At Center City’s Rittenhouse Hotel, a gourmet room service meal is always just a phone call away. At any hour of the day or night, guests can order Scottish salmon over scrambled eggs and spinach ($14), organic chicken ($14), or maybe a medium-rare filet mignon served with rice and steamed carrots ($32).
And that’s just the dog menu.
With the launch last month of its canine room service menu, the Rittenhouse joined a growing movement in hospitality that goes far beyond treats and water bowls in catering to four-legged guests. The number of owners who travel with pets has almost doubled since 2006, according to research conducted by the American Pet Products Association, and an increasing number of hotels, particularly high-end ones, have responded by going pet-friendly and adding amenities.
For the staff of the Rittenhouse, in-room dining for pups was a logical next step for a hotel that already provided beds, premade treats, and dog-walking services.
“We understand that guests really care about their dogs’ experience as much as they do their own,” said Abbe Stern, sales and marketing manager for Lacroix, the restaurant inside the Rittenhouse. “It’s that added level of luxury: Not only are you treated to five-star service, but your pet can be, too."
The staff at the Four Seasons Hotel, opening this year in the Comcast Center at 1 N. 19th St., is finalizing a pet-amenity program, said Melissa Quiñones DeShields, the hotel’s public relations director. Once it opens, the Four Seasons will offer a pet menu along with beds and bowls, walking services, and an on-call veterinarian. The Warwick, at 220 S. 17th St., also welcomes pets.
At the Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia, there is no fixed pet menu. But in addition to embroidered dog beds, water bowls, and house-made biscuits, the hotel regularly provides specialized food for dogs, said Jimmy Contreras, public relations manager for the hotel. At times, guests request dog meals from the hotel’s 24-hour room service.
“When a guest comes here, they know that they can ask us for anything they want,” he said. “We love having pets in our hotel, and we love to be able to pamper them.”
Some of the city’s pet-friendly hotels may not offer room service but find other ways to cater to four-legged guests. Unlike many hotels, the Hotel Monaco in Old City has no additional charge for bringing pets, and no size or weight limit. In addition to pet sitting and walking services, the hotel’s Red Owl Tavern hosts a dog-friendly “Yappy Hour” from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays.
Stern, of the Rittenhouse, said the dog menu added a layer of complexity to an already challenging room service program that operates around the clock. Room service represents about 17 percent of the hotel’s total food and beverage sales, with 15 percent of guests ordering it. At least eight percent of guests check in with dogs, but Stern said it was too soon to say how many were taking advantage of the new menu.
Chefs at Lacroix were tasked with developing the dog meals, which meant they had to research portion sizes and taste every dish. The food is made with fresh ingredients and prepared simply — and without seasonings like salt, which can be harmful to dogs.
“Humans can definitely eat it, too,” sous-chef Zachary Bates said of the menu. “I very much wouldn’t recommend it, but they could."
Dog owners can choose from five entrees, including beef and bean stew for $18, turkey “Mutt’loaf” for $16, and “Mutt’za balls” for $14 that are made with organic chicken and brown rice. The kitchen also makes three individually wrapped treats: cheddar-bacon biscuits, peanut butter bones, and chicken jerky. There are $8 frozen “pup’sicles” for dessert, made from bananas, peanut butter, yogurt, and honey — “The only thing I’ve sort of enjoyed eating,” Bates said — as well as a $5 “pup’puccino,” a mug of whipped cream sprinkled with bacon bits.
Guests who order the filet can request that it be served at temperatures ranging from raw to well done. Unlike with room service food for humans, chefs need not worry about the food cooling down — anything a dog eats should be no warmer than room temperature.
But the chefs plate the food as they would other meals, arranging the salmon artfully over scrambled eggs and spinach, and garnishing the steak with pea shoots.
“It’s more something we do to appeal to the guest,” Bates said. “The dog doesn’t care.”
Serves 1 dog
Please check with your veterinarian before introducing anything new to your dog’s diet.
2 teaspoons olive oil
¼ to ½ pound salmon filet, depending on size of dog
½ to 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, depending on size of dog
1. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a skillet over low heat and scramble eggs until they start to become fluffy.
2. Add spinach to the scrambled eggs and stir until leaves are wilted.
3. In a separate pan, heat remaining teaspoon of olive oil. Sear the salmon filet, skin side down, for 8 minutes, or until cooked through.
4. Once the egg and spinach mixture is cooked, remove from the pan and place in serving dish.
5. Depending on the size of your dog, your may want to slice salmon into bite-size pieces. Place on top of the eggs and spinach before serving.
— Lacroix at the Rittenhouse