World Cup warning for hospitality

By Michele McPherson

A Tauranga bar owner is warning fellow restaurateurs to be on the lookout for those who dine and dash after three tables left without paying on Saturday night.
Restaurant and cafe owners have also been alerted to another scam that seems to be doing the rounds in an attempt to leave eatery owners out of pocket.
Craig Cameron owns Latitude 37 in Mount Maunganui and said he usually has a table leave without paying their bill once every couple of months.
On Saturday night it happened three times.
Concerned the walkouts could signal the beginning of a trend in the lead up to the Rugby World Cup, Mr Cameron wanted other bars and restaurants to be aware.
"It's unusual that we had three walk out in one night," Mr Cameron said.
"We do have a lot of locals who genuinely forget sometimes but they are back the next day."
Mr Cameron said this had turned out to be the case with one of the three tables.
"They had basically forgotten. It was a really busy night. It was the final of the rugby, the place was packed, and they basically just walked out."
But Mr Cameron was alarmed by a table of three women who were caught on camera with the bill in front of them, sneaking out the door when staff backs were turned.
"They were not young kids. They didn't look to be drunk. It was premeditated."
He said if the women didn't come forward before the end of the week he would consider putting security footage of them leaving on the bar's front doors and bathroom doors.
He was also considering putting it up on Facebook.
Mr Cameron has raised the issue with police.
He said the World Cup would provide opportunists, like these women, with more chances of doing the same on busy nights.


"When the Rugby World Cup comes up and your bar is full and your restaurant is full for that six-week period... if an opportunity presents itself, they are more likely to take it."
While credit cards were taken for bar tabs, Latitude 37 diners were not expected to pay until after their meal - like many restaurants.
Mr Cameron felt some people on the third table might have believed they were paid for when they were not.
Vice-president of the Bay of Plenty Restaurant Association Nancy Hogg, who has owned Bravo in Mid City Mall for 10 years, said the incident served as a good alert to the hospitality industry.
"If he's had that happen and that's a pretty well run place, you just have to watch it," she said.
"You just have to alert your staff to their sections to look after their guys, however in the busy nights they can slip through the net."
Mrs Hogg said when the restaurant was busy during the National Jazz Festival they adopted a system where they took credit cards from people before they dined.
"Generally the public don't like it but once you explain your reasoning they understand."
Mount Mainstreet manager Leanne Brown said walkouts were something that happened everywhere and it was unfortunate that Mr Cameron's business was targeted. "His staff are extremely well trained and they have a great security system."
She said it was gobsmacking the lengths some people would go to.
"We have had an incident in the last few weeks where people have been ringing up [Mount Maunganui businesses] saying they had been in for a meal or coffee and found a hair."
The complainants claimed it was too busy for them to complain at the time but they wanted a refund put into a bank account they provided details for, Ms Brown said.
Tauranga's Bravo and BB's Cafe at Fraser Cove had also been targeted by the scam and believed it was the same woman who was ringing around the businesses and trying it on.
Mrs Hogg said the woman claimed she bought four takeaway coffees and had hairs in each of them.
"She demanded that we put it in a bank account."
When the woman was told she would need to come in for a refund voucher she hung up.
Alan Sciascia, regional manager of the Hospitality Association of New Zealand, encouraged businesses to try to have police charges laid against people caught leaving without paying.
"It is in effect theft and should be treated as such," he said.
He said "attentive staff" were the key to preventing walkouts.
Tauranga police Senior Sergeant Ross Bielby said walkouts could be civil or criminal offences.
"If there is evidence of persons having not attempted to pay and making no attempt to pay, it's clearly an offence which they can be prosecuted for."
Mr Bielby said a way some restaurants stopped walkouts was by taking payments with orders.
"Others obviously don't want to do that for a number of reasons but that's a way it can be prevented." He advised restaurants and retailers to have adequate staffing during the World Cup.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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