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My New Dining Pet Peeve--I want Separate Checks

  • m

Hi all,

So I just came back from a few days in Montreal. Of course, the food was fantastic and I enjoyed each meal we had.

Something else I enjoyed, was the fact that EVERY restaurant, from the fanciest establishment, to the simplest, offered us separate checks for every meal. We could get the check split in any permutation/combination we desired. This made a moot point of the hated after meal ritual of splitting up the check.

Every time I've asked for separate checks in the US (especially in Boston, my hometown), the waiter looks at me like I've just asked him to calculate PI out to 2500 decimal places. I get all sorts of excuses about why it can't be done. I used to believe the excuses, but now I'm wondering if it's so easy in Montreal, it can't be that difficult.

I know that I for one, would probably eat out a bit more often if I didn't have to worry about paying for the two bottles of wine that I didn't drink, or if I didn't have to sit there with a calculator and yell out "Who had the Steak?"

Any ideas why this wonderful custom can't make it south of the border?

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  1. I've had no problems with this in the States. I've requested split checks (in all sorts of permutations and not just 50/50) in DC, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Santa Fe, Ft. Lauderdale, Chicago, NYC and probably a few others I can't remember right now. Never had it arise in Boston, however.

    I think it really depends on the establishment. Don't think there is a general difference between Canadian and American servers on this issue.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      This weekend when we ate out i saw the neatest thing...it came on one check if you wanted to pay together but each person was seperated out too.Very neat...of course a little freaky to see your four year olds stuff off to itself.LOL

    2. It's unbelievable how much systems and procedures vary from restaurant to restaurant. I wonder if they have a uniform system in canada and that's why it's easier?

      Case in point: 12 years ago I worked at a restaurant that had simple to use (for the servers) touch screens. When people wanted separate checks you could do any combination you wanted - when you logged into the check, it would bring up all the food on the order. You could just touch - steak, wine, fruit cup, end check 1, etc through all the food and at the end it print up all the checks on little plain pieces of paper so everyone had their own check. processing payment for each one was no more difficult than processing a regular check since each check was like its own separate transaction.

      About 5 years ago (much later than the earlier place) I worked at a restaurant where separate checks were a NIGHTMARE. The servers didn't have permission in the registers to initiate a separate check, so when you had one, you had to go get the manager on duty who was usually either expediting, talking to an angry table, cashing someone out, or in the back smoking. When you finally got them to come fix the computer then you had to stand there for like 10 minutes doing it. You had to put each thing in a specific order or else the separate check function wouldn't work. And if you had a whole bunch and had multiple credit card transactions, the manager had to come override it again to give you approval. A party of 10 could literally take 25 minutes to get their change/charge slips back.

      Why didn't they have a more modern system? different corporate owners, different priorities of what to spend $ on, I guess.

      5 Replies
      1. re: rockandroller1

        I don't know of a uniform system for tills in Canada; they vary as much as Interac pin pads in their design and user-friendliness. A lot of larger restaurants do use Squirrel (that's what it used to be called when I tended bar in university) but it's not the standard. Splitting the cheque should be something that doesn't require a heavy sigh and eye roll from the server although admittedly it's easier if a party makes it known ahead of time how they'd like it split.

        1. re: maplesugar

          100% agree and I tried hard not to do the sigh and eye roll but also to let them know that it would take me a few minutes.

          1. re: rockandroller1

            Deepending on the amount of checks, it could be more than a few minutes.

            Splitting checks on a modern POS system could not be easier. It's the cashing out of checks that creates a hassle, if everybody at the table either needs their credit card run through or needs change on their cash. THAT can end up taking an awful lot of time when you're busy. Perhaps, in Montreal, it is the custom to have a dedicated cashier take care of all of the transactions. Anything more than two separate checks here in the states can put you behind very quickly.

            1. re: hilltowner

              Splitting checks on a modern POS system could not be easier? Not if you don't have the ability to split it yourself! As rockandroller mentioned, many restaurants require a manager to swipe their card in the system to split a check, which doesn't work out very well when they have a habit of disappearing for long periods of time.

              1. re: hilltowner

                The last morning of our trip, we went out to a nice coffee shop for breakfast. Without asking, we received 4 individual checks for the meal. I had planned to pay for the entire thing, so I brought the checks to the cashier, who happened to be our waitress. She rang it all through, will no problems. At the other places, our waiter took the payments at the table, as usual. So I don't think it's an issue of more staff.

