One my absolute favorite possessions is a red-and-white checkered apron with the name “Maggiano’s Little Italy” embroidered in black block letters on the bib. I just feel more competent and authentically culinary when I’m wearing it in the kitchen.
I came by it honestly, in a promotional gift bag I received years ago. Whether or not reporters should keep anything no matter the value may be a debatable question, but I figured since I wasn’t writing a story about the restaurant and I gave away everything else in the bag and kept only the apron, I was probably OK. Anyhow, it’s not like I stole it. Which, as it turns out, isn’t as unusual as you might think, at least for some eateries.
Apparently it’s not all that rare for patrons to pilfer from certain restaurants, as evidenced by a raft of stories this week on the 30,000 linen napkins guests lift each month from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s 30 Jamie’s Italian restaurants in the U.K.
While it’s not nearly as blatant as the dine-and-dash, the thousands of small thefts add up over time. Many see the napkins as a souvenir, and it’s not hard to understand the appeal of being able to decorate your table with authentic linens from a celebrity’s dining room. What is harder to understand is the theft, given that those who want to own the blue-and-white napkins embroidered with the name of the restaurant can actually buy a pack of four for £8 (about $13), according to stories published in several media outlets, including the Daily Mail, after Oliver dished on the issue in a Radio Times interview.
For some, stealing the serviettes is a badge of honor that they tweet about afterward, the Daily Mail reported. But for others, it may also have a financial component. The pilfering problem has worsened with the economy, Oliver said, and media reports point out that some thieves are apparently reselling the filched napkins on eBay.
Worse, it’s not just the napkins. Each Jamie’s Italian has pricey old-fashioned toilets that people were stealing the handles from until workers finally welded them on.
“Honestly, some people were coming out for a meal and going home with half a toilet. Bonkers!” Oliver said.
Even more bonkers — stealing a restaurant’s plumbing may not be as unusual as it sounds. This month, the Associated Press reported that someone who apparently had a set of tools and serious plumbing skills has been stealing pipes from McDonald’s and Dairy Queen restaurants in the Washington towns of Woodland and Longview, in one case disassembling an entire urinal without spilling a drop of water.
Has your restaurant had theft problems? How did you deal with it? Extra points for stories about the weirdest items guests have tried to steal.