To dine and dash is to duck out of a restaurant without paying for your meal. The general principle is that you let your server think you've just stepped into the restroom when, in reality, you've left the premises. Though done most often in casual dining settings, it can be done in any restaurant, provided the person doing it has sufficient cojones. This is neither moral nor legal. (Also, the person who pays for your meal may end up being your server.) But it may be amusing or, if you work in food service, even useful, for you to know how it's done.

A dine and dash should not even be contemplated until certain requirements have been satisfied:

  • There should be no more than two people in your party. You have a pretty decent chance of being caught attempting this alone. The odds double for every person you attempt to take with you.
  • This is a criminal activity. Like all criminal activities, it requires a cool head. If you act suspicious, the staff will be ready for you.
  • You want to look as boring as possible. If you're a little crusty punk with metal shit hanging out of your face, guess what? The manager is memorizing your description from the moment you walk in, waiting for you to do something. If possible, it also helps not to be young.
  • In the same vein, you don't want to do anything that will make your waitress remember you. You don't want to be "the girl who sent her eggs back" or "the guy who stared at my boobs". You want to be "table five". Don't order off the menu. Don't make small talk with the waitress. Use as few words as possible. Leave no impression.
  • Don't bring unnecessary objects. Carry a wallet, rather than a purse, and go without a coat or jacket. If it's cold enough that not having a jacket will make you stand out, suck it up and pay for your meal, or bring a coat that's worth less to you than the meal. The minute you begin collecting your things, they'll know you're not just going to the bathroom.
  • You need to be able to get away fast. If you're not in the middle of some wide open prairie, it's fine to do this on foot. Just make sure your plan's not to wait for the bus at the stop across the street.
  • Your ideal venue is a place you've never been and don't intend to return to.
  • If you can eat at times when the restaurant is busy and/or understaffed, your chances of being caught will be minimized. A 24 hour diner will get a rush of drunks on the weekend, around 2:30, and will sometimes have only one waitress for its smoking section and one for non. This is a great time to dine and dash, because neither of those waitresses is interested in chasing you very far for their $4 tip.
  • It should be obvious, but your restaurant of choice will need to be a sit down joint. You cannot dine and dash if forced to order at the counter, and there are plenty of good cons for that already.
  • Don't fuck with old waitresses.

Ok, ready?

There are as many ways to dine and dash as there are types of stupidity. They run the gamut from straight up cons to feats of perseverance to simply closing your eyes and praying. You should choose whichever is best for your personal skill set and situation.

The most obvious dine and dash is the one the maneuver is named for: running like hell. While this is effective if you are fast and have a head start, it tends to draw a lot of attention. De facto dashing should be a last resort, not part of your strategy.

Highly preferable and very similar is the dine and sneak. Rather than relying on your physical prowess, you're depending on your ability to act casual. For this to be really effective, you need to be seated near the door. A long walk through the restaurant will be noticed no matter how subtle you are. How to do it? You simply stand, act like you're heading to pay, and then keep walking without doing so.

This is an appropriate time to talk about escaping. Once you're outside the restaurant, it may take as little as your waitress spying you through the window for you to be caught. There is no going back from here. If you are caught at this point, you claim that you just forgot to pay the check. This is plausible and keeps you out of jail, so just stay cool and take care of it. If you don't have the cheddar, start running.

You can plan to escape on foot if you are in a mall, a downtown, or another place dense with people and/or buildings. If you intend to use a car, you want to park it away from the restaurant, somewhere its license plate can't be read from within the building. If you are taking the bus, hitchiking, or something similar, use the rules about leaving on foot, as you need to get away from the scene of your crime quickly before thinking about your long term transportation needs.

If you lack the audacity to just stand up and walk out, you'll want to find some sort of cover. Chaos - in the form of a choking victim, an argument, people practicing karate in the aisles, etc. - will provide enough distraction for you to move quietly to the exit. You may be able to convince some friends to do this for you, but they risk getting in trouble, especially if the staff connect their behavior with your dine and dash. Most crimes are crimes of opportunity for this reason, i.e., you get someone else's friends in trouble.

If you don't want to wait around for Opportunity, you can create your own. You are limited only by your own creativity.

For example, if you're willing to risk minor burns for a free lunch, you might find success in ordering coffee and helping your waitress to spill it all over you and your table. To add to the effect, surreptitiously spill cooler coffee in your lap before she gets to the table. Try to avoid the actual hot liquid as much as possible. Jump up when the spill happens (it helps to knock over anything you can in the process), excuse yourself saying something like "Hot! Hot!", and run to the restroom. Either duck in and right back out, or become composed by the time you pass it and keep walking. If you're lucky, she'll be wiping it up for another couple of minutes before she notices you're gone.

You may already see the problem with DIY chaos, namely that it destroys your anonymity. But if you're in a situation where you can disappear quickly, it is a viable option.

Finally, there's my favorite, which requires very little dashing and very big balls. You allow the waitress to bring your check (if you're eating at a busy time, this should happen well before you've cleaned your plate). You pocket it. Wait until a decent line has formed at the register and your server is not the person manning it, then get in line, leaving a coat at your table*. Make certain your server notices you in line, or you may as well just walk and take your chances. When you are second in line, move to the side a little, so it's hard to tell if you're in line yourself or waiting with someone. Announce that you forgot your coat. Go back and get it, trying to time your exit to coincide with that of the person who was first in line.

Then dine and dash is really all about confidence. You've probably forgotten to pay at a restaurant before. This is just forgetting on purpose.

Seriously? Just pay for your damned sandwich, you cheapskate.

* It's ok to bring a coat or purse or something if you're going to use this scenario.

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