8 Bizarre Restaurant Crimes
True crime narratives have captured public attention for years now, for a variety of reasons. Restaurants rely on trust every day, whether that’s in customers to honor their tickets or in guests to wear masks; crime stories fascinate us because they give us a glimpse at how things go when someone breaks the rules. They tell us a little more about the human condition, whether that’s in desperation or a break from reality. These are stories that at times plumb the depths of stupidity, the ridiculous, or the sublime, depending on the motives of the criminals. Either way, our list of restaurant crimes examines the weirder side of life, the criminals who took things too far specifically in terms of their favorite foods or establishments.
Wendy’s Burger Thief
Robbery is no laughing matter for any restaurateur. Savvy restaurateurs employ various loss prevention measures including installing cameras or increasing pay and benefits to their employees to try and enhance their loss prevention measures. Still, there is no accounting for the prevalence of Florida Man, which is certainly the case here. In Jensen Beach, Florida, a thief was found breaking into Wendy’s locations, where he proceeded to prepare himself a meal before stealing the safe. Dubbed the “hamburglar” by local police —a reference to another famous fast-food character— the burglar was eventually caught and charged with breaking and entering, grand theft, and more.
Adventures in 911
While it varies from location to location, many places penalize calling 911 (emergency services for our international readers) without just cause. Unfortunately, that did not stop these irate customers from calling law enforcement over what they considered personal slights. In Florida, a guest felt impugned by the portions of his meal, he reached out to the law to right his perceived wrong. Despite restaurant staff working to ameliorate this guest’s concerns, he was so displeased that he dialed 911 to complain.
Elsewhere, another Florida man (note the pattern here) called the law to report that Burger King was out of lemonade. Distraught over not getting it his way, the man called to complain. Sadly for both men, these restaurant crimes landed them both with charges of abusing the 911 system. Oops.
In a move seemingly pulled straight from Breaking Bad, a fast-food restaurant was found to contain a meth lab. Like Walter White working through the fictional Pollo Loco location in the series, two men in Iowa set up shop in a local Taco Bell. One of the men was an employee of the location, and unlike with Breaking Bad, his objectives were much more personal: to stay intoxicated at all times. One of the more daring restaurant crimes on this list, the plan backfired with the employee losing his job, charged with conspiracy to manufacture a controlled substance, and possibly facing a lawsuit from the restaurant chain.
Back to our ongoing Florida Man coverage, a customer at an IHOP in Orlando made a daring choice to get out of his check. A man claiming to be a green beret told a server that he was allowed to eat for free because of his service. Initially claiming to be in law enforcement, the man later changed his story to signal that not only was a green beret but that if he were to die that the president was in immediate peril. When asked to leave, the man allegedly mooned the waitstaff, before his arrest for impersonating an officer, trespassing, and disorderly conduct. Perhaps the greatest of his restaurant crimes is that there is no word on whether or not he paid his check.
Secret recipes are a fascinating part of food and restaurant culture, as they suggest a pearl of arcane and unknowable wisdom. Brands like KFC have invested much into preventing the theft of their most precious asset, their secret recipe. Still, that hasn’t stopped would-be crooks from making this list of restaurant crimes. In 2006, a team of attempted thieves tried their hand at corporate espionage, to steal one of the most highly protected secrets in the food world. The idea was simple: to steal the recipe for Coca-Cola and sell it to Pepsi. The plan was foiled by an undercover FBI agent who acted as a Pepsi exec to undermine the operation. The thieves were arrested and charged with wire fraud and unlawfully stealing and selling trade secrets.
Chicken Wing Heist
You might think you like chicken wings, but you have nothing on this father and son duo of New York thieves. Not the only entry to our list of restaurant crimes to steal food, the duo plotted to steal chicken wings from the restaurant that they worked in, which they would then sell on the street. The team was initially successful, initially netting $41K before getting caught by police.
Up next in our rundown of weird restaurant crimes, is a crook who took his love of corndogs (literally) too far. A drunken young man in Kansas broke into a Sonic Drive-in to make off with his one true love: all the corndogs, hotdogs, buns, and more that he could get his hands on. A faulty bag spoiled his escape, leaving a trail of corndogs in his wake that led to the culprit’s residence. The man was convicted and charged with grand theft for his crimes.
This entry on our list of restaurant crimes isn’t quite as slick as it may seem. Around the globe, some environmentalists have converted their vehicles to run off of biofuels, which is a renewable resource derived from plant-based materials like, you guessed it, the leftover grease in restaurants. While the crime seems harmless enough, the issue is that it robs restaurateurs from selling their leftover grease for a much-needed profit. While not relegated to one specific location, there are places around the country that have grease police, who surveil prime targets in certain areas to protect the assets of restaurant owners.
Still, while there is a potential for extra revenue, some restaurateurs may not want the additional task of finding someone to sell to. With that in mind, these owners and operators might consider donating their leftovers to organizations that help refine them into usable biofuel.
In the 80s, there were few restaurant mascots quite so ubiquitous as the Domino’s Noid. The bunny-eared rascal was a pithy pizza bandit that scandalized the nation. The character was so popular that he even had his own video game, wherein players had to deliver pizzas in thirty minutes or less, all while avoiding the Noid.
Sadly, the Noid was the inspiration for real-life terror, as a man who shared the same name held Domino’s employees hostage for more than five hours at gunpoint. The assailant had a list of demands that included money and an escape vehicle, and bizarrely a book about the Freemason’s. After the hostages escaped, the man admitted that because of their shared name, he felt that the marketing was directed at him. Since then, the character was retired, although Domino’s recently announced that the Noid would return.
Restaurant Crimes Conclusion
There are so many restaurant crimes to cover, but we wanted to present stories where no one was hurt and the culprits learned their lesson. Whether it’s someone’s hubris or just desperation, restaurant crimes tell us a little about the customers that dine next to us or perhaps in the restaurants that we own. Take these as cautionary tales of what to avoid and how to do just that.
Do you have a restaurant crime that you’d love to see added to the list? We’d love to know. Tell us in the comments below.
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About the Author
Syd is a content marketing specialist, which are fancy words for writing pretty to tell a good story. He likes writing things about food, drinks, and music. He’s a musician himself, a father of two, and loves his wife a whole lot.