Despite nearly 20 years of attempting to scrub Baha Men from the collective consciousness, the question of “who let the dogs out?” is especially relevant in 2019, where dog ownership in America is at an all-time high. At the end of 2016, the American Veterinary Medical Association found that nearly 58% of all American households have a dog -- the highest rate of dog ownership since the association began collecting data in 1982. And with the increase of our furry friends comes the increase of dog-related businesses -- pet costumes, dog carriers and harnesses, and of course, food. According to Forbes, dog-themed retailers are now a $72.1 billion dollar industry. And now dogs are getting in on our collective restaurant obsession.
It began simply enough: bars, restaurants, and breweries opened their doors for furry friends to have a seat at the table (or at least at the outdoor patio where they can dine alongside their owners). But as the popularity of pets grew in an era where millennials prioritize having pets over kids due to the rising costs of living, many of these establishments recognized an opportunity to cater more to the dog-friendly crowds: by offering menus specifically crafted for four-legged companions. Now at dinner or dessert, Fido doesn’t have to be left out while sitting under the table -- but can instead be gnawing on his own restaurant-provided treat.
One of these establishments is West-coast born chain Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar, which now has over 30 locations across California, Texas, Nevada, Colorado, Georgia, and Illinois. “In our early days at the first Lazy Dog, we had one of our guests arrive with their dog while the health inspector happened to be in the restaurant,” Lazy Dog’s chief marketing officer, John Williams, recalled. “We took the opportunity to get permission from the health department to serve the dog on the patio.”
The dog-friendly patio took off, and Lazy Dog decided to incorporate a menu for the thousands of furry friends that would visit. That menu consists of grilled hamburger patties, grilled chicken, and brown rice -- all of which rings in at under $5 per plate, so your dog won’t go hungry as you dive into your own meal.
For dog enthusiasts that have dessert on the mind, Sprinkles Cupcakes has a solution. At the 22 Sprinkles Cupcakes bakeries across the nation, consumers can get their pooches their very own "pupcakes" so both dog and humans can indulge in baked sweets.
“When it comes to our best friends, what inspiration is more powerful than puppy-dog eyes?” posed Charles Craig, Sprinkles’ vice president of culinary. Since chocolate isn’t good for dogs, Craig dreamt up an alternative. The pupcake is sugar free and made from egg whites, buttermilk, vanilla, butter, and salt and topped with a yogurt frosting. “The pupcake allows you to share your Sprinkles moment with your whole pack.”
For humans that don’t want to be confined to sweet or savory food, burger behemoth Shake Shack also offers some perks for pups in both categories. “When we opened up our first Shack in Madison Square Park, so many of our guests showed up after taking their pets to the park’s dog run that we thought it would only be good hospitality to offer something to our four-legged friends as well,” explained Mark Rosati, Shake Shack’s culinary director. From there, the Pooch-ini was born: a frozen vanilla custard that features peanut butter sauce and dog biscuits.
It was such a hit -- especially the dog biscuits -- that Shake Shack partnered up with Bocce’s Bakery, a small-batch bakery that uses organic ingredients to make dog treats, to develop their ShackBurger biscuit and Bag of Bones menu item. The ingredients are all-natural and “human-grade” --they even including beef from Shack’s butcher in New York City. So even though they’re intended for your dog, you could arguably munch on them, too. (And in case you were wondering, yes, Rosati admitted to tasting every version developed himself.)