The rise of Britain's 'dine and dashers' epidemic plaguing restaurants
20th August 2023

The rise of the dine and dashers: Why more and more customers are fleeing pubs and restaurants after eating slap-up meals

  • Couple sparked outrage after leaving Swinton Arms, North Yorkshire 
  • They returned day later to pay £56 bill after claiming ‘personal emergency’ 
  • Is cost of living and paying through mobile apps to blame in spate of cases? 

The cost of living crisis and the coronavirus pandemic have taken a heavy toll on Britons’ pockets with many now thinking twice about whether they can afford to go out for a slap-up meal – but has it also caused a rise in ‘dine and dash’? 

The tightening of the purse strings became prevalent last year with households’ disposable income falling by 0.6 percent.

In May this year, 80 percent of UK households were worse off than at the same time last year with a weekly spare cash total of £207 on average.

The strain on family’s was put down to ‘elevated and persistent inflation in essential categories such as food and housing’. 

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way the hospitality interacted with diners, too, with the introduction of using mobile phone apps as a way for people to pay for meals becoming more widespread in the industry. 

But are the two now a double-edge sword and causing a rise in ‘dine and dash’ at pubs and restaurants – when people do a runner without paying for their meal.

Landlady of the Swinton Arms slammed Ruby McGarth (left) and her partner Suzy Hopley (right) and claimed they enjoyed a slap up meal at her gastropub with their children – and then left without paying. The couple returned a day later to settle the bill

Police and Crime Commissioner Donna Jones said there had been a recent surge in the number of ‘outrageous’ dine-and-dash offenses.

Speaking to MailOnline, the Hampshire crime tsar – who is the new chairwoman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners – said: ‘This is the most blatant example of theft that you can see. It’s an awful thing for people to do.

‘It’s a crime that is growing. This could be down to the cost-of-living crisis. But there is no excuse for people to go to a restaurant, have a three-course meal and bottle of wine and then not pay for it. It’s outrageous.

‘From what we can see, those who tend to do this tend not to be typical thieves who are drug or alcohol dependent. They’re driving away in their own cars.

‘It’s an appalling crime, particularly when people are struggling to pay bills and keep businesses afloat. I’d urge people to share images online as many business owners have done and to name and shame those individuals.’

In 2018 a Barclaycard’s study found one in 20 people had walked out without paying for their meal, with the credit card provider saying a third of restaurant goers found waiting for the bill the most frustrating part of eating out.

It saw Barclaycard launch its ‘dine and dash’ technology that allowed people to pay for their food with just the tap of their phone.

Nick Kerigan, managing director of future payments at Barclaycard, said at the time: ‘Eating out is something we all look forward to, yet our research shows that waiting to pay is an increasing frustration.’

Two male bill-dodgers at Arvelli Indian restaurant in Darlington snuck away without paying for £63 worth of food by pretending to go outside for a smoke

Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire Donna Jones branded the so-called ‘dine-and-dash’ trend ‘outrageous’ – as she warned of a rise in this type of theft 

Whether it’s boredom, Covid, the cost of living, or simply that it’s easier now to scarper without paying, some experts believe there has been an increase in dine and dash cases. 

Earlier this month, fashion designer Ruby McGrath, 32, and her partner Suzy Hopley, 33, found themselves at the centre of a social media storm when when a gastro pub posted pictures of them sprinting away from the establishment without settling their £56 bill.

The couple returned to pay the bill a day later with a ‘generous tip’. They later explained that they left suddenly after one of their party suffered an ’emergency’ after their dinner at the New Smithy Arms at Swinton, North Yorkshire, along with her two children. 

The pub’s landlady Lisa McMaster evoked a pouring of outrage on social media when she posted the CCTV footage on Facebook.

She wrote: ‘How nice of you to come for a meal and drinks and run without paying. Staying on a campsite near.’

Ms McGrath defended the duo in a Facebook post and said they had ‘to dash’ after the ‘delicious meal’ due to a ‘personal emergency’. 

Also in August, Arvelli restaurant in Darlington appealed for help to find two men who dined at the eatery, racked up a £63 bill and then left.

They sneaked away without paying by pretending to go outside for a cigarette.

Footage shared by the restaurant on Facebook showed the men brazenly walking out the door, one with their pint glass still in hand and the other with a cigarette.

Edward O’Reilly was allegedly seen on CCTV footage (right) leaving The Fisherman’s Arms in Newlyn, near Penzance, without paying 

The Fisherman’s Arms posted CCTV footage and grabs on social media calling out the family who stayed for about three hours, had three courses and drank cocktails before walking out

Posting a statement on Facebook, the eatery said: ‘Initially one of them left for a ”smoke”, then the other man dressed in a tracksuit followed saying they will be back after speaking to their friend.

‘After a tiring day, it was sad the night was ended on a bad note. Every incident like this affects the business as well as the hard working staff.’

They added: ‘This is not a usual post or message we put up.

‘Since opening Arvelli we have hardly had any bad incidences and we are thankful for all our supportive and returning customers.’

READ MORE: Horrifying moment dine-and-dash couple run café manager over with their car after they left Redondo Beach restaurant without paying their check

Edward O’Reilly came under fire in June when it was believed he had enjoyed a long Sunday lunch on Father’s Day with his family at The Fisherman’s Arms in Newlyn, near Penzance, before leaving without paying the £215 bill.

The ‘matter was closed’ under a week later when the pub said that the individuals involved in the incident have ‘paid up’. It added that they even overpaid ‘as a gesture of good will’. 

The 23-year-old, who is known as Ned, was allegedly part of a group of six who polished off the slap up meal and cocktails before skipping out on the bill with claims he had said he was going outside for a cigarette. 

