If you run a café or restaurant you might have come across customers who enjoy one of your meals, but instead of paying they 'do a runner'. This will hit your business hard, but there are ways to deter these restaurant thieves. Here, you’ll find helpful hints designed to stop them stealing from you.

1. Keep it clean

If you have a car park, make sure it’s in good order, clean and well lit with parking bay lines clearly painted. Where possible, have CCTV installed –  with highly visible signage –  that can capture number plates. If prospective thieves feel there’s a high level of security outside, they’ll probably presume this is also the case inside, and will probably be less inclined to try and leave the restaurant without paying.

2. Prevent an easy getaway

Look at the exit points from the restaurant from a security perspective – the fewer the better. If you have an outside smoking area – especially if it’s the street – and all members of a dining party are outside, then it’s easier for them to leave. Ensure your staff patrol the area and that you have good surveillance of outside spaces from inside the building. 

3. Capture their faces

It is recommended you install CCTV in your restaurant and that it covers all exits. This not only deters crime, it also provides reassurance to customers and staff. For advice and approved suppliers of CCTV visit the National Security Inspectorate and the Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board.

4. Own the door

By meeting and greeting every customer, thereby ‘registering’ their faces, you are demonstrating a high level of customer care and attention – which will make a potential thief less likely to leave without paying the bill.

5. Cover the exit

Review the position of the cash till. A clear view of the entrance from the till always enhances crime prevention, but be careful about locating the actual till too close to the front door, as this could compromise its security.

6. Be engaging

Encourage staff to pay attention to your customers, make good eye contact and engage in polite conversation. The better the customer care, the less chance of anyone leaving without paying.

7. Get their number

Many restaurants take mobile phone numbers when accepting bookings. Likewise, most hotels now ask for credit card details when guests book or check in. And it’s always a good idea to call the customer the day before the booking, to remind them and to make sure the booking is authentic.

8. Protect the business

If a party of diners arrives without having made a booking, it’s best to ask for a credit card before seating the group – particularly large parties.

Remember, there’s only so much you can do to establish the identity of customers, and there’s nothing to stop them giving false information. However, by following the tips listed above, you’ll be far better equipped to prevent people making off without paying.

In the event of an incident, call police as quickly as possible – we do not recommend taking matters into your own hands. Remember, you are accountable for your actions both legally and commercially.