        2. wow i haven't had this problem either in the US. however, when i lived in nyc the restaurants there would not split checks. and we used to go out in large groups quite often so i was paying $50 many times when it would only be $20. but everywhere else i've dined here, i haven't encountered that problem. i would just ask or if you are going out with a group, maybe call ahead and see what their policy is. i hate the big group parties where i order salad and other people order wine and i wind up paying $75. (yes this happened to me.)

          1. When the situation warrants, I always ask for a separate check BEFORE I order -- I see no reason why it can't be done if asked before they merge the orders onto one check - and have had problems at only place (who wanted to play games) using this method. Otherwise, there have been no problems. I should add: that I generally tip 20% on that separate check -- so the server is encouraged to accommodate me again with separate checks.

            3 Replies
            1. re: karmalaw

              Well, maybe it's more of the custom in Boston and NYC not to do this. Those are the places where I've tried and failed in the past. However, I haven't tried recently to do it. Maybe computers and technology have caught up with the practice.

              However, the US friends I was with in Montreal, who are from Minneapolis, were also surprised and pleased with the check-splitting. I'll let you know next time I go out, what happens.

              1. re: mwk

                I live in NYC and it's near impossible to get separate checks here. However, I visited my sister when she was living in Indiana, and when we went out to dinner with a large group of girls the waiter was more than willing to split the check into any permutation we wanted. It was much easier.

              2. re: karmalaw


                Well, it's possible that times have changed, as it's been a couple of years since the last time I tried and failed to get separate checks. I've only had a lot of dining experience with this in NYC and Boston. Maybe it's different in those cities.

                However, my travelling companions in Montreal, who are from Minneapolis, also expressed surprise at how easy it was, and the way that almost every restaurant expected to split the bill. Also, it didn't matter that you ask before ordering. They would split the bill in any manner, at any time.

                I'll have to try asking next time I go out for dinner with a group, and report back. I'll make sure to ask before we order, just to be fair about it.

              3. When I first started working in Dallas, I was shocked that the average restaurant would tolerate five or six credit cards in a check split at lunch. I had never seen that before in New York or New Jersey, and in fact would have been embarrassed to ask for it. The average waitress or waiter would just as soon toss you out of their restaurant with a snarl if you asked for this.

                That said, splitting the check into multiples is quite the norm here. I am not sure if the ubiquitous chain restaurants just have better computer systems or what, but this doesn't even raise a brow.

                1. This doesn't ever seem to be a problem in DC. Wherever my girlfriends and I, or a large group of friends go out it isn't normally a problem to split checks evenly a few ways, or to split by amount or person. We have never been told someone couldn't do it. Now I am sure if we asked in more obscure hole in the wall places they might look at us funny, but even the run of the mill sushi joint, bar or whatever seems to split checks.

                  I wonder why that is... maybe more modern computer systems as the DC restaurant scene is pretty new?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: ktmoomau

                    I wonder if it also depends on the clientele. If it's an area more geared to business people who eat in groups but tend to pay separately, it seems like I'm more likely to be asked whether I want a separate check. If it is a suburban/residential area where most people in the restaurant in families, it seems to be more of an issue.

                    1. re: queencru

                      i live and work in boston, which obviously gets major business travel. older cumbersome software and managerial oversight usually make splitting checks a nightmare. printing out numerous receipts so people can claim expenses, however, is easy. IF guests ask at the beginning of the ordering process, it's easier to do at the end. processing a handful of credit cards is also more time consuming than most people realize.

                      1. re: queencru

                        I'm thinking that in DC, maybe expense accounts are more carefully scrutinized, since more people are working for government agencies, so it's not so easy to pick up a check and put it on the company tab, and there are rules about accepting gifts from associates, so check splitting is a more common phenomenon.

                        In New York, where check splitting is often difficult, it's probably also easier to expense the whole tab for a business lunch. This was generally the case at the last job I had where I had a budget for such things, as long as I could keep it within reason.

                    2. Do you really need separate checks? Sure, if one person orders lobster and the other person orders a burger I can see it but that's pretty unusual. Entree prices tend to be in a reasonably narrow range - $5 to $7 of each other. Assuming you have a number of meals with a group of people everything tends to even out.

                      The exception is if one person doesn't drink and the others do. In that case have the beer/wine/drinks put on a separate check and split among the drinkers. Splitting the food up really is more trouble than it's worth.

