Linda Graham of Galt was disturbed by an incident at Mandango's Bar & Grill in Elk Grove: "When we ordered our meal, the waitress said she needed to hold our credit card. We weren't paying that way; we planned to pay cash. She nevertheless insisted it was their policy. We asked her what would happen if we didn't have a credit card. She said the manager would come speak to us. We were uneasy, but gave it to her. She put it in her pocket and gave it back at the end of the meal. Have you ever heard of this policy? What is the purpose of it? To avoid 'dine and dash'? We'll never go back there if that remains their policy. And, darn it, the food was real good."
My take: Yes, that's the policy at Mandango's. It's a fairly common practice at bars but not so much at restaurants. Mandango's, however, is as much sports bar as restaurant. Scott Ashley, who owns Mandango's, says he's had the same policy at the Sacramento branch for 11 years and the Roseville branch for 5, and while customers are accustomed to it at those sites they have been resistent to the concept at the Elk Grove facility, which opened last fall. The restaurants draw large crowds, especially on game days, with guests often moving about freely, from tables to bar and back again. It's difficult, says Ashley, for servers to keep track of them and to determine who has paid for what. Sometimes, guests will leave without paying their tab, perhaps innocently thinking someone they'd been with was footing the bill. Then the server is saddled with paying the bill out of his or her pocket. Ashley's solution is to have guests surrender their credit card at the outset, but he recognizes that in an era when people are concerned about identity theft this is likely to make them apprehensive. Ashley said his servers generally are able to work out an agreeable arrangement with hesitant guests, often by running their credit or debit card through their computer system for pre-authorization, immediately after which the card is returned to the patron.