Dine and Dash: How to Deal with it and Prevent It

Most people in the restaurant industry are familiar with the unfortunate practice of dine and dash, which refers to when customers order and consume their meal and then leave without paying. This form of theft is common in full service restaurants and is more prevalent than you might expect. In fact, about 5% of customers have dined and dashed, making it a real problem for restaurants. Luckily, there are some actions that can be taken to better deal with dine and dash situations and prevent this practice from happening in the future.  

Common Reasons People Dine and Dash

Getting to the motivation behind dine and dash is the first step to dealing with this issue. Some people have reporting the following common reasons for leaving a restaurant without paying:

  • For the thrill of it. Some people get a kick out of doing something illegal.
  • The server took too long to bring the bill. If customers can sense that the server is busy and not paying attention, they may be more likely to take advantage of the situation.
  • Didn’t have enough money to pay the bill. This can happen both on purpose and by accident. 
  • Customer dissatisfaction. Customers may feel justified in not paying because they did not enjoy the food or service. 

Another study showed that people who aren’t aware of the consequences and who know someone else who has dined and dashed are more likely to leave their bill unpaid. No matter what the justification, dine and dash is an illegal practice and offenders can face penalties. 

The Dos and Don’ts of Dealing with Dine and Dash

Do

  • Immediately call the police. Dine and dash is theft. Even if the amount of the meal is nominal, the same offender could be hitting restaurants all over the area and the police can stop them from continuing to rob restaurants.
  • Gather as much information as possible to help the police in their investigation. Talk to the staff to try and get a description, look at security footage, and review any reservation information.
  • Contact other businesses in the community and make them aware of the situation. With enough information, they may be able to help catch the perpetrator. 

Don’t

  • Advertise the incident to the general public. If people are aware that your restaurant has been victimized, you may end up being the target of copy-cat offenders who view you as an easy mark.
  • Punish your staff. Some restaurants make the server cover the cost of any losses, however, this is illegal in many states. Instead, you should communicate with your staff, talk about what might have been done to prevent the theft, and help them develop techniques that will allow them to work together as a team to prevent future incidents.

How to Prevent Dine and Dash

When it comes to restaurant theft, prevention is the best course of action. Here some actionable suggestions for ways to prevent dine and dash.

Re-evaluate your floor plan.

Be deliberate when designing the restaurant floor plan so that it is difficult for customers to leave unnoticed. Consider placing the dining area as far away from the front door as possible. You can also place a host by the door and use new restaurant technology to track which tables still need to settle their bill. 

Process payments ahead of time.

More casual restaurants can use POS software and hardware to process payments before the food is delivered. This completely eliminates the possibility of dine and dash. Restaurants with more traditional steps of service can still employ this method. For example, customers can have their payment pre-authorized or use table numbers so guests can sit and have their meals delivered once it is ready. 

Employ friendly and attentive staff. 

If a server is able to foster a connection, customers will be less likely to dine and dash. They will want to show their respect and appreciation and not view the server as a random stranger who won’t be affected.

Leverage restaurant technology.

Use restaurant apps, online ordering systems and restaurant APIs to send data and accelerate the entire process. Servers won’t have to keep running laps between the kitchen and customers. Orders will be quickly sent directly to the kitchen and payments can be made right at the table. You may even want to consider using digital menus so that customers can start deciding on their order the minute they are seated. Unburdening the staff will also allow them to spend more time with the customers, upsell on drinks and specials to increase the average check size, and keep any eye out for anyone trying to sneak out without paying.

Install security cameras. 

Not only will the visible presence of a security system deter people who are considering dine and dash, the footage can also help police identify and apprehend offenders. 

Work on improving the speed of service. 

A report from Barclaycard shows that 25% of customers consider simply walking out when the service is too slow. Speeding up service can help with loss prevention. Faster turnover rates can also make the restaurant more profitable. 

Require card pre-authorization for large parties. 

In all likelihood the server has expended considerable time and energy attending to a large party. If the entire group leaves without paying, the server loses out on what should have been a large tip. You may even want to consider having credit card numbers on file for large reservations so that you don’t end up with no-shows.  

The occasional dine and dash may not cause a restaurant to operate in the red, but it can be tough on servers and it is a preventable crime. Implementing some common sense preventative measures and using the latest technology to improve service can reduce the likelihood of dine and dash customers. 

FAQs

What is dine and dash? 

Dine and dash is when a restaurant customer leaves without paying for their food or drinks. It is a form of theft.

Is dine and dash common? 

It is more common than you may imagine. About one out of every 20 people has committed this crime.

How do you deal with dine and dash? 

Call the police, collect any information you can to help with the investigation, and inform your staff and other area restaurants about the incident. Don’t advertise the dine and dash to the public and talk with staff about what went wrong and what can be done differently. 

How do you prevent dine and dash? 

Make it difficult for customers to leave unnoticed, install a security camera, improve the speed of service, employ friendly and engaging servers, use tableside POS systems, require pre-authorized payment for large parties, use a payment counter so that customers have to pay before they receive their food. 

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