                      24 Replies
                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                        My wife does a lot of travel to conferences (I go with her quite often) and frequently has dinner with people she only slightly knows, may not know at all, and may never see again. Separate bills in this case is good. And very important if any/all are claiming the meal on an expense account.

                        As someone mentioned above, some systems give subtotals, which I thinkis great. We recently ate with a party of 8 at a restaurant that did this, and all the server asked was that we put our initials beside whatever portions we wanted to go on our separate credit cards. I paid for 3, someone else for 2, 3 individually. He then came back with separate receipts for each meal. Couldn't have been easier.

                        I've even been in places that split costs - one night in a pub with a large group, the server offered separate bills and asked who wanted to pay for portions of the snacks we had, so my bill came with my drinks, my 1/3 of the nachos, etc. The other end of the table had wings - that got split among them, and so on.

                        The best system I have seen was in a restaurant in Germany, where the server brought a keypad with a screen, and actually discussed how we wanted to pay, then punched it in, showed the total, swiped card, etc all right there with no paper. The machine knew what had been delivered to the table, and the itemizing/separating was done later.

                          1. re: adrienne156

                            Being college students, when my friends and I go out to dine, we usually pay for our own. Never had a problem paying for a single bill with multiple credit cards, cheques, and debit cards (all at the same time).

                            Everyone just figures out how much they owe rounded to whole dollar, and one person makes sure (often on a cell phone calculator) that the total covers the entire bill.

                            1. re: milkytea

                              Being of the same age bracket as yourself (grad student), I think I understand what you are trying to say (don't have money to pay for others), but that is exactly my point. Often, it is easier to just have separate checks as splitting tax and figuring out tip for each individual person based on what they ate, especially if it is with a larger group, can be quite cumbersome.

                              Good for you for not having this problem, although in your scenario, it would seem that someone could easily not end up paying their share and someone else ends up covering it. Why do that when you could just get your own bill and be done with it?

                              1. re: adrienne156

                                "Often, it is easier to just have separate checks as splitting tax and figuring out tip for each individual person based on what they ate, especially if it is with a larger group, can be quite cumbersome."

                                Really? Since you're in college, I'm assuming we're not talking about Michelin rated dining. Is it really that difficult to say to yourself, "Self, I had three beers and a burger. I know the burger was $9.00 and the beers were probably around $5.00 each. I owe about thirty bucks"?

                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                  Yes, it can be cumbersome with a larger group. Especially when you live somewhere with more than one tax rate. Here we have provincial, federal tax and then a different rate for alcohol. Then figure out a tip as well. I don't have much problem with math in my head, but in a large group, invariably there's more than one who can't. Not to mention the number of times I have been out in groups and everyone just stopped at the ATM before dinner and only have $20s $50 or $100s and will need change. Easier just to have separate bills.

                                  1. re: Sooeygun

                                    We'll have to agree to disagree. I'm not worried about tossing in a few extra bucks than I may actually owe to make sure tax/tip is extra covered.

                                    I guess the groups I dine with are simply more generous and don't sweat the small stuff. We put the booze on one check, the food on another and divide both equally. How else do you divide bottles of wine and shared items? Most systems can't automatically divide them for you.

                                  2. re: invinotheresverde

                                    I'm not in college, I'm a grad student and yes, really. And, we're not talking about generiosity, we're talking about means.

                                    Interstingly, I ran into this very problem on Friday night at SO's little sister's 22nd bday party.

                                    Scenario: small plates restaurant ($7-$15), drinks approximately $8. There were two tables in the "VIP section" in which we were seated, 6 people at my table, 7 at the other. We went in with the knowledge that because we were a larger party, an 18% gratuity would be automatically added to our bills even though we had arranged to be allowed to split checks ahead of time (no more than 3). Some of little sister's friends were wary of going to the restaurant because it was out of their price range with drinks, so the people that were worried about money sat at one table while those that didn't care sat at mine. We asked for two separate checks. My table ordered freely and racked up quite a bill with the knowledge that we would all just split it in the end while the other table ordered much more conservatively. So what happens? Of course the check doesn't get split, so instead of faulting our wonderful server, I sit there with a looong bill, a pen and my iphone for 10 minutes figuring out who ate what on their end, who split what on their end, tax, gratuity, etc. In the end, I just told them to throw in $20 each and covered a larger portion of the rest. Was it my responsibility? No, but I certainly didn't want to ruin the nights of those kids nickel and diming them and I'm sure our server would have taken the hit if someone didn't step in.

                                    1. re: adrienne156

                                      Splitting the bill into two tables isn't the same as splitting it into 13 separate checks. I would've insisted that the server go back and separate the tables as promised.

