‘dine and dash’: meanings and origin

Of American-English origin, the colloquial phrase dine and dash means: to hastily or furtively leave a restaurant, cafe, etc., in order to avoid paying for one’s bill.

This phrase is also used as a noun, especially as a modifier—as for example in dine-and-dash eater (cf., below, the quotation from The Grand Island Daily Independent (Grand Island, Nebraska) of Tuesday 7th November 1978).

The earliest occurrences of dine and dash that I have found are as follows, in chronological order:

1-: From the Council Bluffs Nonpareil (Council Bluffs, Iowa) of Tuesday 15th April 1975:

Dining On Run Not Dead Art

Dining and dashing is not a dead art yet.
Three young men, described to be in their late teens, proved that Monday evening by dashing, without paying, from John’s Restaurant, 1601 McPherson Ave., after consuming over $16 worth of food.

2-: From Even students need legal advice, published in The Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Arizona) of Sunday 11th May 1975—Sioux Wehrspann, student legal advisor at the University of Arizona, said the following about the students who leave restaurants without paying their bill:

“Usually when they try to dine and dash or eat it and beat it, whatever you want to call it, it’s like a game. If they get challenged, they pay.”

3-: From the account of a court case, published in the Independent (Gallup, New Mexico) of Saturday 31st May 1975:

Johnson testified that Flynn allegedly admitted playing a game with his wife and her brother called “dine and dash” in which the group would order more than $100 in food and liquor from restaurants and then leave without paying the bill.

4-: From Average Age is 14 Years: Runaway Girls Hit the Highways To Seek Adventure Flee Family Woes, by Pamela Galloway, published in the Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada) of Sunday 27th July 1975—Maryann McClure and Frank Sullivan are probation officers:

Ms. McClure says runaways may find themselves doing things they would not normally do.
“One girl was a first time referred runaway. She stole out of a store because she was hungry and then stole an old lady’s purse. She had never been in trouble before.”
     Dine and Dash
Frank Sullivan added, “They may also D and D. That’s dine and dash.”

5-: From One Ski Bum’s Success Story, an article about the U.S. ski and snowboarding filmmaker Warren Miller (1924-2018), by Jerry Carroll, published in the San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California) of Friday 21st October 1977:

After college, he opted for the classic ski bum’s life, living in an eight-foot teardrop trailer during winters and shooting rabbits for meals when he wasn’t “dining and dashing.”
This practice involved ordering a meal—something cheap but filling like pancakes or oatmeal—and dropping out the men’s room window instead of paying.

6-: From National Datelines, published in The Grand Island Daily Independent (Grand Island, Nebraska) of Tuesday 7th November 1978:

‘Dine and dash’ eater bites restaurant manager
Seattle (AP)—Police say a man ate a $3 meal at Ozzie’s Restaurant and left without paying, then bit the manager on the shoulder when he followed him outside with the bill.
Police spokesman Gary Flynn said 20-year-old Kenneth McGinnis was booked at King County Jail on assault and theft charges following the incident Sunday.
The manager, Jack Rush, was taken to a hospital for a tetanus shot, then returned to work.
Rush said McGinnis ate a $2.65 hot beef sandwich and drank a 35 cent cup of coffee.

The phrase dine and dash has also been used of meals eaten quickly.—These are three examples of that use:

1-: From the column Confetti, by Wanda Henderson, published in the Mirror News (Los Angeles, California) of Tuesday 19th August 1958:

Perino’s, the clubs—California and Jonathan—are alerted for this dine-and-dash crowd, so their short-order gold plate specials are ready . . . Alex Perino has it timed to the second—saddle of Iamb is the favorite for these one-eye-on-the-clock occasions . . . “It has everything and takes only 20 minutes to serve.”

2-: From the account of a convention of chefs, headwaiters and bartenders held in Philadelphia, published in the Vineland Times Journal (Vineland, New Jersey) of Thursday 16th March 1961:

It seems Americans are eating faster but drinking slower. The experts in food and potables generally agreed that the way of life for this generation calls for eat and run, but linger over your liquor.
This dine and dash of the ’60s is distressing the chefs who look upon each meal through the eyes of Old World tradition. To them every meal is an artistic triumph created on a culinary canvass.

3-: From Can T.F. support more good eateries?, by Stephanie Schorow, Times-News writer, published in The Times-News (Twin Falls, Idaho) of Sunday 25th November 1979:

Twin Falls—The hamburger heavens, taco treats and chicken pickin’s lining Blue Lakes Boulevard North apparently aren’t enough to satisfy the taste buds of all Twin Falls residents.
The city has too many “dine and dash” joints and not enough sit-down restaurants serving good food, many residents say.

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