New research reveals a doggy divide when it comes to allowing man’s best friend into our nation’s eateries.

The Restaurant Club, a scheme supporting local restaurateurs over chains monopolising the high street, posed the question to its 11,000 strong fine dining group – and the results were a mixed (doggy) bag.

• Almost four in 10 (39%) people believe that dogs should be banned entirely from restaurants, a surprising 61% were a lot more flexible
• One in 10 said they’d only be happy for them to enter cafes but not restaurants • 8% said only guide dogs should be permitted
• One in 20 called for a dog-only area

By popular demand, the club has now added a dog-friendly section on its website that offers discerning diners discounts and advice on where to eat out, so that people have the option of not leaving their pooch at home.

Louisa Walters (pictured above), founder of The Restaurant Club, says: “I love the fact that I can take my Shih Tzu into my local newsagent, post office, chemist and hairdresser, so it follows that I would want to take her with me into local restaurants too. Every high street needs at least one dog-friendly eatery and we’ve scoped out the best ones for our members.”

Whilst we pride ourselves as a nation of animal lovers, it seems there is a misconception in the UK that dogs are not allowed in any places where food is served for health, safety and disturbance reasons. This is not the case. The only legal obligation on the owner is to make sure there is no risk of contamination and that all food preparation areas are up to specified hygiene standards.

Morfudd Richards, owner at Greenberry Café in Primrose Hill, London, says: “I spent a lot of time in Europe and dogs in restaurants simply aren’t an issue. I was brought up on a farm and animals were part of the family. We wouldn’t dream of leaving the dog at home or outside a restaurant when we went for a night out.

“When I opened Greenberry three and a half years ago I wanted to create a relaxed all-day dining atmosphere for grown-ups whilst also being family friendly… and the family also includes dogs. Due to health and safety, I had to make a choice between dogs and having an open kitchen but welcoming well-behaved dogs was one the best decisions I ever made. Customers really value the attention you give to their dogs and for us looking after children and dogs is of primary importance and it creates real loyalty. There has been surprisingly little resistance – given the number of dogs we have virtually no complaints.

“Hygiene is incredibly important to us. The moment a staff member gives a dog a treat, he or she will immediately wash their hands. Dogs are kept on leads and there is a strong sense of owner responsibility over their dog’s behaviour. Occasionally we have noisy dogs but we also have some noisy customers – that’s restaurants for you!

“I would definitely encourage more restaurateurs to explore opening their business up to a wider customer base by welcoming dogs – it’s clear that people like having their dog by their side during meal times.”

Click here to read the rest of the September 2016 issue of Stir it up