allergies

  • This is particularly important for soft surfaces like chair pads to which allergens might cling.
  • Consider having amenities on hand like hand sanitizer and a lint roller for customers who want to try to minimize allergens sticking with them.
  • Encourage guests to self-report, for example with a sign that indicates guests with pet allergies should let a staff member know.

Help those who aren’t comfortable around pets

  • If a guest indicates a concern about being seated outside near a pet, offer to host them inside where pets aren’t allowed.
  • Don’t try to change someone’s mind if they’re uncomfortable. We all want to help more people love pets! But a moment of fear while a guest is visiting your business isn’t the time. Focus on helping them find a space where they feel safe.

Train staff

  • Provide training for your team so they know how to recognize pet behavior and spot potential issues.
  • Make sure they understand never to touch a pet without the pet parent’s permission.
  • Also, never offer food to a pet without talking with their owner first.

Want more tips? Check out the Pets on Patios Toolkit for tips to help cities, business and pet parents make outdoor dining pet friendly.

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