This is what really happens when you leave a restaurant and do not pay for the food. This act is called by many “dine and dash”. However, what happens after this is done depends on some factors and the actual matter of the situation.
For some cases, individuals that order food and leave the restaurant and don’t pay for the food they ordered, the restaurant may decide to take no action. This could be under circumstances where the individual is rushed to the emergency room, because they are choking, having an unexpected allergic reaction, or something else serious. Most of the time the restaurant isn’t at fault when these things happen to their guests, but they may decide, out of the kindness of their heart and the care for their guests, to waive the order.
In situations like this the restaurant may decide that it would be improper to ask for payment for the food after the guest leaves, and may even offer free food the next time that they visit. It depends on the owner and what the corporation allows. Under these circumstances, it is not considered a dine and dash, as the guest that left without paying for the food did not intend to not pay before these things happened. They may still however be asked to pay for their bill afterwards.
However, for individuals that don’t have situations happen like this that are out of their control, it is considered to be a dine and dash, which is basically theft.
Many individuals don’t see the situation as it really is, as they may be caught up with the Hollywood films’ indoctrination of the classic “wash dishes if you can’t pay the restaurant” scenes that they see/hear about in movies. So, they may take light of the situation, and think that they can eat at a restaurant and leave without paying, without real repercussions.
However, a restaurant can report the incident to a police officer, which can be further taken to court, and may lead to jail time. It is theft. Individuals doing this or thinking about doing this should think of the matter as if someone was shoplifting. The restaurant has to buy the food and ingredients needed to make their meals for their guests. It doesn’t come to them from free from a farm that they own elsewhere majority of the time or a food bank.
Individuals that eat the food that they should pay for at a restaurant and leave without paying are basically stealing products from the restaurant that the restaurant bought, prepared, and labored to make. An individual would definitely react negatively if they went to a grocery store, shopped for food, bought it, and then had some thief grab one of their grocery bags and run off with it as they made their way to their car. It is theft. A police officer seeing this happen would definitely do something about it. That food belongs to the person who payed for it.
Same thing goes for restaurants that prepare food for their guests. That food belongs to them until the guest officially pays for it. Depending on how expensive that food is, and the total cost of the bill, a person deciding to dine and dash at a restaurant can find themselves in more than just a little trouble.
The penalties for most theft and larceny offenses are based on the value of the property stolen. State laws generally set a monetary cut-off point (a threshold) that distinguishes felonies from misdemeanors. But other factors can also make a theft a felony, regardless of the amount involved, such as the type of property stolen.https://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/crime-penalties/federal/Felony-Theft.htm
So, in some cases of theft, some places can even decide to charge an individual based off of more than just the total cost of the food that they didn’t pay for. Not all food is the same or handled the same. Some foods and drinks have to be handled in certain ways, that may cause the prices of the meals eaten to be hundreds or thousands of dollars. Don’t expect a restaurant that is offering these types of foods to their guests to just let a guest walk away with no repercussions.
Here is a video of what happened to a man that tried to run off after trying to perform a dine and dash:
One of the individuals arrested for supposedly not paying for their food at a restaurant yells in the video, “What is the crime?! Eating a meal? A succulent Chinese meal?!”, as he is wrestled by officers into a police car. He is charged with theft for a dine and dash supposedly by media. However, he was actually arrested for receiving stolen goods and just happened to be in a restaurant when they found him.
The individuals that might think about dining and dashing may think that it is not a big deal, because it is only food. However, theft is theft, and that is how most states and other places across the world treat it when they are caught and charged.
In another answer to this question elsewhere stated that the restaurant can take a person’s ID as collateral until they are able to pay. However, a restaurant doesn’t have to do this. In the video, one of the men arrested tried to do the same and was still arrested for the crime. Restaurants are well aware that individuals should already have a form of payment before ordering their food.
An individual making unacceptable emergency excuses to why they have to leave the restaurant immediately after ordering and eating the food, can also be charged with theft.
If an individual attempts to run out of the door without paying, then the restaurant employees may chase that person and try to constrain them. However, many restaurants do not allow their employees to chase after guests that perform thievery. Doing so could jeopardize the image of the business in the general public’s eyes, as it could be seen as unprofessional, ghetto, or inhospitable (depending on how it was handled).
To some this may seem to be a stretch or silly, instead insisting that they should be chased after and tackled, but restaurants do train their employees otherwise, even though some restaurant employees do do these things in these situations. An employee chasing a non-paying guest, and getting physical with them, can lead to charges of assault on the employee. Also, many restaurants train their employees to not chase thieves and follow them out the door.
If they so willingly stole food, they could be engaged in other criminal activities, and could be carrying a weapon. People try to eat at restaurants without paying, often are found to have stolen credit cards that they may be trying to pay with too. This could endanger the employee and all the other employees at the restaraunt. This could turn a fairly expensive meal that an individual ate for free and ran off with into an even more expensive ordeal for the restaurant.
If the individual eating the food for free doesn’t have the money to pay, chasing them down to get the money is done in vain. The chase could just be putting the restaurant in danger. Restaurants will instead just let the police handle it with little unnecessary intervention of their own.
In some cases, restaurants will just try and gather as much information that they can about the person that did it, and then give that information to the police in a report. However, sometimes, because of these things, the restaurant can’t do anything about it. The person eating at the restaraunt and leaving without paying could be a traveler that will never return to the city or the restaurant anyways. Sometimes, too little information is gathered on the suspect for the police to be able to help the restaurant.
Many times, individuals that do crimes that are so easily noticed after their departure, are involved in other crimes that they have done throughout the day. The car could be stolen too, even if the license plate is written down.
If an individual is hungry and needs food from a restaurant, they should first go to the restaurant (preferably management, the general manager, or the owner) and tell them their situation before ordering food. It is not a wise decision to eat food at a restaurant and not pay after eating. Criminal charges and jail time can follow. In some cases, fines can also be given for hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Instead, the hungry individual will have a better chance of getting free food from the restaurant by telling them their situation. Being honest and telling the restaurant that you don’t have the money to pay, but you are hungry, can sometimes get an individual a meal without being charged for it. Many restaurants all over the world feed hungry people sometimes when they just come in and tell them their situation.
Regular employees at the restaraunt will sometimes pay for the food so that that person can eat, or even give up their one free meal that they get for the day so that that individual can eat. Sometimes general manager or owners of the restaurant will do the same. Asking to receive can be a lot more profitable than stealing and deception. However, it should be noted that many employees at restaurants cannot afford to continually feed a poor person. So, ask sparingly.