                                      Also, nice of you to have volunteered to split apart the bill, but I can't imagine each individual not taking responsibility for knowing their own share, approximately. They're 22 years old, not seven. They can figure out a bill.

                                      But are we talking about means? You said yourself you picked up a much larger part of the tab than owed. You obviously have the means. Who goes out to an expensive dinner if they don't have the means? After that, it boils down to generosity. I'm a vegetarian and my friends are omnivores. My dinners are much cheaper normally than their dinners. Would I ever ask them for $13 back? Of course not.

                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                        The only thing that makes any sense to me in your above response is that I should have sent the bill back and had him separate the bills. You are right, I should have. So you agree with me in that sometimes checks should be split. Thanks.

                                        I do have the means, I was speaking from experience as a recent college grad. Currently, I work full-time while I apply to law school and take random classes. I use the term grad student as my "station" in life as I am studying and as such am in need of some flexibility time wise, so my salary does not reflect a permanent career position.

                                        "Who goes to an expensive dinner if they don't have the means?" If you look at the prices I posted, it wasn't an expensive restaurant. Further, if you really wanted to know ALL of the details of the night because they are pertinent to your understanding, SO and I helped organize the dinner for little sister because this is where she wanted to go because it is a restaurant/lounge that turns into a club later in the evening and a) some wanted to eat dinner first, b) if they were already in, they could avoid paying the cover charge for later, and c) one of the friends is pregnant and pregnant women at clubs/bars do not get the warmest welcomes. As I had part in the organizing and had been talking to the server at length while doing the ordering for our table (and the bulk of the ordering in general), he handed me the bill.

                                        My original statement was that figuring out bills for large groups can be cumbersome. And, it was.

                                        1. re: adrienne156

                                          Again, there's a big difference between splitting the bill into two tables and splitting it into 13 separate checks. Do you not agree?

                                          An expensive dinner is any dinner you can't afford, whether it's $18 or $180.

                                          We'll simply have to disagree. I think people should be responsible enough, and able to, figure out their share with ease. You don't think so. So to you, separate checks are sensible; to me, they're unnecessary and tacky.

                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                            Yes, I suppose we will have to disagree.

                                            I will agree that I would not ask for 13 separate checks to one server as that would be beyond my definition of what's reasonable, but I disgree that the option is always unnecessary and always tacky.

                            2. re: Bob Martinez

                              I totally agree with you. At my work, there are a group of six older ladies who dine regularly. They are notorious for asking for separate checks. None of them drink and they pretty much always order the same thing. Their totals are always something like $24.67, $23.98, $24.12, etc. If your bill is virtually the same as everyone else's, are separate checks REALLY necessary? It just boggles the mind.

                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                In my experience you will do much better splitting checks for older ladies (no offense to older ladies) because most of the time when they each get their own ticket they tip 15 to 25% each, and when left to divide the check themselves you get straight 15% if you are lucky, or worse the dreaded "take all the cash and apply it to the bill and split the rest among the credit cards" then you only get tipped on the credit card portions.

                                1. re: trask

                                  "or worse the dreaded "take all the cash and apply it to the bill and split the rest among the credit cards" then you only get tipped on the credit card portions."

                                  I have not seen this behavior, but then I'm an "old guy." I can see how this could happen, and would dread it too, were I a server.

                                  Going back to the "older guy/lady" aspect a bit, I noticed more problems in my youth, than I have since. Not sure exactly why, but I was always the one who did the final total, and ended up making up the deficit, plus all of the tip, way back then.

                                  I do notice, when dining with young ladies, even well-placed, well-paid professional young ladies, that the tips are usually not up to what I would do. I've been known to hand a little "lagniappe" to the server(s) on the way out the door.

                                  It would be an interesting thread to do a survey of servers on tipping practices, based on gender and also on age. Of course, the "level" of the restaurants probalby need to be weighed into the final tabs.


                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    Young people, male or female, are often bad tippers no matter what you do. The bit about older ladies only applies to groups of females only (again no offense just observations) and it's a way to make a few extra bucks as server and also makes the ladies happy.

                                    The half cash half credit card applies to everyone any age/gender. I hear someone complain about this at least twice a week.

                                    It would be an interesting survey. The servers gender and part of the country urban/rural, would also be interesting information.

                                    1. re: trask

                                      Interesting. Thank you for your observations. Not being in the service sector, I only have the perspective of a patron - an older patron at that.

