Doggybag a souvenir?

Doggybag a souvenir?

Some diners think they are entitled to take home a lot more than just leftover food and an exquisite dining experience from restaurants.

Sure, there might be no harm in nicking the odd paper napkin or toothpick. But cutlery, custom-made signs, antiques and a rare aloe vera plant in a giant pot?

The list does not end there.

Singaporeans even take rolls of toilet paper home with them.

Tippling Club in Dempsey Hill has had its bottles of Aesop soap and moisturiser, along with the metal holder they were housed in, ripped out from the wall. The holder had been screwed to the wall.

On other occasions, chef-owner Ryan Clift has personally approached diners to ask them to return things, such as the box and jar in which the restaurant's Juniper Sling cocktail is served. Some diners would insist that the items belonged to them.

The jars and boxes were custom-made by perfume house Penhaligon's for the restaurant when it opened five years ago. There were 150 bottles then, and now there are just eight left.

Chef Clift, 36, says: "It is disgusting. It is stealing from a business."

On average, two pairs of $50 bayonet tweezers, which diners use to pick up charred peppers, go missing each week, while the soap bottle in the washroom disappears about once a month.

Indeed, a SundayLife! check with 10 restaurateurs and restaurant groups found that the same things regularly go missing at restaurants. Stealing soap, toilet paper, cutlery and glasses is common.

When The Green Door, also in Dempsey Hill, opened in April, its porcelain owl-shaped soap dispensers were stolen, and diners also vandalised a potted plant on a table by plucking off all the leaves.

Recently, the bar found that its custommade toilet signs - brass plates with illustrations of male and female foxes that had been mounted on the toilet doors - had been forcefully prised off.

Mr Yuan Oeij, 44, chairman of the Prive Group, which owns The Green Door, says: "I am just resigned to the fact that the world is made up of all sorts of people. We know we have nice things - we spent a lot of effort designing and sourcing them."

He adds: "Things in a restaurant are made for all customers to enjoy, and by stealing them, you are robbing others of the pleasure of that item and hurting the restaurant in the process. Precious funds and time are wasted to replace the items."

At Hoshino Coffee in Plaza Singapura, the cute glass receptacles in which maple syrup is served have disappeared so often that the parent company's assistant general manager Adrian Yeo has "lost count".

Meanwhile, at the secret, no-name bar behind The Library in Keong Saik Road, the rubber duckie in its Shrub-A-Dub punch bowl cocktail hardly makes it back to the bar. Some of its speciality glasses also disappear.

The bar's general manager Stefan Ravalli, 30, says: "We just keep tabs on the table. If we clear a bathtub and there is no duck, we ask for the duck."

At the Les Amis Group's fine-dining restaurants, Laguiole steak knives, which can cost $200 each depending on the design, have also been stolen. It often happens in large groups, when diners ask for an extra knife for various reasons.

Restaurateurs say that when restaurants are busy, it is hard for waitstaff to keep track of items, especially when there is more than one waitstaff serving the same table.

Diners admit to stealing signs from clubs, glasses and even floral table arrangements. They say they do it for the thrill or because they think the unqiue item would look pretty in their homes.

While diners tend to steal small, easily concealed items, some customers of Loof, a bar at Odeon Towers, made off with an aloe vera plant in a pot about two years ago.

The aloe vera had been planted in a giant teapot that had been carried by hand from London by Mr Wee Teng Wen, co-founder of the Lo & Behold Group, which runs Loof. It weighed about 10kg, and the bar has not found out who stole it.

But stealing is not rampant in all restaurants. The Akashi Group and The Spa Esprit Group say theft is rare.

Others, such as The Deliciae Hospitality Management Group, have taken a more tongue-in-cheek approach to their disappearing wares.

At tapas bar Sabio in Duxton Hill, for example, the back of its coasters are stamped "Stolen From Sabio".

Mr Olivier Bendel, 42, chief executive of the group, says: "It is quite often that diners in restaurants steal coasters for their private collection. We thought it would be fun to add "Stolen From Sabio" so they can remember where they stole them from."

rltan@sph.com.sg


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