Sticky fingers: the unusual items stolen from hotels and restaurants

02 March 2023 by

In light of a froggy theft from Le Gavroche, The Caterer asked the industry: what's the strangest thing guests have stolen from your venue?

Wahaca tried a spoon amnesty

Mark Selby, co-founder and chief executive, Wahaca "Our Wahaca spoons continue to be a magnet for light-fingered guests – much like our Mexican-inspired street food, they're colourful, vibrant and, it seems, highly desirable. At one point we worked out that around several thousand a year were finding their way into the pockets, handbags and even some other more eyebrow-raising parts of our customers' attire. A few years ago we went to the lengths of launching an annual spoon amnesty to playfully persuade those that had ‘borrowed' them to bring them back – with the promise of a free plate of tacos in return."

Only Food and Courses were made uncomfortable

Robbie Lorraine, chef-owner, Only Food and Courses, London "When I had my first place in Brixton, we had these cushions made up with little phrases that represented the general vibe of the restaurant. Some were quotes from my favourite TV shows. These proved to be quite popular as we managed to lose two or three in the space of a month.

The irony behind people stealing the ‘This time next year we'll be millionaires' and ‘Quick, here comes the old bill' cushions is not lost on me. Also, these were pretty large cushions, so you would have thought we'd notice if somebody stuck them under their jumpers. I just thought people left the restaurant looking full and satisfied."

Honey & Co are left pegless

Itamar Srulovich, co-owner, Honey & Co, London "People love our pegs. They're old-fashioned, wooden clothes pegs and we use them as a place setting with cutlery and napkins. We get through so many we wonder if people are eating them."

Whatley Manor start charging for throws

Sue Williams, general manager, Whatley Manor, Malmesbury, Wiltshire "People take our bedroom cushions and bed throws. It's maddening, as they are colour-matched to the room and not readily replaceable. And they cost a serious price, too. I usually write to the guest to say: ‘I hope you enjoyed you stay, and I hope you had a good journey home. When you come to unpack, please will you double-check that you have not packed any of our room items by mistake. When you get a chance, please could you post them back to us, or if you would like to purchase the items, please could we charge your credit card by £...?'. It works!"

Atelier Pip got flushed away

Zoe Burgess, founder of Atelier Pip and beverage consultant at the Standard, London "I was working at a bar where at the end of the night we discovered that the toilet handles had been taken. They were those old-fashioned, ceramic white handles – the pull type that you find on Victorian toilets. It's so random, it's not even like they were expensive – you can find them online for £15."

The Vineyard throws in the towel

Chris Smith, general manager, the Vineyard, Newbury, Berkshire "We once had a guest who stole a bathroom towel from us. The guest then wrote a very amusing review stating: ‘Pretty good food. Stole all the bathroom towels because they were soft, like really the best bath towels I've ever seen. 10/10 would come back just for the towels'. I've never had a guest admitting to stealing through a top-mark review. We actually know who the guest is – a very high spender – so we have made a note on their profile next time they stay to put an additional bath towel in the room."

Le Gavroche has a missing loo paper holder

Michel Roux Jr, Le Gavroche, London "We've actually had two of these frog sculptures [see left] go walkies in the past, but they've always come back. I do remember one year one of my sommeliers chased a guest down Upper Brook Street, tapped on his shoulder and said, ‘Excuse me, I think you may have something in your bag that is not yours. I think it was a lobster or a crab [recycled cutlery sculpture].

"But the weirdest thing I've ever had nicked from Le Gavroche is a brass loo paper holder. That had to be unscrewed from the wall, so somebody came in with a screwdriver or with a knife and unscrewed it. Though not necessarily [ornate], it wasn't one that you would buy at B&Q."

Little Door & Co's beloved duck goes walkies

Alexander Goldie, marketing director, the Little Door & Co, London "Because of our house-party concept, we have all the features of a Manhattan loft apartment, kitchen and bathroom included. Our beloved shower mascot Freddie the Duck was stolen from us on a quiet Tuesday night. The perpetrators whipped the shower cap from his head and stuffed him in a bag for life, stowed away for sinister purposes that we didn't care to dwell on. Luckily, the web sleuths of Instagram came to our rescue when we put a call out for his return. Freddie was not only alive, but unscathed! He was found nursing a cup of tea and a biscuit in a high-rise office in Mayfair. After some heavy-handed threats from our intimidating doorwoman, he was returned 48 hours later, still in the bag, sadly sans shower cap. To this day Freddie remains heavily safeguarded by staff and guests alike. We love you Freddie."

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