As shelter-in-place orders begin to lift across the United States, dog day care and pet boarding facility owners are prepping to reopen their services. Independent pet stores that offer these types of services are also readying themselves to bring day care and boarding back to their customers.
Some businesses have already received the green light to hang their "open" sign. While moving forward brings a sense of financial relief, it may also be a bit overwhelming.
To help ease any trepidation with reopening, it’s important that business owners keep their staff and clients comfortable with what many people are referring to as the new normal, according to Robin Bennett, a certified professional dog trainer and co-founder of The Dog Gurus, a resource for dog care professionals.
"Some people are still nervous about working and being around people, so pet facility owners need to have a lot of conversations about what protocols help everyone feel safe," Bennett said.
Currently, the emphasis should be on good cleaning protocols, wearing masks and continuing to social distance, according to Bennett.
"These are all easily accomplished through contactless drop off/pick up," Bennett said. "Employees should continue to social distance at work, and pet business owners may want to create specific shifts for staff so they stay in the same ‘work circle.’"
With safety measures in place, the next step is regaining a financial foothold. Being proactive is key, according to Bennett, who offers the following advice:
- Start a wait list now. If you haven’t fully opened, then at least start one. That way you have the list ready as you start to open and bring back staff.
- Train an employee to work the wait list. The list is only good if you are actively engaging with the people on it. Make sure you are reaching out to your clients and inviting them back. Try to fill all your spots. Have a person dedicated to just working this list.
- Create special and fun activities to bring people back, such as a passport party (dogs get stamps for different stations), a back-to-basics class for trainers as well as various classes for pet owners. The goal is to create a fun experience and invite the dogs to it.
- Create ideas to encourage overnight visits (for those that do boarding or overnight pet sitting). Encourage pet owners to have a date night. Offer a movie night for the dogs while the pet owners go to a drive-in movie. Partner with other businesses to give out coupons for an experience the pet owner can do while you take care of their dog.
- Use scarcity (limited space and timing) to fill all your spots for any activity you create.
"There are some pet care businesses that may not survive the loss of revenue," Bennett said. "However, it is possible to make it through with creativity and determination. But it does involve pivoting your business, creating new revenue streams and being proactive in getting people back in the door."