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New app lets restaurant customers legally ‘dine and dash’

John Egan
March 20, 2018
dine and dash app

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I was as a college student when I first heard the phrase “dine and dash.”

A co-worker at discount clothing retailer TJ Maxx had told me a story about dining at a local Pizza Hut and then dashing without paying the bill. This, he told me, had happened three times at the same Pizza Hut!

As someone who feels guilty about not parking my car within the lines at a lot or garage, the thought of dining and dashing gives me indigestion. But I guess not everyone feels that same level of anguish.

Taking off before the bill arrives

A 2017 survey by United Kingdom-based credit card issuer Barclaycard found that one-fourth of diners would consider leaving a restaurant without paying the tab if it took too long for the bill to arrive, and 65% would not return to a restaurant where the bill didn’t come in a timely manner. The longest wait reported in the survey for getting and paying a bill? Nineteen minutes.

The people surveyed by Barclaycard are Brits, but I have no doubt that a fair percentage of Americans also would dine and dash if they encountered a lengthy delay in receiving a restaurant bill.

Dine and dash technology to the rescue

To curb the dine-and-dash problem, Barclays on March 13 introduced its Dine & Dash app, which enables diners to skip the traditional bill-paying process at a restaurant. Barclays is testing Dine & Dash at a London location of the Prezzo chain of Italian eateries.

Barclaycard offers credit cards in the U.S., but there’s no indication whether or when the company would introduce Dine & Dash here.

“Eating out is something we all look forward to, yet our research shows that waiting to pay is an increasing frustration,” Nick Kerigan, managing director of future payments at Barclaycard, says in a news release. “Building on our experience in ‘invisible payments,’ we wanted to create an innovative solution that removes any barriers to enjoying the meal, whilst also helping restaurants deliver great service and keep those diners coming back.”

The 411 on Dine & Dash

Barclaycard provides this explanation of how Dine & Dash works:

  • Users store their payment details on the new Barclaycard app.
  • Each table at a Dine & Dash-equipped restaurant will feature a small device with color-coded lights. A diner will use the device to check in at the restaurant via the app. The device will flash after check-in has been completed, alerting restaurant staff that the diner has the Dine & Dash app.
  • The app senses when the diner has left the restaurant. The payment for the bill then will be made automatically with the payment information stored in the app, and the device will flash green and stay green to indicate the check has been paid.
  • The app allows a diner to split the bill, add a tip and apply a discount coupon.
  • A diner can view the total bill in real time and will get a digital receipt.

Crummy customers

Of course, this technology is aimed at improving the dining experience. But for restaurant operators, it’s a way to combat theft.

Barclaycard says its survey of restaurateurs shows 60% have spotted customers leaving without paying.

To be sure, some of those instances have been accidental, with customers having forgotten to pay the check. However, many of those instances involve folks who want to dash after dining.

Served with a side of guilt

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. In other words, you can’t get something for nothing, as there’s always some sort of price to buy, whether it’s monetary or not.

I’d argue that the intentional diners-and-dashers of the world aren’t getting a free breakfast, lunch or dinner. Rather, they’re paying the price of a guilty conscience — or at least they should be. Here’s hoping that technology like Dine & Dash can reverse some of that dishonest behavior.

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