The best way to get things for free at a restaurant is to become a regular. Developing a relationship with the staff often gets you complimentary food and drinks. The worst way to get things for free is to walk out of the door with whatever the hell you want. This is called stealing, and it's unfortunately a common occurrence at restaurants across the country.
But people aren't just stealing an extra bread roll here or a bottle of ketchup there, as one might expect. No, people are apparently willing to walk out with pretty much anything that isn't nailed down -- from picture frames to toilet paper holders. Here are the dumbest things people have stolen from restaurants.
An entire Bloody Mary bar
It's not hard to imagine that inside Las Vegas' Crush, a self-described "party restaurant" at the MGM, customers are drinking a couple of Bloodys come brunch. But one customer got a little too eager with the boozy tomato juice. According to bartender John O'Donnell, the restaurant-goer "scooted the packed Bloody Mary bar cart out of the restaurant and tried to serve drinks to people in the casino."
"We put fake pies on display in the lobby to entice people to buy them from our in-house bakery," said Michael Files, a brand director for the restaurant group that includes Asheville, North Carolina's Buxton Hall Barbecue. "Someone stole a whole fake pie. Later that night, their Uber driver brought it back. They must have realized it was just a bunch of shortening." We give that Uber driver five stars.
Toilet paper spool
When you watch heist movies, the criminals are always going for the big score, like stealing a million dollars in a casino safe. What people steal in the real world is much less exciting. "The toilet paper spool is the No. 1 thing that gets stolen," said John Bush, co-owner of New York City's Massoni. "It's baffling to me. Though I guess it's one of those things you break and never think about buying a new one. And if you're at a restaurant taking a shit, you probably think, 'I could just take this one!'" Or you could just do what every decent human being does and buy a new one on Amazon... while you're on the toilet.
You know those annoying buzzers some restaurants use to tell you that your table is ready? Some people steal them for unexplainable reasons. "I have no clue why [people steal them]," said David Choi, the owner of St. Louis' Seoul Taco. "But ours were branded, so I guess they want a souvenir." You could use them as coasters, he suggests.
If you've ever washed your hands in a restaurant (and we really, really, really hope you have), you've probably seen the "Employees must wash hands" sign. Some restaurants put them in nice frames. Big mistake. "The frame [holding the sign] was stolen off the wall multiple times, much to the confusion of the staff," Kaitlyn Goalen, the brand manager of Ashley Christensen Restaurants, revealed. "Every time it would disappear, we'd make a new frame and rehang it. Finally, after the fifth or sixth time, we just painted the words directly on the wall."
Bush has also dealt with many picture frame thieves. "I've spent numerous times putting 'Employees must wash hands' and 'No smoking' signs in nice frames," he revealed. "And I've had people screw them off the walls."
An adorable bathroom sign
It's not just "don't forget to wash your hands" signs that people steal from restaurant bathrooms. "In the beginning at Chai Pani, we were on such a shoestring budget that we couldn't afford to fix our toilet," Files said. "So I made a cute sign with a little boy on it that said, 'Please hold the handle down when flushing the toilet.' It was apparently an exceptionally cute sign because it was stolen and re-created three different times." Files was elated when the restaurant was finally flush (pun intended) enough in cash to fix the toilet and no longer had to replace the sign.
Posters on the wall
While not every poster is as timeless as John Belushi drinking a bottle of Jack, it doesn't stop people from trying to steal them from restaurants. San Diego, California's Quad AleHouse has a number of beer and vintage posters decorating its walls celebrating the building's heritage (it's housed in a building formerly owned by the Navy). Quad's Rick Borba told us a "beer-fueled stagger" makes it easy to spot anyone trying to steal a poster, so they don't get far.
Every kind of glass possible
Glasses are perhaps the most common thing stolen from restaurants, it appears. "People always steal pint glasses with your bar's name on it," Bush said. "We'll order 36 dozen of them, and they'll all be gone within six months." O'Donnell added that while you "wouldn't casually walk out of a restaurant with a full glass of wine or bourbon on the rocks in LA or New York, in Vegas everyone thinks that is acceptable." So he finds himself constantly ordering new glassware.
"Our hot sauces are unique and come straight from Jamaica," said Rudy Aguas, the GM of DW Bistro. "We caught one guest taking it and placing it in her purse, but she still denied that it came from the table." Apparently she didn't realize that security cameras were invented to prove such things.
You might recognize this type of flask from going to science class in high school, or from dining in a nice restaurant that serves wine like Atlanta, Georgia's Empire State South. Its GM Beth Stewart said that quite a few people either try to buy the flasks the restaurant uses to decant wine or just straight-up steal them.
"One evening, there were two tipsy young ladies who tried to make off with one of the Erlenmeyer flasks," she said. "They wandered in, used the restroom, dallied for a minute, and left with the flask under one of their coats. One of our servers who is very vocal about social justice and respect marched outside and blindsided them by plucking it out of their hands while they waited for an Uber. She then thanked them and wished them a good night."
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