L.A. Restaurant Owners Reveal What Customers Just Love to Steal

Some diners can’t resist swiping a little souvenir—but restaurants are making them pay
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Since Caitlin and Daniel Cutler opened Ronan in September 2018, the couple estimates that they’ve lost about half of the bar glasses at their Fairfax shared-plates spot. The culprit isn’t clumsy servers but, rather, klepto customers. “People want to take a little piece of their evening home,” says Caitlin, who is both understanding and frustrated at the nearly $2,000 in tiki glasses and eclectic cups that have gone missing. “When I was in my 20s and drinking more, I’m sure I did some crazy stuff, too,” she says. The Cutlers are hardly alone in having patrons pocket random items. People think nothing of taking a neat knife, a crafty coaster, or even a light bulb to go. Have a look.


Copper Mugs

The traditional vessel for Moscow mules is always tempting to tipsy folks. At District in downtown L.A., the price of a mug used to be listed as $50 on the menu (it actually costs less than half that) to discourage poaching, but now the bar doesn’t bother since it keeps a card on file for every party. When one customer saw the charge, says bar lead Tony Gonzales, “they brought it back and apologized.”

Tiki Glass

A brazen party of four once walked into Ronan, ordered four tiki cocktails, promptly poured the drinks into their water glasses and made off with the festive cups as souvenirs. Fortunately it was a private event, so the Cutlers just added the cost—$26 per glass—to the organizer’s bill.

Light Bulbs

When Tom Sopit, managing partner at Employees Only, first noticed the WeHo cocktail bar’s vintage-style light bulbs were disappearing, he suspected his staff. Turns out customers couldn’t resist unscrewing and taking the fixtures home. “It’s such an odd thing to take,” he says of the bulbs, which cost $14.99 each.

Tiles

When Rosaliné opened in WeHo in 2017, the father of one of the cooks gifted chef Ricardo Zarate with colorful glazed tiles that serve as trivets. Customers like them a bit too much. “I never thought people would take them home after their meals,” says Zarate. “But just a few weeks after opening, we had to order more because they were disappearing like crazy.”

Brass Animals

Mozza chef Nancy Silverton collects these figurines, and her employees arrange them each night on the restaurant’s mozzarella bar. Some have names (Alan the llama is pictured in the main image) and deep sentimental value. “We had an incident where a particularly loved animal was taken,” says service director Owen Edson. “We went to the security tape, identified the customer who took it and [informed] them that they had been banned from Mozza.”

Celebrity Coasters

MiniBar Hollywood serves booze with a star affiliation—George Clooney’s tequila, Ryan Reynolds’s gin, etc.—on custom-made wood coasters bearing the celebrity likeness. Some can’t resist pilfering them for their home bars. “If we catch you, we just charge you [$40 for a set]. So it’s all good,” says general manager Jeremy Allen.

Steak Knife

Adam Perry Lang forges the knives for his Hollywood steak house, APL, himself. To deter thieves, Lang lists the value of the knife on the menu: $950.01, which makes stealing one a felony. Once, customers even stashed the utensil in their baby carriage. When contacted, they apologized profusely and returned the knife. “Ironically, we’re now friendly, and they’re regular customers,” says Lang.


RELATED: Chef Adam Perry Lang Is Making the Knives for His Hollywood Steak House by Hand


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