Believe it or not, one of the hottest trends at swish restaurants these days is the good old-fashioned "dine and dash." Seemingly respectable-looking diners partake of lavish tasting menus and pricey bottles of champagne—and then run off, leaving nary an Amex Platinum in their wake. According to The Independent, there's been an uptick in these incidents at high-end restaurants in London. And the fact that it's a relatively easy crime to commit makes it a danger for U.S. restaurants as well.
"It's is always very hard to identify the people that are going to do this—they look civilized and well-dressed," said Atul Kohhar, chef of the Michelin-starred Benares, which has experienced two dine-and-dash occurrences in the last six months. What's more, police usually have bigger fish to fry, making busting those on a wanton foie-and-beluga spree low on the priority list. So short of putting ankle bracelets on their Krug Grand Cuvees, what's a restaurateur to do?
"We have eaten the cost in the past," says Paul McLaughlin, co-owner of Oceana restaurant in New York City. "One customer who came in and 'drank and dashed' a few months back, still comes in for meals regularly. So we dropped the issue." In the meantime, think twice before that table of 8 goes out for a cigarette break en masse after dessert.