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Walking out

If you are so angry or upset about something that happens in a restaurant, can you just storm out without paying, or do you have to just pay for what you have eaten up to that point? I started wondering because there can be many things that would cause a person to want to leave ASAP such as terrible service, seeing a roach, or in-edible food.

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  1. i have never been driven to "storm out". the two times i have *left* was because of horrible service, i paid for what i'd already had (both times, just a glass of wine), spoke to a manager and left.

    i've been in the industry many years, and can't recall anybody just up and leaving in a fit.

    1. Agreed w/ PP. I don't think you should ever just leave without paying for what you've consumed. The only time I have ever left a restaurant. (Gina Marie's in Eastchester) we demanded the bill for what we had, they tried to serve us our dinner (2 hours after ordering and after disgusting apps) and we still paid almost $200 for the wine and apps.

      1 Reply
      1. re: SweetPea914

        As a server, the only time I've ever had customers leave was when their entrees took too long. They paid for their drinks, but, sadly, they left not even a penny tip, even though they gave me no indication that they were on a tight schedule and I had given them excellent service up to that point. I think it depends on the circumstances, but I'd say leaving with no communication is pretty bad. SweetPea, just curious -- did you tip on your wine and apps? Was the server complicit/at fault in the poor timing?

      2. In most restaurants the servers are expected to tip out to bartenders, hostesses, bussers, etc. for every single check/table. More often than not, the tip share is taken automatically from the amount of the check. So, if you walk out and the house comps the whole meal, the server will actually be paying for you to have eaten there. Same goes if you pay for your meal but still the server. If your problem isn't the servers fault, I can't see that as fair. IF, in fact, it is the servers fault, I do believe you should speak up to management ASAP, not just walk out.

        Also, depending on your juridiction, simply walking out on a check can be considered theft, or defrauding a shopkeeper. Imagine trying to explain to the cops that you saw a roach or that the service was awful... it's probably the same excuse people whose main goal is to dine and dash use. So, speak up, and any reputable place should help you out.

        21 Replies
        1. re: Azizeh Barjesteh

          if the house eats the check, or a portion of it, it's no longer part of that server's sales. they do NOT tip out on it.

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            That's 100% false.

            I have never once seen a restaurant subtract sales from a server due to guests leaving without paying. In fact, the server usually has to pay the house the difference if the guest (intentionally or not) doesn't leave enough money.

            1. re: invinotheresverde

              invino-your experience mirrors mine. I've seen servers charged for walkouts a number of times.

              1. re: nc213

                ditto, invino and nc -- hotoynoodle is incorrect: at 75 % of the restos I've worked at, I've been responsible for walk outs or shorted checks, regardless of the reason -- not only tipping out on them, but paying for the lack.

              2. re: invinotheresverde

                yes most places make the server pay for a walkout-- this can be a problem in places where people do intentional dine & dash, or in pub-type places, where sometimes a patron will have one too many beers and dip on their (hefty) tab. the servers in these places develop hawk eyes, particularly patio servers. in the case of food, if the dishes have not actually been fired, the mgmt may take them off the bill, esp if there was a kitchen-related delay and the customers walked due to time constraints. i felt bad for a new server i once worked with who was taken advantage of by 2 big parties walking out on tabs on a busier-than-hell saturday night. the tips he made didn't cover the tabs, and he'd only brought cabfare with him, so he paid that and then had to write a check to the establishment-- after working a full shift. he was a sweet kid and he got downright mean to customers for a while after that.

                1. re: soupkitten

                  This practice is illegal in most jurisdictions. An employer cannot hold an employee financially responsible for the actions of a third party for the illegal acts of that third party. Any one who has ever been fired for refusing to pay a patrons's bill would have a cause of action against employer.

                  If the diner held the place up after eating and cleared out the cash drawer, would the employee be liable for that theft as well or just his bill's portion? There is no difference.

                  1. re: FrankJBN

                    you're right--it's illegal, but that doesn't stop it from happening.

                    Yes, you could take them to court if they fire you, but they likely won't fire you. Instead, they'll refuse to pay you they next time you're owed tips. Failing that, they will simply stop scheduling you, or cut your schedule so drastically that you can't earn enough to get by. Once you're cut down to one or two shifts a week, you'll find a new job in a hurry.

                    Many servers simply can't afford to argue too much with management, and many can't afford a wage a lawsuit. it's far cheaper to pay for the walkout.

                    1. re: nc213

                      thanks nc213-- to be fair, the establishment is covering it's own butt by being harsh to waitstaff-- discouraging walkouts at all costs, no mercy shown, eliminates that one dishonest server out of 50 who uses the following technique to "skim": rings up a $20 cocktail tab (or food, but cocktails are quicker, less chance to get caught), sells the drinks for cash, then claims that it was a walkout & that they didn't get paid-- in this instance, the establishment would eat the bill, the labor, the overhead, the insurance, etc, while the server would pocket the $20-- over the course of a year a dishonest server can "skim" a pretty little pile of cash, tax-free. it's something mgrs have to really watch out for when a server develops a rash of walkouts.

                      1. re: soupkitten

                        anyone can steal from any company in any industry. if proper management is in place they would know what's going on in the restaurant and catch on very quickly if an employee is stealing.

                        also- depending on the POS system, all voids and promos can be still included in the server's total sales, so the server would have to still tip out on the things that are taken off bills.

