Dine and dash, the act of consuming food and/or drinks and leaving without paying, is a major concern for bar and restaurant owners. While this form of restaurant theft is typically only publicized when a major incident occurs, dine and dashing is actually fairly common within the restaurant industry. In fact, one study found that roughly 5 percent of customers dine and dash! Though smaller-scale crimes may not be as newsworthy, they quickly eat away at restaurant profits. 

Luckily, there are a few simple methods that restaurant owners can implement in order to prevent dine and dashing:

Check-In Before Customers Check Out

Because dine and dashing occurs when customers are left alone, the likelihood of a dine and dash occurring decreases when waiters spend more time at or near a table. When your staff makes an effort to spend more time with guests, whether that taking orders, refilling drinks, or simply checking in, guests are more likely to stick around to pay.

Have an Exit Strategy

When customers are able to leave a restaurant without anyone noticing, they are more likely to attempt a dine and dash. If they must walk past crowds or staff, however, the likelihood of dining and dashing decreases. Thus, one easy way for restaurants to minimize the risk of dining and dashing is by limiting the number of exits available to customers (within reason and fire code requirements, of course). If a table tries to leave without paying, it will be much easier to stop if there is only one possible route out.

Keep Tabs on Customers…Literally

Nowadays, it’s fairly common for bars to ask customers if they’d like to open a tab after their first round of drinks. For more casual establishments, this method allows staff to keep ahold of customers’ cards until their bill is paid, removing any likelihood of non-payment. Alternatively, you can charge customers after each order, reducing the potential losses should a dine and dash occur.

Know Your Guests

One of the lesser-known benefits of reservations is its use as a form of loss prevention. Customers are less likely to dine and dash after giving a restaurant their personal information. Because reservations typically require a name, phone number, and email address, customers who made a reservation are less likely to skip out on paying their bill. Even if these customers were to dine and dash, law enforcement could utilize the reservation information provided in order to track down the suspects.

While it is important for restaurants to protect themselves against loss, dining and dashing can occur regardless of any precautions taken. In these situations, it’s important that restaurant owners remember the following:

Don’t

  • Punish your staff for the incident. While it’s important that your staff are aware of any dine and dashing that occurs so that they can better prevent future incidents, in most cases dine and dashing is not their fault. In fact, in several states, it is illegal for restaurants to require servers to pay for any losses that result from dining and dashing.
  • Bring public attention to the issue. When restaurants share that were stolen from by a dine and dash customer, they put a target on themselves. Criminals actively seek out victims who they believe will not be able to stop or catch them in the act, and restaurants admitting to being stolen from are also admitting that they’re vulnerable to theft. 

Do:

  • Contact the police. Even if the loss is minimal, involving law enforcement shows a zero-tolerance policy for dining and dashing and can prevent repeat offenders from engaging in future crimes.

Though dining and dashing is not a widely publicized crime, roughly one in twenty customers dine and dash. It is thus important that you work to protect your restaurant by taking the necessary preventative measures and preparing a protocol for possible dine and dash incidents.