It’s been a bittersweet few weeks for Amar Maroke. The Vancouver restaurant owner installed his outdoor patio at Four Olives Restaurant at the start of June, but since then, he’s had three incidents of customers dining and dashing.
After the first two, Maroke decided to install a security camera outside. The third incident, which happened around 3 p.m. Saturday, was recorded.
In the video, a man can be seen seated on the patio. Maroke says the customers ordered a couple of beers and a full meal, totalling about $75. As a family walks past on the sidewalk, the man stands up from his seat, walks with the family and leaves.
“It hasn’t happened often, maybe once a year inside, but outside it’s been three times in one month,” Maroke said. “That’s probably $200 in one month … What can you do? Do you have a choice? You can’t run after them.”
Maroke says each time a customer ran off without paying their bill there was only one server working.
Ian Tostenson, president of the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association, believes the staff shortage could be a contributing factor.
“You could just survey the situation and see there’s not really anyone supervising, so you could eat, drink and get out of there,” Tostenson said.
Across B.C., the service industry is short about 40,000 workers, both front-of-house and back, according to Tostenson.
He says many people left the industry during the pandemic because work was unstable. Others are afraid to comeback due to COVID concerns, and others are working “minimal hours” to still receive federal benefits, such as the Canada Recovery Benefit, or CRB, Tostenson said.
When it comes to incidents of dining and dashing, Tostenson says there has not been a significant increase.
“It’s popping to the surface a bit more than normal; we haven’t talked about dine and dash for years,” he said. “But thank god it’s not at pandemic levels, if you will.”
His simple message to restaurant-goers is to “stop being a jerk.”
“Go enjoy yourselves, but pay your bill too,” he said.