A number of people came forward to identify Mr O’Reilly in the footage, although the businessman is believed to deny that he was at the pub and insisted it is not him on CCTV.

The pub’s manager, who gave her name as Lucy, posted CCTV footage on Twitter that went viral.

She said at the time: ‘I have worked in the industry 14 years and this is the first time it’s happened to me, we have had people accidentally not pay and they always ring back and make it right.’ 

The unnamed duo dined at Thai restaurant Sawadee in East Sussex, where they decided to skip the bill

Shocking footage shows the couple buying a meal at the Thai restaurant in Brighton before leaving without paying their £38.90 bill

That same month, 300 miles east in East Sussex, a couple were filmed hot-footing it from the Sawadee in Brighton without paying for their £38.90 bill. 

The video was posted to social media by the Thai restaurant, where it received more than 32,000 likes and 1,100 comments.

One user wrote: ‘That’s sad.’

Another added: ‘If you’re broke don’t come out to eat. Simple.’

Sawadee’s restaurant owner said at the time: ‘It was a very hot sunny day in Brighton, we were working in the kitchen and didn’t have a clue until the server asked if we had seen the customers.

‘We found out after checking the cameras what happened.

‘After three or four days we had a young waiter starting work with us, and he actually edited the video and put it online.

‘We are surprised by the number of viewers and support, we received phone call and text messages from people who know them – however our intention is not to report to the police or catch them.

‘We of course don’t want them to keep doing it to other businesses.

A family-of-four was caught on CCTV sneaking out of Vito’s in Sheffield without paying for their £60 bill. Chef Vito Ciaraolo said they had sat at a table next to the door

The CCTV showed a woman exiting the door as the man in the blue t-shirt stays in the same place. They had ordered olives, three pizzas, and an aubergine dish, as well as soft drinks 

A family-of-four had racked up a £60 bill after ordering olives, three pizzas and an aubergine dish as main courses with a fruit juice and three soft drinks when in April they visited family-run Italian restaurant Vito’s in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.

They were caught on CCTV sneaking out without paying with chef Vito Ciaraolo, 59, saying they chosen to sit at a table close to the door before they ordered food. 

‘They just walked in. They were new to us, and the staff said they had never seen them before’, he said.

‘They were looking around to see if there were any cameras. But they didn’t see one of the cameras, which is very high.

‘The waitress made an order in the kitchen. She said they’d ordered three desserts but the kids and the woman had left, and it was just the man in the restaurant.

‘I said to the waitress ‘Go upstairs. I think they are going to do a runner.’

‘I realised they were up to something. But by the time she went upstairs, one minute later, they had left.’

He added: ‘It’s very frustrating. You can imagine what I would do if I would have caught them. But there was nothing I could do.’

Mr Ciaraolo said he would give the money to charity if they ever came back to pay the bill. It is not known if they ever did. 

A group were caught on CCTV dining and dashing from The Sutton Arms in Faceby, North Yorkshire. The family-of-six guzzled up £273 worth of food and drink

The bill in total came to more than £270, and included three lobsters, three fillet steaks, onion rings, and a £70 bar bill

READ MORE: Restaurant server sparks FURIOUS debate after revealing she had to pay a customer’s tab after a ‘dine and dash’… so who do YOU think should have been stuck with the bill?

Only six months earlier a family-of-six guzzled up £273 worth of food and drink – including three lobsters and three fillet steaks – only to then be caught on CCTV fleeing The Sutton Arms in Faceby, North Yorkshire.

Emma Lee, who owns pub, shared a public appeal urging the table of six to do the right thing and pay for their expensive meal.

The 38-year-old said: ‘We are only in a small village so you soon recognise people that have been in before. They’ve been in the pub before but this time they decided they didn’t want to pay.’

They pre-ordered three lobsters, three fillet steaks and spent over £70 at the bar before skipping out on the tab.

The mother-of-five said the dine-and-dash would hurt the family-run pub. 

‘Everything’s really expensive,’ she said.

‘Instead of putting all our steaks and lobsters and all those prices up, we’ve tried to keep it down and have taken a bit of a knock ourselves and then something like this happen and it’s just a bit of a nightmare.’

At the time, the public call-out attracted attention from customers on social media who have accused the group of being ‘shameful’.

The owners of The Mill, in Stokesley, North Yorkshire took to social media with the hopes of being paid for their services on Valentine’s Day

The owners of the award-winning pub shared the receipt on Facebook of the couple’s lavish meal, which included steak, lobster, halloumi fries, two portions of mussels, a Thai green curry and four bottles of wine 

The pub later shared an update to reveal an ‘anonymous woman’ – believed to be the girlfriend – had come in to settle the bill

On Valentine’s Day in 2022 a couple were publicly shamed by The Mill, in Stokesley, North Yorkshire.

Their bill for the romantic meal had totalled £179.20 after they ordered four bottles of £21.50 Zinfandel wine, mussels to start, a £28 fillet steak, £20 half lobster and £21 Thai curry for the main.

An ‘anonymous woman’ – thought to be the girlfriend’ – settled the bill a day later after the pub gave them a deadline to pay up.

The publicans said the couple, who were not named or pictured, had until 4pm on February 15 to pay the bill, saying: ‘You were sat opposite a camera & the CCTV couldn’t be clearer.’ 

They added: ‘To the lovely couple that racked up a hefty bill consisting of fillet steak & lobster, numerous bottles of wine…. 

‘Whilst we’re sure it was a honest mistake on your part that you left without paying, please pay your bill by 4 o clock today.’ 

Taking to Facebook again the establishment added after the bill was paid: ‘Last thing on this… The bill has been paid by an anonymous female believed to be his girlfriend!’ 

The most recent ‘dine and dash’ Home Office figures reveal the Metropolitan Police recorded 12,610 incidents making off without paying offences in 2018.

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