Dine and dash is an illegal practice in which a person eats a meal at a restaurant and then leaves without paying. It is considered theft and is punishable by law; the repercussions will vary by region, and by what type of crime the perpetrator is charged with. In some cases, for example, dine and dash may be considered a civil offense and may only result in a fine. In other cases, it is a criminal charge of fraud, and more severe punishments may be doled out. If the dine and dash perpetrator is not caught, the waiter or waitress may be held responsible for paying the cost of the meal.
The person perpetrating a dine and dash usually has no intent to actually pay for the meal they are eating. In other words, there is an element of intent; not paying a bill when it is issued is not necessarily a crime, but having the intent to avoid payment makes the dine and dash practice a criminal offense. A dine and dasher will sit down for a meal and then make an excuse to leave the table — a common excuse is a trip to the bathroom, while others simply leave the restaurant without an excuse at all. He or she must avoid being noticed by a waiter or waitress as well as other employees of the restaurant.
If the person doing the dine and dash is not caught, several ways of dealing with the matter may occur. Some restaurants have a policy in place that the waiter or waitress must cover the cost of the meal, but this practice is illegal in some places, so the restaurant may be left to cover the cost of the meal. In the former case, waiters and waitresses may have to count the money they have received throughout the night, including tips, and compare that number to the checks they have issued for meals. If the numbers do not reconcile with each other, the waiter or waitress may need to pay the cost out of pocket.
It can be difficult for restaurant staff to recognize when a dine and dash is taking place, and the primary responsibility for monitoring guests falls on the waiter or waitress. He or she must regularly visit the tables being served, and while difficult, he or she must also monitor the tables when not visiting them to ensure patrons do not leave without paying. Some restaurants have security personnel on staff to monitor guests, and sometimes the manager is responsible for such monitoring.