Saturday, March 12, 2011

separate cheques, please!

Some restaurants vehemently deny even the remote possibility of offering separate cheques to parties larger than 4; others graciously promise that, even at 7:45pm with a packed house heading to the theatre, it's absolutely not a problem. 

Now, if a server is organized to the point of anal retention and the POS system (cash register) is set-up perfectly and everyone at the table has ordered for themselves (read: no sharing of wine/salad/etc) then it's easy.  Also, if it's quiet in the restaurant, not at a peak time, and your server is organized at all and they have the use of some kind of POS system then it also shouldn't be a big problem even if there are shared items.  BUT: when the restaurant is packed there just isn't time!

Imagine it takes only 45 seconds per split cheque (which is pretty quick), multiply that by the number of separate cheques, then add 2 minutes per cheque (to process a credit/debit card or make change).  Let's use a table of 10 for easy figuring, say 4 couples and 2 singles.  That is 6 cheques right? That means it will take your server a total of 16 and a half minutes to take care of your cheques - who is taking care of the other tables in your server's section? What if there is another table who wants to split their bill?

Would you like to be ignored by your server for 16.5 minutes while the panic rises in your throat that you're not going to make it to the theatre on time!  You don't blame the table across the room who is taking up your server's time, you blame your server, hence their disdain towards separate cheques.

Here are some basics if you feel the need to request separate cheques:
A. let your server know ahead of time: don't blindside them when they approach the table with the bill
B. no musical chairs, we don't know your names or faces so we organize you by seat - stay in it!
C. if you want cheques by couple: sit together
D. know what you had but don't nit-pick; if you've shared something with another person at the table who is on a different cheque and you get a larger portion of the cost of that item, just pay for it (the difference of a few dollars - or cents - isn't worth the hassle).
E. we can split items between people (eg. equal parts of 3 bottles of wine split between 5 people) - but please specify in advance.

This might all seem complicated, but if you follow these guidelines, the average server will be able to keep everything moving well - but think for a moment about this: if you don't like the people you are dining with enough to split the cheque evenly, even though there may be a small difference in the price, maybe you shouldn't be sharing a dining experience with them.


  1. It doesn't seem right to me to complain about separate cheques - if you came into my retail store, how would you feel if I lumped your bill in with your friend's bill? But I have a line up! It takes a few minutes to help each customer! You'll just have to figure out who bought what, and split the bill yourselves!

  2. I really must disagree with you. The main difference between separate cheques in retail situations vs. restaurants is that the products you are ringing in are right there in front of you. Imagine 10 shoppers spent two hours in your store asking you to bring them different items then concealing them in a bag - all the while you are helping other customers. At the end of hour two those 10 people want you to drop everything, ignore the other people already in line and give them bills - but don't forget Joe and Susie are together, and John is picking up part of the cost of Allan's lamp.

  3. A good server can figure it out. A pen and paper can be useful.