Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

No Check, Please: Dine-and-Dash Customers Give Restaurants in Oklahoma Indigestion

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

No Check, Please: Dine-and-Dash Customers Give Restaurants in Oklahoma Indigestion

Article excerpt

Wade Starr learned the hard way to be wary of diners who ask to be seated near the restaurant's front door.

Ditto for gift card users and people at patio tables, he and other metro area restaurateurs said. Even birthday parties have their risks.

"Just recently a party of six insisted on sitting by the front door," said Starr, manager of the Deep Fork Grill. "All six of them ordered, ate, waited until the restaurant got full and no one was paying attention, and then they ran out."

David Hung, director of operations for the chain of restaurants in north Oklahoma City under the Western Concepts banner that includes Musashi's, said: "They run for the door, for sure," he said. "That's the easiest way to get out of paying your bill. They just disappear as soon as they make sure that none of the servers are around.

"But one really stands out in my mind: A party of four scheduled a party; we brought out a birthday cake; we even took a picture for them. And then walked out on the tab," Hung said. "I even still have that photo."

"Dine and dash" is shorthand for what police refer to as theft of service in many cities across the country or defrauding an innkeeper locally, Oklahoma City Police Capt. Patrick Stewart said. Stewart said the crime of skipping out on a restaurant bill is rarely reported because the restaurant operator doesn't want to make a big fuss in front of the other diners. And in the few cases where a suspect could be easily identified, only 27 tickets were issued and filed in the court system over the last 12 months, Municipal Courts Director Stacey Davis said.

"Usually it's the sort of crime we see reported at restaurants like IHOP," Stewart said. "And it's not the sort of thing we would turn over to an investigative unit."

Higher-priced restaurants also see their own share of the criminal element. But reflecting Stewart's observations, managers of some restaurants such as the Coach House and Rococo said they've never served diners who flouted the law. And those who were willing to discuss their experiences were cautious about somehow implicating the rest of their upstanding clientele.

"Once in a while you have those kinds of customers," Hung said. …

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