Gone are the days of simply tying your pooch to a patio pole while eating at a restaurant. Wendy Newman is designing Off Leash to be the “Topgolf” equivalent for dog lovers. The full-service restaurant and bar concept with a “premium” dog park will feature a “state-of-the-art oasis for canines and dog owners alike,” including a chef-inspired menu serving up all dayparts, and a wide-ranging beverage program with craft cocktails and local IPAs.
“There have been driving ranges forever. But when Topgolf came around, it really elevated the experience,” Newman explains. “It provided a fun experience for people to come that may not play golf, but get to enjoy playing or watching, and having a good beverage and good food. That’s what we’re creating at Off Leash—taking the typical dog park concept, and really elevating the experience.”
While the majority of breweries in major cities are dog-friendly, the best food you can usually get is from a food truck or from Doordashing some grub from the nearest pub. Restaurants with dog-friendly patios are becoming more popular, but aren’t as much fun for the dogs who have to lay on the ground tied to the bench the whole time. And even the dog park + eatery concepts popping up typically don’t have full service or a menu beyond light appetizers like pretzels or hot dogs.
“I have a passion for dogs—I have four dogs myself—and also a passion for people having a place to feel comfortable and happy and enjoy time with their dogs,” she says. “I haven’t always had places welcoming to even sit outside and enjoy the company of my dog along with great food and having a cocktail or mocktail.”
And there’s plenty of demand to back the ambition. The pet industry is poised to balloon from $320 billion today to almost $500 billion by 2030, according to a recent report from Bloomberg Intelligence. The U.S. alone is positioned, the report found, to approach $200 billion by the end of the decade. In 2022, $136.8 billion was spent on pets in the U.S. A total of $143.6 billion was projected for 2023.
Newman is hoping Off Leash’s focus on high-quality food and beverage, plus its priority on fun and safe play for your four-legged friends, will give it a competitive edge as she seeks to open in more cities across the country.
The restaurant at Off Leash will feature an indoor area for humans and a large, dog-friendly outdoor patio offering a casual, yet elevated, dining experience. The craft kitchen also creates light, crisp salads, dips for sharing, fresh sandwiches, and even an assortment of healthy, “drool-worthy” dog treats. An adjacent outdoor, partially covered private dog park will provide space for year-round play.
The first Off Leash location is set to open in summer 2024 in Alpharetta, Georgia, while a second will open shortly thereafter in Decatur, Georgia. Though, Newman already has her eye on expanding beyond The Peach State to the Carolinas and Florida.
“To our knowledge, we are the first of our kind. We have not seen another concept that has an outdoor and indoor full-service restaurant and dog park with plans to grow nationally,” Newman says. “Our Alpharetta location, which will be our larger footprint model, will also have a full indoor dog park, which is something we have not seen our competitors offer. Our Decatur location, which will be our smaller footprint model, will have a partially covered portion of the park to make sure pups and their people can stay comfortable no matter what the weather is.”
Hostesses and servers will provide top-notch hospitality for the humans, who can imbibe while professionally trained “dogtenders” will be on hand to help supervise dogs and ensure a clean, safe, and fun experience for everyone.
Off Leash will have a membership model for its dog park—with the dog being the primary member, not the human.
When thinking about expansion, Newman wants to ensure every Off Leash location is tailored to fit within the community, and she plans to get involved by partnering with local bakeries to make dog treats, as well as teaming up with pet adoption and rescue agencies for events. “Part of our goal is to really feel like we were meant to be there, not just coming in and putting something in that doesn’t work,” she says.
“My vision is to put Off Leash in as many communities as we can. I truly believe in how wonderful this is going to be,” she adds. “Our vision is to take this nationwide.”