As you open your outdoor dining area to guests, your ability to cater to their canine friends can provide an extra draw (while at the same time deter other guests who aren’t as fond of dining with animals nearby). While the FDA Food Code hasn’t historically allowed for animals aside from service animals on restaurant premises, more than 20 states and several local jurisdictions have regulations permitting dogs – and a 2022 update to the FDA Food Code could pave the way for additional areas to allow dogs onsite. If you’re considering it – and you may decide it’s not for you – the National Restaurant Association advises restaurants that are allowed to have dogs on their premises to abide by several best practices in the interest of preserving safety and harmony with guests: Understand your local health regulatory agency’s rules – while some agencies simply require a permit, others require more official notification of your intentions to allow dogs in your dining area. Require guests to keep dogs leashed, in control and off of chairs and tables – and ensure staff know how to respond and what cleaning and sanitizing procedures are required if those rules are broken. Use signage and language on your website and social media to make your policies clear to dog owners and others so everyone knows what to expect. Train staff to avoid handling the animals – or to ensure they wash hands immediately afterwards to avoid cross-contamination. Finally, ensure guests with dogs know where and how to manage pet waste while on your premises – and consider providing a refuse container for their use. If you’re on the fence about opening your patio to dogs, you may be able to find a middle ground that pleases everyone – setting aside just one day a week for a dog-themed dinner for dogs and their human companions, for example.