The costs of stealing glasses and silverware from D.C. restaurants

Media Credit: Jamie Finkelstein | Hatchet Photographer

Stolen cutlery and glassware costs Foggy Bottom restaurants hundreds of dollars each week.

Media Credit: Jamie Finkelstein | Hatchet Photographer

Froggy Bottom Pub’s general manager Hien Bui is sick of GW students stealing her bar’s glasses, which are emblazoned with a green frog logo known across campus.

While competition for customer dollars has gotten fiercer across the District, one unexpected cost is cutting into budgets and causing headaches for restaurants: stolen glassware and silverware.

“Trust me, I run after thieves. And if I catch them, I make sure I humiliate them,” Bui said. “Stealing is stealing. These kids’ parents clearly didn’t do something right.”

In a moment of drunken excitement – or sober consideration – at bars like Froggy Bottom, admiration of those gold-rimmed chalices sitting behind the bars can turn into theft.

Stealing restaurant glasses and cutlery has become enough of a noticeable problem for D.C. businesses that the Washington City Paper took notice in January, asking: “Why can’t people stop stealing from D.C.’s restaurants?”

The restaurant managers in Foggy Bottom and Georgetown directly affected by students’ quest for memorabilia don’t see any humor in the swipes.

Media Credit: Jordan Emont | Photo Editor
Froggy Bottom Pub’s general manager Hien Bui said she’s not afraid to call out GW students who steal her bar’s glasses, which are emblazoned with a green frog logo.

Farmers Fishers Bakers’ general manager Kate Wilson said her restaurant in particular is impacted by students’ habits.

“We spend substantially more on cutlery and glassware than your average restaurant because everything is custom made,” Wilson said.

Wilson said half of all missing glassware and 30 percent of all missing cutlery can be attributed to theft. While she wasn’t able to discuss full data, she said the costs add up to 0.5 percent of their budget – a “damaging” number, particularly because the custom-made glass and silverware can sometimes run on back order, leaving the restaurant short on supplies.

“This is a serious problem. That number isn’t something we accounted for in our business model, and especially during high-volume times, I can’t properly service my guests,” Wilson said.

For customers, the swipe can seem harmless.

Over parents weekend last fall, freshman Zoe Bilis said her roommate’s mother encouraged them to swipe a steak knife from Founding Farmers, the parent restaurant of Farmers Fishers Bakers.

“Her mom said, ‘This silverware is so nice! You should take it back to your dorm.’ I was a little skeptical, but we did it. So now we have a nice set of silverware in our dorm instead of just shitty plastic from Whole Foods,” Bilis said.

Caroline Kapcio, a freshman, prefers to nab products a little closer to home: the linen napkins from Tonic.

“This is how you do it: When you walk to the top floor, you just slyly grab a couple from the napkin display tray when you’re going back to your table. Nobody noticed me doing it,” Kapcio said.

Now she uses them to dry the dishes in her dorm room.

“It’s honestly just so much easier and cheaper than buying paper towels or dish towels when I need to clean something up. And it’s classy looking,” Kapcio said.

This story was updated on March 4, 2014 to reflect the following:

Correction appended
Due to an editing error, The Hatchet incorrectly identified how much revenue Farmers Fishers Bakers from stealing.

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