Sam Kim and his two-year-old Maltese poodle, Pama, do everything together.
They exercise, throw parties and go on holidays. The only thing they couldn’t do was share a meal at a restaurant.
That is why Kim decided to open the Dog On Restaurant, the country’s first restaurant for dogs.
“This restaurant is all about the dogs, not the owners,” said Kim.
“There are many dog friendly restaurants, but this is the first establishment where dogs actually take a seat at the table and dine in.”
As the dogs arrive at the restaurant they will be leashed to one of 20 custom-made, dog-sized tables.
Waiters will serve the human patrons coffee or food from a cabinet. But dogs will be able to dine on pizzas, sushi, fried chicken and cakes. The food will range in price from eight to eighteen dollars.
Kim has been making gourmet dog food since 2019 when he opened the Dog On Restaurant as an online, pet food delivery scheme.
He was initially worried such a unique concept would not catch on.
“There was nothing in New Zealand like this. So we were really scared at the start thinking that this might not work. So we were looking for a way to test the concept.”
To test his idea, Kim booked a spot at the 2019 Auckland Pet Expo. He sold his entire stock in under two hours.
“That experience made me realise the amount of demand there was for these kinds of products,” said Kim.
One of the secrets to their success is Kim’s mother, Sunny Won, who flew to South Korea to become a certified pet food chef.
Won brought back a level of skills and expertise that enabled the company to experiment with different concepts, said Kim.
“My mum writes all the menus and recipes. She comes up with all of these extraordinary ideas. She has just told me she is working on doggy wines, doggy ice cream and doggy macaroons.”
Every meal goes through a rigorous process of lab testing so that owners know exactly what they are giving their dogs, down to the last calorie.
“All our food goes through lab testing to analyse nutritional consumption to make sure our food matches a dog’s daily calorie intake,” said Kim.
The food is prepared in such a way that a human would be safe to eat it, although they may not enjoy it as much as their canine pals. As a dog’s stomach is more sensitive than a human stomach, they prefer food that would taste bland to our senses.
After the success of the online store, Kim felt that his customers would be willing to take that experience into a real life restaurant.
After long delays due to the Covid-19 lockdowns, Kim took the plunge and rented a shop in Westgate.
Kim is currently putting the finishing touches on the low tables, leashes, fancy dog-bowls and everything else he needs will need for this restaurant.
“We want our customers to have an amazing experience, especially our doggy customers who will get to try a kind of food they will have never tasted before,” said Kim.
In the future Kim plans to open more Dog On Restaurants around the world. For his second store he has his sights set on Victoria, Australia.