It’s a Dog-Eat-Treat Kind of World

Ann Saunders

by Ann Saunders

Account Supervisor

Millennial spending power has industries standing up and taking notice. It’s what millennials are spending on though that has the foodservice industry and mega-chains like Starbucks catering to a whole new demographic.

I’m not super savvy when it comes to social media, but I still manage to scroll through Instagram on a fairly regular basis. I follow friends, some celebrities and public figures, a few mommy bloggers, and a handful of accounts that share those jaw-dropping photos of places I’d like to vacation someday. More recently though, I’ve started following some pet accounts—those with dogs in particular (boxers especially, if you want to get specific). One type of post I’ve seen popping up more and more in my feed are those with pet owners going through the Starbucks drive-thru to get a “Puppuccino” for their K9 companion.

For those of you who don’t know, a Puppuccino is just a small Starbucks cup filled with whipped cream. There’s no coffee, tea, or caffeine of any kind in the cup—just delicious, whipped topping—and you order it from the “secret menu.” At first, I just saw these as cute little videos of excited puppies getting a cold treat. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how genius it is.

According to the 2016 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 68% of all U.S. households own a pet. That equates to about 84.6 million households. The number one species of at-home companions (and my personal favorite) are dogs at 48%. And why not? Dogs bring unconditional love and other benefits into our lives:

  • 85% of dog owners believe pets are a good source of affection
  • 83% agree that interacting with a dog can help them relax
  • 82% are aware that owning a dog can be beneficial to their own health

As a culture, we are obsessed with dogs—especially millennials. Case in point: according to a study by Zulily, dogs are the biggest influence when it comes to driving first home purchases among millennials. Yes, dogs. “Rather than getting married or having kids, needing more space for their pets (dogs, specifically) is the main reason a third of millennials cite for purchasing their first home. For those yet to purchase a home, nearly 42% admitted that their pet or the desire to have one would be a key factor in their decision to buy a house.”

The result of this fondness for animal companionship was annual sales of pet products and services in the United States nearing $100 billion for the first time in 2019. Pet food and treats was by far was the largest category, with 2019 sales hitting $36.9 billion. That’s a lot of “bones.”

But let’s go back to Starbucks. The APPA also says that 95% of dog owners report that they buy treats for their K9 (along with the 11% who hold holiday or birthday parties for their dogs), while according to Wakefield Research, more than half of millennials (53%) think it’s essential to dine with their pets.

What that suggests is that restaurant operators who are willing and able to create a pet-friendly establishment could see more patronage from dog-owning clientele, a loyal bunch with an extra mouth to feed.

There are already countless lists identifying restaurants across America that will greet your pet with open arms, like this one on Delish.com. Better yet, you can visit BringFido.com to look for restaurants in your area that are pet friendly. Stan & Joe’s Saloon in downtown Annapolis, MD is just around the corner from my pup’s yard.

Having an outdoor space that’s welcoming to four-legged friends is just the beginning, though. Like Starbucks, there are many other restaurants adding dog-licious items to their menu (varies by location):

  • Rock & Brews lets you order your dog bacon, grilled chicken, unseasoned burgers or a hot dog
  • Shake Shack offers dog biscuits in a special sundae
  • Rita’s Italian Ice has small cups of ice or custard for dogs
  • In & Out Burger offers the “Pup Patty”—an unseasoned burger, packed in one of their signature doggy bags
  • Sprinkles bakes special cupcakes for dogs
  • Lazy Dog Restaurant has an entire menu dedicated to pups—like grilled hamburger, grilled chicken or brown rice. They’re served in special bowls designed for your pet
  • Dairy Queen visitors can get a free pup cup with another purchase

Whether or not to become a pet-friendly establishment takes careful deliberation. There will inevitably be some diners who don’t appreciate dining with dogs, not to mention the need to offer up additional training for your waitstaff and the potential for incremental cleaning and other costs you might encounter.  But with pet parents making up such a large portion of the population, it’s definitely worth consideration. At least Starbucks thinks so. According to Business Insider, Starbucks filed a trademark application for “Puppuccino” in May of 2021 and appears to be gearing up to make it an official menu item.

My dog, Camden, still needs to work on her table manners, but I definitely plan to bring her along to restaurants who cater to her and her friends in the future. I’ll even splurge for dessert, so long as they offer something with peanut butter. #doglove

True collaboration happens when you have a partner who shares your enthusiasm. Get in touch with David Melnick, VP of Strategic Partnerships, at 410.336.1000 or davidm@marriner.com to discuss opportunities to work together.

 

SOURCES:

Annual spending on pets nearing $100B, JAVMAnews, April 2020.

Chilton, Charlotte. The Most Pet-Friendly Restaurants in Every State, Delish, June 2021.

Larkin, Michelle. 10 chain restaurants with special menu items for dogs, Insider, October 2019.

Meisenzahl, Mary. Starbucks may officially add puppuccinos to its menu soon — and there’s evidence it could start selling pet apparel too, Insider, May 2021.

Mitic, I. 15 Insightful Pet Spending Statistics: Americans are Spending More on Pets Than Ever, Fortunly, January 2021.

Richter, Nathan. The Millennial Pet Owner, Wakefield Research.

Springer, Julie. The 2017-2018 APPA National Pet Owners Survey Debut, American Pet Products Association, Inc., 2018.

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