The Dog Park Beer Garden Problem

Last week I met with a client who described their “dog park problem.”

And no, this didn’t have anything to do with that annoying owner who sits on her iPhone while her yellow lab “takes liberties” with your pup as he minds his own business (yes, every dog park has one of those).

dog park beer garden image

Instead, we were spitballing about a less offensive, but more important trend that’s stealing away taproom customers:

Dog parks with beer gardens are opening up all over the country.

A quick Google search reveals that establishments like Yard Bar, Mutts and Mugs, and Dog House Drinkery are carving their way into the craft market through the side door, marrying canine hangout time with happy hour.

Two knee-jerk reactions:

  1. Damn why didn’t we think of that!? Touche’ dog lovers. I knew you were a weird bunch but turns out you’re savvy too.
  2. Son of a %*&@^!! They’re going to slowly bleed away our taproom revenue with a cheap gimmick, luring away our otherwise unsuspecting customers.

Alright, slow down and stop frantically searching “dog-friendly eating space licensing requirements” for a minute, because we’re missing the broader point, which is this:

Beer drinkers are above all else interested in two things (1) AN EXPERIENCE and (2) THE FRESHEST BEER.

In a world where we all can get virtually any beer we want anywhere, anytime, why do people choose to go out to drink?

Yup.

Experience (lets focus on this one today).

The environment, the mood, the camaraderie, the novelty…

And you can tell this is actually what’s driving this trend by the language that the founders of these dog-friendly beer gardens use in this Restaurant Hospitality article:

“provide a guest experience that’s outside the ordinary”

“urban oasis for guests”

“create a place where people could enjoy socializing”

“we’re cultivating community here”

“the neighborhood feel logically makes you want to go bar hopping”

Sure they just so happen to have accomplished all of those things by tapping into an interest people already gravitate around.

But do any of these things really have anything to do with dog parks?

Or is it that these business owners have paid close attention to what consumers want, and built something tailor-made for an exceptional experience?

So then the natural next question is:

Has your taproom experience evolved with the times?

And if not, why not?

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