Servers have a lot to take care of when they're on the job. Not only do they have to make sure their tables are well taken care of, but they also have to tidy up, run food for other tables, and do anything else that might pop up during busy times in the restaurant. It definitely doesn't help that there are people out there willing to take advantage of a distracted server by simply walking out on their bill. If that wasn't bad enough, some restaurants will stick the unlucky server with the unpaid tab. One restaurant has even posted a sign that specifically required servers to pay the bill if their table runs out on them.
The question is, is that legal? The short answer is:
Yet that didn't stop this restaurant from trying to intimidate their servers into picking up the tab for dine and dashers so that the restaurant wouldn't have to take the loss. This sort of behavior is actually highly illegal and the United States Department of Labor expressly forbids policies like it. According to their website, "Where deductions for walk-outs, breakage, or cash register shortages reduce the employee's wages below the minimum wage, such deductions are illegal."
Even with this protection, employers can still take advantage of loopholes. For instance, if the server's table runs out on the bill and the server refuses to pay for it, the restaurant can't fire them for refusing. However, the employers can still fire the server, and just claim that there was another reason for the termination, like a dirty apron or even because they were just a minute late to their shift the week before.
Fair or not, it's definitely a possibility, which is the exact reason why people shouldn't dine and dash in the first place. Plenty of people have been hit with this scheme before and, even if their employer doesn't try and stick them with the bill, dine and dashing is still enough to ruin anyone's day.
If you're still working in the restaurant biz and your boss ever tries to pull this nonsense with you, simply go to the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division office nearest you to file a complaint. Just because it's illegal to stick the server with the bill doesn't mean that people won't still try to do it. And if you're a dine and dasher, maybe consider changing your ways. You never know who really gets stuck with the bill.