D & D (D and D), in professional restaurant lingo, stands for dine and dash. However, it doesn’t refer to customers who are in a hurry and need to get in and out of the restaurant quickly.
Instead, a dine and dash refers to a customer who leaves without paying their bill. The quintessential sit-com version is when an otherwise honest person forgets their wallet, and rather than suffer the embarrassment, and presumably the consequences of not being able to pay for their meal, they run out when no one is looking, or distract the waiter and then run out, in a bit of slapstick fun.
This certainly happens on occasion. In fact, some dine and dash scammers don’t even bother to dash. They will just saunter out as if everything is on the up and up, even slowly walking past the hostess stand or lingering for a bit, the better not to raise suspicion. In a busy restaurant, it is quite easy to walk about without paying the bill.
The restaurant staff is sometimes too busy for anyone but the person’s waiter to know they haven’t paid. By the time it’s noticed, it’s too late. In the days when people paid cash for everything, it was even easier, since it was common for diners to simply leave cash on the table, enough to cover the bill and the tip, and leave. Therefore, customers just walking out without any further interaction, in regards to the bill, was common, and a restaurant wanting regular customers would not do well to stop people and ask them if they paid. Indeed, after receiving our bill, those of us paying cash still feel free to leave the cash on the table and walk out, although this may not be a good idea if you wish the cash to actually make its way to the till! You might be honest, but you can’t count on all the other diners being so.
Regardless, many D&D’s are planned out in advance by people who know exactly what they are doing, and they can pull it off even if the restaurant is slow. There are many clever methods that they might use to decieve the restaurant staff, all designed to give the illusion that they have only stepped away from the table and will be back shortly. This gives them time to get away from the scene before anyone realizes that they have actually left without paying.
Methods of Dine and Dash
Although smoking in restaurants is not something you see as much today, except for those which have smoking sections, a standard ploy used to be leaving a lit cigarette in an ashtray. This made it look as if the customer was only away from the table to go the restroom, make a phone call (remember phone booths), etc.
Another very effective method is to order coffee, dessert, or a cocktail and then leaving after the waiter walks away. Certainly, a person who just ordered something isn’t going anywhere!
Also standard is leaving an item on the table. This could be an old empty handbag, wallet, an old jacket, scarf, or any other item of clothing or accessory. Even a shopping bag, either empty or with something inconsequential inside it, would work.
Please don’t take these as tips on how you can get away with a dine and dash. If you think most restaurant owners are rich, you’ve been watching too much TV. Many of them work excruciatingly long hours and barely manage to scrape out a living. And, if you leave without paying, you are hurting your waiter as well, who may be held responsible for the bill not being paid, and who will not get a tip.
As stated above, dine and dash means to leave without paying in restaurant jargon, but the expression has found its way into everyday usage, where people use it to mean that they need to dine quickly and leave, perhaps because they have a movie or another appointment to go to. In this colloquial usage, people do not mean they intend to leave without paying, only that they need to eat quickly and do not have time to linger over their meal.
Alternatives to Dine and Dash
There are a few, more colorful ways to describe those who eat and then leave without paying. I do not pretend to be aware of all of them, but a few are chew and screw and masticate and vacate.