In hindsight, the collision of the food truck craze with the tendency to spoil our four-legged friends was inevitable.
Food trucks for dogs are rolling through a growing number of cities, selling canine versions of cookies, ice cream and other treats. Paying $3 for doggie ice cream (dogs can have trouble digesting the real thing) might seem like a silly indulgence, but owners of these food trucks say they're hardly begging for business.
"This year is turning out to be really good because a lot of people are hearing about me," said Angela Meyers of Elizabeth, N.J., who launched The Frosty Pooch last July. Meyers, who brings her truck to parks, farmers' markets and dog parks in the New York City area, makes small-batch, dog-friendly ice cream in six flavors that sell for $2 a cup and "pupsicles" for $2.50. Her four-legged customers' favorite flavor is the bacon peanut butter, she said.
"I'm getting a lot of return customers," she said.
At Sit 'N Stay Pet Cafe in Orlando, Fla., treats range from $2 to $7. Owner Lauren Hicks, who launched the business in 2011, said she started turning a profit after about a year. "We've got awesome feedback from our customers," she said via email.
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Some owners of doggie food trucks are seeing business grow so fast they plan to franchise. In Chicago, Donna Santucci opened Fido To Go to complement her existing pet-grooming business in 2011. "I have over 40 applicants" who want to license the brand, she said.
Right now, Santucci makes all the cookies and frozen yogurt cups she sells from scratch in a commercial kitchen in downtown Chicago. "I'm looking for a bigger facility now as we speak."
In Austin, Bow-Wow Chow has been selling ice cream and local, handmade dog treats for $1 to $5 at dog parks and events for only about a year, but founder and CEO Lara Enzor said she gets multiple licensing requests on a weekly basis.
"I've been surprised at how quickly we've actually been able to start making money. ... We're doing really well," she said. "We're selling so much ice cream now it's crazy. We could easily sell 100 in a day." A week ago, a nursing home booked the Bow-Wow Chow truck for a "retirement party" for one of its roughly 20 therapy dogs that retired at age 15.
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Enzor acknowledged that the city's famous quirkiness probably contributed to the rapid success of her business. "It's Austin, so we're keeping it weird."
But there are a few broader factors that contribute to the popularity of food trucks catering to canines. For starters, there seems to be no limit to how much we're willing to spend on our furry friends. According to the American Pet Products Association, even the recession didn't stop the increase in pet-related spending. Last year, we spent a collective $53 billion on pet products and services, and that's projected to rise by more than $2 billion this year.