Candied Yam owner and founder Jessica Ann Tyson is bringing her culinary talents to the world of boutique dog food.
The Beastro, a new venture Tyson is launching at 2309 44th St. SE, next door to her established comfort/soul food restaurant the Candied Yam, will provide a “Chipotle for dogs” experience for pets and their owners.
“It’s basically a takeout for dogs,” she said.
The new restaurant will allow owners to enter with their dogs and build a meal for them, based on dog-friendly “people food” with natural ingredients that are safe for canine consumption.
“You start with a brown rice base,” Tyson said, “and then you have your meat or protein, and then you move down the line and you put your nice vegetables on it.”
In addition to its meal bowls, the Beastro will offer treats like Cheetos for dogs and faux chocolate chip cookies and Oreo cookies to feed a dog’s sweet tooth in a healthy fashion. For those dogs with a more refined taste, Tyson’s restaurant also will offer “barkuterie” boards with ingredients ranging from peanut butter to cheeses to fresh or dried meat, milk bones, or fresh veggies and fruit.
Tyson said the Beastro was partly inspired by watching pet owners at outdoor seating at the Candied Yam feeding scraps to their dogs who had accompanied them to the restaurant.
While the location invites owners and dogs to purchase a meal together, dogs will not be welcome to dine-in.
“This is really more or less for you to take your dog to for an experience to come in, pick up their food, and then take them home,” Tyson said. “The reason why is because once dogs eat, sooner or later they need to eliminate. And so we don’t want them doing that in cars and things of that nature.
“Essentially, it is more for if you and your dog want to enjoy dinner together. Come get your takeout, get your dog’s takeout, and go home and enjoy that dinner together.”
Tyson added that the Beastro will have outdoor seating during the warmer months next summer for dogs and their owners.
She said while pet owners can come to the Beastro for special meals or treats for their pets, the menu is designed to offer everything a dog needs for nutritional daily meals.
According to Tyson, the Beastro’s canine taste-testers already have given glowing reviews.
“I’m telling you, the second day one dog came back and jumped out of his stroller, because he recognized (that) this is the Beastro. And that’s what we want,” she said.
While the location has not opened yet, Tyson has high hopes for her new venture, which is currently hiring dog enthusiasts who have a passion for good food.
“(It’s) our plan to open as soon as we get those employees in place,” she said. Currently the location is ready to roll and waiting for the right employees who value the canine/human relationship to help bring Tyson’s vision to life.
Tyson has an educational background in business and has proven her worth in the local business community. Most recently she was named to the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 2022 list of 50 Most Influential Women in February, in addition to The Candied Yam’s 2019 win of the Wyoming/Kentwood Area Chamber of Commerce Retail Business of the Year award. The restaurant also was listed as one of Yelp’s Top 50 Places to Eat in Grand Rapids thanks to its authentic southern cuisine.
“I’ve always had dogs, starting with my very first one, Duchess, who I fell in love with,” Tyson said. “Skip was my last one. Skip was a Bichon Frise and (he) lived to be about 15, 16 years old. But Skip, like all of my dogs, was motivated by food.”
After she opened The Candied Yam, Tyson said Skip would chew on her shoes when she came home from work, likely tasting drops of fried chicken.
“That probably was a back-of-mind catalyst,” she said, laughing. “But it was (also) just the fact that I just know that my dog was very motivated by food and I didn’t see anything like this in the market. And it just sounded like tons of fun. I know that he’s in doggy heaven looking down (and) smiling, like, ‘What took you so long?’”
The Beastro will join the ranks of pet-centric experiences and establishments that are increasing in popularity post-COVID-19, as currently two-thirds of American households have at least one pet, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA).
Many individuals bought a pet during the isolation period of the pandemic and found themselves attached, while rising inflation is seeing more people choose to pursue pet ownership rather than having children of their own.
These trends are helping make the pet care and catering industry a more lucrative one, as a study done by the APPA found that in 2021, $123.6 billion was spent on pets in the U.S. This figure is up $20 billion from 2020, when $103.6 billion was spent.
The APPA study broke down 2021 spending and found that altogether, $50 billion was spent on pet food and treats, more than was spent on supplies, medications, veterinary care or live animals themselves.
According to Morgan Stanley, “The $100 billion pet industry is poised to nearly triple to $275 billion by 2030 thanks to a surge in new owners, favorable demographics and increased per-pet spending.”
Tyson said she is poised to ride that wave at the Beastro with her combination of healthy food and pet care.
“I know a lot of individuals like me, we’re in love with our pets, and we want them to live forever,” she said. “And so feeding them the best gives them a nice shiny coat, a healthy heart because dogs get diseases (just) like people get diseases, gives them healthy bones and joints.
“We have done the work with other people who are in this industry, to make sure that we’re on the right track and (giving) our animals things that they can eat and not have any issues with.”
While the Beastro does not have a set opening date, Tyson plans to host a grand opening to invite the public (and their dogs) to take a look at her latest venture as soon as her hiring process is finished.