It’s bad enough when a restaurant owner has a party ‘dine and dash’, which is industry language for when a customer leaves without paying. But when it’s a catering party with hundreds of guests, it’s no small inconvenience for the caterer. And in Spain, there’s been an epidemic of these incidents…
If a party of four skips out on a restaurant tab of, say $250, that’s the restaurant owner’s personal take-home for the night gone out the window. Nobody likes to think they just put in the last 12 hours or hard work for nothing. But imagine a catering event for 120, ostensibly to celebrate the christenings of two children, where the guests leave “in a stampede” just before the dessert comes out. That’s what happened to caterer Antonio Rodriguez, owns the Hotel Carmen in Bembibre, a town in the northwestern Castile and Leon region.
The menu consisted of Appetizers,Pork Chops, Dessert and booze for 120 guests. All went well until it was time to serve the Cake, then the whole crowd just got up from their seats and left – without a word, leaving behind a bull for (US)$2,300. / (C)$3,000.
Spanish police report at least two more such incidents recently, one with a bill totalling around (US)$12,000. / (C)$16,000. There’s some light at the end of the tunnel, though. Police say they’ve arrested at least one suspect, described as Romanian, who appears to be connected to all three of the aforementioned frauds. But they’re still looking for more than 100 others from the dine-and-dash ‘gang’.
What can a poor caterer do?
I have some suggestions…
If your guests appear to be Romanian:
- Have an employee discreetly take photos of all the guests’ cars, including license plate numbers.
- Require a 50 per cent deposit, which will at least cover your food costs. Most caterers in North America do this as a matter of course.
- Take overall photos of the diners at their seats, under the pretense that you’re recording the affair for your customer. Or you’re so proud of this event, you want to put up pix on your wall of fame.
- Let the police know, in advance of the event, that you’ve had a Romanian booking. Invite the authorities to review surveillance camera footage from your office, of the meeting where the event was booked. They might see someone they’re looking for…
I feel for the caterers who’ve been taken advantage of with this scam. The perps are a bunch of greedy, disrespectful, thieving nasties. If this gang isn’t busted soon, and their scam spree stopped, it may come to pass that caterers in Northern Spain will simply refuse to serve foreign groups, in self defense. That would be sad.
~ Maggie J.