Many years ago, after pulling up to the drive-through window of a Burger King with my Cocker Spaniel mix, Freckles, in the passenger seat, I said I’d like a cheeseburger for myself, “…and a Gaines-Burger for my dog!” It got a lot of laughs from the crew. (Gaines-Burgers, a long-gone brand of dog food, were shaped like hamburger patties.)
I was joking, but maybe I was a trendsetter. According to a new study, one out of six U.S. households orders something for their dogs when they visit fast-food restaurants. Slightly more than a third of pet parents bring their dogs along, and 80 percent of them order something specifically for their dogs.
These statistics are the results of a survey conducted last month by marketing research company Relevation Research. The 1,499 adult participants were nationally representative online consumers.
The study found that millennials bring their dogs to fast-food places more often than do baby boomers or other age groups. Dog dads make twice as many visits as dog moms.
U.S. consumers spent a whopping $73 billion on pet supplies and services in 2014 — 38 percent more than was spent in 2013. (Perhaps this includes Big Macs and Whoppers.) The pampering of dogs is expected to continue increasing over the next few years.
“Because of disposable incomes and empty-nester status, baby-boomer owners could be strong candidates for QSR [quick-service restaurants],” Nan Martin, principal at Relevation Research, said in a press release. “But the baby boomer also has an evolving focus on health. That means menu items specifically targeted for dogs or dog-friendly in terms of ingredients will resonate best.”
Martin suggests that restaurants and dog-food manufacturers team up to design healthy offerings for four-legged customers. “Companies catering to the dog will win with owners who want to, guilt-free, feel like they’re spoiling the dog,” Martin said.
Until then, the healthiest option might be to skip the order for your dog.