                        1. re: excuse me miss

                          i agree with you, not trying to describe the vast majority of servers. 95%, in my experience, of servers are honest. just telling the other side for the benefit of people like Frank who may not realize why restaurants have policies like making servers pay for walkouts. as a bt for 10 years, smart enough to take senior positions but not management ones, i can also say from experience that not every little place even uses a computerized POS system like aloha or micros, a lot of nightclubs and live music operations still operate on cash with cocktail servers-- & i've seen dishonest servers learn how to exploit cash tabs on older micros systems too. you see the newest POS systems in chain places and newer restaurants, but the indies may be operating on 20 year old or older stuff. only saying that over 10 years, i've seen cheating a few times.

                          the establishment can make your server pay for your walkout. the establishment can even make her/him pay for a drink that is accidentally dropped, spilled or mistakenly ordered, which i've seen happen too. i'd walk out of a restaurant were i to receive no service as well, but it's more complicated once you've ordered from a server. leaving money for anything you've been served (bevs, apps, etc) is a good idea, because you can be arrested for stealing from a restaurant. premeditated dine and dash is reprehensible, and the server, not the restaurant, will get the brunt of it, so "screw 'em, it was just a chain," something i've heard teenagers say, is not an excuse.

                    2. re: FrankJBN

                      Yes, it is highly illegal.

                      When I was in college I worked for Outback Steakhouse and the proprieter had in place that if we didn't charge for the item (accidently left it off the bill), we paid for the item.

                      I called the EEOC and that practice soon changed.

                        1. re: FrankJBN

                          i hate to be a stickler. The only place that i know for a fact that this is illegal (the restaurant making a server pay for a skipped tab) is certain parts of California and a couple regions in New York, there are probably other smaller jurisdictions around America but i don't know of those. I DO know that in the majority of the United States this is not illegal at all. It is a simple question of presidence. Think of the resteraunt as being blind to the inner workings of the business and its only concern is making money, all it knows is what is in the paperwork at the end of the day. The only two ways for the server to NOT have to pay for a skipped check is if A) they have proof (which is usually only needed if the server takes his/her place of employment to court after such an event) via witnesses, video surveillance, calling the police or trying to catch the patrons to get them to pay. B) if the employer is kind hearted, which hardly happens in a place where the main goal is to make money. Basically anytime in any type of business that has a cash register and it comes up short for the day or period, the person manning that register is legally and financially responsible through the contract of employment before the person was hired.

                          Its Unfair, but not Illegal

                        2. re: soupkitten

                          The waiter had the option of "walking out" also and not reimbursing the restaurant.

                          1. re: tom porc

                            Do you mean quitting? Because if you quit or walk out in the middle of a shift, you're not going to get your tips for that night. So the "option" would be to be unemployed and lose a night's pay? And you're comparing that to the diner's "option" to steal food and service by leaving without paying a bill? The two don't seem comparable to me.

                            1. re: nc213

                              You misunderstood. In Soupkitten's story the waiter had to pay for the 2 large parties that left without paying. He didnt make enough in tips to reimburse the owner and had to write a check. So he lost the night's pay anyway. She didnt say the amount owed but if it was hundreds of dollars he may have had to work a couple of days more to make up for it. Therefore, he had the option of "walking out" and saving himself the money. Yes, he would be unemployed but if that restaurant has 2 non paying patrons in one night it is possible it will happen to him again. Perhaps, the restaurant and him were not a good match.

                              1. re: nc213

                                That's also probably illegal, at least in CA.

                          2. re: invinotheresverde

                            you're all misunderstanding what i wrote. "if the house eats the check" -- meaning if the house doesn't hold the server responsible, same as if you don't like your fish and i take it off the bill. it's not part of the server's sales any longer. ok?

                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                              I believe that's illegal in California.

                              1. re: xanadude

                                It's the server's choice-pay it or get written up. After a couple of these, they are fired.

                                1. re: snowwhitekitty

                                  And when the employer is reported to the state labor board in most states, the employee is reinstated at full pay for the period that they were off work.

                        3. One who eats and walks away without paying because of any of your 3 "things" is a thief. Period.
                          If you test drive a Lexus, should you be able to keep it because the car salesman had bad breath?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Veggo

                            In my history I did walk out of a restaurant, but I had not drunk nor eaten anything. At a restaurant in Quechee VT several years ago - Rosalie's on Rt. 4 W to be exact.
                            Bloody Mary arrived table side in a visibly dirty glass with a celery stalk which had rows of soil quite noticable. Roast beef sandwich had 2 rather grey, crispy slices of meat, 1 lettuce leaf on 2 very stale slices of bread. I left without notice. Waitress followed me out into the parking lot with another plate of food. I declined. Two weeks later the joint was closed. I really do not think I owed them anything.

                          2. if you have ordered food and eaten it, you have to pay for it. You could speak with a manager or an owner and refuse to pay, but simply walking out is stealing.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: nc213

                              Once in a near empty restaurant our waiter brought me a water, my wife a pop, and the free bread basket. We ordered two hot sandwiches. He then disappeared. We waited about 40 minutes, he never came back, no refills, no it'll be out soon. We up and left. I left $2 on the table for the pop. Didn't feel bad about it at all.

                              1. re: Rick

                                That's how I handle situations like that. Drop some cash on the table to cover the drinks, etc. and walk. Places with that poor management/training/hiring don't notice anyway until you're long gone.

                                I'll try to work out bad food with the manager, but I have no desire to do my own busing/serving/refill's etc.