Sam Kim, the founder of Dog On Restaurant, was going to be an architect. However, this took a 180 turn when he crashed his mother's car into a Maserati. Suddenly, Kim found himself $10k in debt. In an attempt to pay off this debt, he studied how to do e-commerce on Aliexpress. Within two weeks, Kim was debt-free and had a new passion for business. Not long after, Bill Smale invested in Dog On.
“Dog On was started because I’m a pet owner,” said Kim. Owners want to share special experiences with their dogs, like “special activities, going on holidays, partying together.” But when it comes to food, humans can’t do that due to a dog’s sensitive digestive system. There are a lot of foods humans can eat that dogs can’t.
“Trying to connect that bonding, special moment, through food, was the last piece of the puzzle,” said Kim. There is so much of this type of thing in Asia, so why not bring it to NEW ZEALAND, he thought.
More people are starting to spend more money on their pets.
“People are treating their dogs like their baby, and me as well,” commented Kim. He also notes the pandemic has had an effect on the pet industry. With an increase in dog adoptions during the lockdowns, there has been an influx in pet supplies and accessories.
“Growth is visible, especially to business owners,” added Kim. There has been a huge increase in dog-friendly cafes, dog hotels opening in Wellington and the Viaduct. Dog laundries, and of course Dog On Restaurant. “Who knows, there may even be dog theme parks soon,” Kim joked.
When asked about people’s reactions, Kim admits there have been mixed responses to Dog On’s dine-in site.
“When we first announced a physical dog-dining restaurant, we got published in multiple papers.”
Some people didn’t see the point in opening a dine-in restaurant and thought it a waste of time and money buying pizzas for your dog. But other people loved the idea. It’s instagrammable, trendy, and a fun new type of experience.
“We’ll see how it goes,” said Kim. “This is a new concept no one has tried before and I’m doing a crazy one.”
When Kim first opened Dog On Restaurant online a year and a half ago, there were three things that told him there was a huge demand for this type of thing in NEW ZEALAND. The first was the amount of media attention they received. Secondly, the amount of traffic.
“We didn’t start marketing until earlier this year,” Kim remarked. Their website analytics told them that simply due to word of mouth, people were actively looking for them. Thirdly, after people placed an order, the majority uploaded a photo to Instagram, tagging the company.
“The organic growth, the word of mouth, was very high – above 60 percent – without us telling customers to upload.”
They would simply do it because it is cool, fun and something that people haven’t seen or experienced before.
To take this experience to the next level is to see whether people want to move offline, and dine in.
“This is trickier, but in terms of experience it is greater than placing an order online,” said Kim.
Dog On’s dine-in experience will serve both human and dog food. However, Kim assures everyone that the dog and human food is separated. Humans will be offered food from cabinets, and coffee, whilst dogs will receive prepared meals. He would like everyone to know that all ingredients for the dog food are human-grade and 100% safe food for humans to consume. There is no difference between the cooking and preparation of human food and the dog food, but it will still be kept separate.
There are no plans for expansion yet, but if all goes well, Kim hopes to open more locations outside of Auckland and possibly in Australia and the US. The first step would be opening a Dog On Restaurant in the Gold Coast to test the Australian market, which also has a high population of dogs.