I’ve only once been chased down the street for leaving a restaurant without paying. Perhaps it was because my wife was handicapped by her heels, but we were pretty smartly caught, the waiter demanding to know why we’d left a £20 note wedged under a wine glass instead of asking for the bill like normal people.
No crime committed as we’d been invited as guests of the restaurant, but it was clearly embarrassing for both the waiter and for me.
I’m not sure who was to blame for the breakdown in communication on that occasion, whether it was the PR or, more likely, the restaurant manager, but ever since I’ve always got a bit anxious when it comes time to leave.
It’s surprisingly difficult to establish that the waiter knows you aren’t expecting a bill without coming across like a prize nob.
On The Times we always pay our own way when we are reviewing, but I do accept the occasional PR invitation if it is a restaurant I am particularly interested in. It may be I want to check it out for a possible future review, or to see if there’s some other feature that might work, and now that newspaper expense accounts are a distant memory, I’m grateful for the help.
What I’m even more grateful for is when it’s clear from the outset that the restaurant knows the terms of engagement – the PR coming and saying hello if it’s a press night, or the GM if not.
That way I know who to hand over a tip to, and it saves me the whole “Do you know who I am?” routine at the end of the meal.
Which, believe me, is so not my style.