A dog café is a type of café that allows customers to bring their dogs. These unique establishments offer a variety of drinks, snacks, and often dog-specific menu items. In addition to food and beverages, dog cafés may also offer a variety of toys, accessories, and services such as grooming or dog training. Some dog cafés even host events such as adoption days or dog birthday parties.
The first animal café was established in Taiwan in 1998. The concept spread to Japan within 5 years where the idea of cat, dog, bird, and other pet cafés became popular. Today, pet cafés of all kinds can be found all across the world.
For dog owners, dog cafés offer a chance to socialize with other dog owners while providing a fun outing for their pets. They also provide an opportunity for dogs to play and interact with each other in a safe, controlled environment. For non-dog owners, dog cafés can provide a fun and unique experience that allows them to interact with dogs and learn more about different breeds.
Dog cafés can also be therapeutic for people who may not have their own pets. Studies show that spending time with animals can reduce stress and help alleviate symptoms of depression.
With the right business strategy, your dream of running a dog café isn’t so far out of reach. The key to starting any successful business lies in your preparation and flexibility. In this article, you’ll encounter some useful tips that will help you put your best “paw” forward.
Create a Solid Plan
It’s important to set yourself up for success by taking the time to establish a game plan. Naturally, you’ll find yourself grappling with typical entrepreneurial dilemmas such as sourcing employees and finding a suitable location – but with the creation of a dog café, you also have some additional challenges to face.
One of the first things you should be thinking about is where the dogs will come from. Many animal café establishments partner with local pet shelters to help facilitate eventual adoption. This is worth your consideration as a business owner for several reasons.
Firstly, it encourages customers to come “hang out” with their furry friends on the regular. This means repeat business for your shop. Secondly, customers who bond with a particular animal can apply to adopt them, which adds additional appeal to animal lovers. Additionally, if you’re trying to start a dog café, odds are you love dogs. And what better way to show that than to provide them with loving homes?
It’s also critical that you think about what other characteristics your café can have that will set it apart from the competition. Although the idea of a café occupied by fluffy friends is enough to draw interest, you’ll need to add something else to really seal the deal and maintain consistent sales. Brainstorm ways to make your dog café even more original and enticing to outside eyes.
Understand All Local Regulations and Restrictions
Like any other business, legal restrictions and local regulations must be adhered to in order to maintain a stable, functioning establishment. For example, in order to maintain proper food safety, you’ll need to designate a certain part of the café to a pet-free kitchen or food prep area. You don’t want customers complaining about tufts of fur in their meals!
Make sure to plan ahead and play it safe by investing in decent insurance. Not only for the actual business but also pet insurance for the dogs themselves. It’s part of being a responsible pet owner. This helps keeps those furry friends safe.
Check with local officials regarding zoning laws and other potential restrictions that might apply to this type of unconventional business. Some local ordinances dictate that pets must only be off-leash. Or, free-roaming within zoned areas. In this case, it’s always your best bet to do some thorough research before committing to anything.
Choose a Business Model
There are different types of cafés, and each operates on a different style of business model. If you’re looking to start a dog café, you probably won’t opt for a drive-thru installation. But some other options may be worth looking into.
Quick Stop Café
Some cafés are meant for customers to drop in, grab a drink, and go. These cafes are often fast-paced, streamlined service providers that encourage customers to keep things moving. At a quick-stop style café, customers are often served quickly and expected not to linger for very long once they’ve received their order. These types of cafes are often high-volume.
If you’re looking to start a dog café, a quick-stop coffee shop is probably not the best fit. However, there are ways you can make it work if you’re dead set on this business model. For example, customers might come in for a quick cup of coffee, stop to pet a dog, or even browse for potential adoption, and leave wanting more. If done correctly, this can create a positive memory and motivate a customer to come back later.
In a social café, customers are encouraged to wander in, place an order, and get comfortable. Moreover, the environment itself is often conducive to social behavior. For instance, there might be more lounge-style seating such as living-room chairs and sofas as opposed to the sturdy wood chairs used by a café that wants people to move along.
Social cafés are becoming increasingly popular among the younger generations of America. This is because they create a positive space for people to communicate and have fun. For a dog café, this business model can be even more effective. As customers sit down with their orders, they can relax and enjoy spending time with the dogs.
Another business model you could consider is the charity café. In a charity café, the environment is focused on your business’s mission. In this case, it might be the goal of placing shelter dogs in happy, loving homes. Often in these cases, a portion of profit proceeds are donated to the cafe’s cause. This drives additional traffic from socially-conscious customers looking to make a local difference.
Charity cafés can still be highly profitable, even despite donations and contributions. Donations to nonprofit organizations, for example, can become tax write-offs for your business later. The positive reputation your brand earns through this altruistic business model can also earn the respect of customers.
Find a Location
Finding the ideal location for your dog café isn’t as easy as it seems. There are multiple factors that should go into consideration here, including your usual business concerns such as the local culture and foot traffic.
The dogs in a dog café live there full time, so your establishment will need to be roomy enough to house multiple animals. The bigger and more energetic the dogs are, the more space you will need to give them a happy, healthy environment. It may even be worth looking into a building with a backyard, where the dogs can release some pent-up energy and of course, go to the bathroom.
An ideal location for a dog café will be significantly larger than a standard coffee shop due to the extra paws on board, but it should also be set in a very active environment. You want to make sure there’s enough foot traffic nearby to keep customers peering in through the window and stepping inside, even if just to take some pictures for social media.
It may also be helpful to find a location somewhat close to a veterinary clinic or pet store, just in case. Taking care of even just one dog can be a handful, so in order to properly care for multiple, you’ll want to make sure your most needed resources are nearby.
Create the Right Atmosphere
Start by visualizing the ambiance of your dog café. Expand on that vision with the addition of decor and aesthetics that draw customer attention. Keep in mind that some practicality is in order. This is so the dogs have enough room to roam around freely without tripping guests. Try to strike a balance between functionality and appealing design.
As we mentioned before, being around animals can reduce stress and aid the symptoms of depression. Keeping this in mind, it would be wise to cultivate an environment that promotes mental health and relaxation. Creating a calming atmosphere can even double as a selling point. If someone is having a rough day and needs a little support, your dog café could be the answer.
That being said, make sure that your customers have a set of rules to follow when they visit your establishment. This can prevent unpleasant situations like dogs begging for table scraps or visitors provoking pets unknowingly.
Get the Word Out
As always, your success mostly boils down to marketing. An effective marketing strategy can take nearly any business off the ground. And, something as unorthodox and interesting as a dog café has huge potential.
Utilize social media platforms in conjunction with traditional word-of-mouth marketing to let people know about your amazing dog café. People will see your dog café online and browse through the “profiles” of each dog and fall head over heels with your business. Creating a catchy, memorable brand can also help solidify your brand’s identity and leave your customers “clawing” for more.
Pet puns aside, running a dog café can become a fun and rewarding experience. Not only for you but also for the dogs and customers. With a thoughtful business strategy, your dog café can grow into a massive success.