                                      The only times that I have seen the cash+credit card was with a fellow, with whom we did two weeks of skiing with. He demanded cash, and always paid with his credit card. Another member of the group (11, IIRC) pointed out that he also pocketed the tips, and left nearly nothing for our service. Armed with that info, I took over the "bank," and made sure that everyone covered their tab, their tax and all of the gratuities. I usually then added a little bit more, as these folk were not prone to tip with any generosity. When we dined, I grabbed the host/hostess and told them that no matter what, I got the check. The person was apoplectic, but as I was the "new guy" to the group, everyone supported me. (It also might have hurt a bit, as my wife had dated him in her single days, so I did not mind getting his "goat.") Also, the rest of the group knew that our various servers would now be taken care of.

                                      Thanks for sharing,


                                      1. re: trask

                                        I agree 100%. Where I work (a nice restaurant) the receipt prints the quick tip guide at the bottom. I used to think it was tacky, now I know it's essential. Far too many people lack math skills. Regardless, when people hand over x amount of cash and ask to have the rest put on the card, it seems that 90% of them only tip on the credit card amount. The receipt will only show the quick tip guide on the amount minus the cash, and despite the fact that the original receipt is always included, it's ignored.
                                        I often wonder if it's truly just a mistake or people are playing dumb. The person paying knows it was a $100 check, but they only write in a $2 tip or something else equally absurd.

                                        1. re: Azizeh

                                          "now I know it's essential. Far too many people lack math skills."

                                          I have to admit that even though my "math skills" are usually pretty good, that after a few bottles of nice wines, they do suffer. However, I have to admit that I always err in the direction of more for our server. When I do get confused, I always give more than I should.


                                        2. re: trask

                                          I'm 29 going on 30, and I have to say, I've always overtipped, unless the service is REALLY bad. Not all young people tip poorly! :)

                                    2. re: invinotheresverde

                                      I apologize for generalizing, but I can nearly guarantee you that if your customers are "six older ladies" and they behave that way, they're either nurses or realtors. I used to pooh-pooh this bit of restaurant biz lore, but over the years it's proven itself out.

                                      You should see the looks on the faces of my customers when I ask "and which MLS (realty listing service) do *you* work with?" They think I'm clairvoyant. I have, on infrequent occasion, missed the mark. One group of particularly persnickety, petty folks were a group of lay preachers from a fundamentalist denomination. Go figure.

                                      1. re: shaogo

                                        This particular group is definitely retired. ;)

                                        1. re: shaogo

                                          i think your generalization that the ladies must be realtors or nurses is totally unfair. they could also be teachers ;-P

                                        2. re: invinotheresverde

                                          And they all round up, with tip to $25. :-))

                                      2. When I travel for work, I have to use my corporate card to pay for meals. If there are a couple of us, we always toss in a couple of cards, and ask that the bill be split evenly, based on the number of cards. The waitstaff has often told us this is preferable to separate bills for all. So we have stopped asking for separate checks. I assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that splitting the check evenly across a couple of cards was easier.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: jeanmarieok

                                          You are correct in assuming that splitting evenly among several cards is easier, at least on every POS system I've ever used, than splitting checks.

                                          1. re: trask

                                            I usually encounter this practice, or a situation where one diner will "treat," and then it's OUR responsibility to make it up to them on the next dinner.

                                            Glad to hear that this is not normally a problem for the servers, or for the restaurants.


                                        2. I hereby admit to skimming through, so I appoligize if this has been said, but the times I have seen a restaurant policy against more than say 2 checks per table its because of merchant processing fees. if you run 8 cards on one table you just took a sizable chunk of the profits and flushed it......and what for? so you dont have to do simple arithmatic?

                                          there is also the matter of time. if half the people are paying in cash and the other half are with cards or any combo there of, it gets tedious and time consuming if the server has to make change. Another consideration is that people tend to cheap out leaving a decent tip in groups like this. Its the " oh, no one will notice if just I dont tip,,,," problem is its usually several people in a group like this, and then its a problem!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: nkeane

                                            There are a lot of restaurants where I live that won't take more than 2 forms of payment. Sometimes it's for reasons you've stated - multiple processing fees from the credit card companies can dig into the profit on the table, but a lot of the time it's because the software just can't handle more than 2. Remember, every restaurant uses a different type of computers/software, at least all the ones I've worked at did, and some have more capabilities than others.

                                            I've mentioned it in other threads but it was over 10 years between 2 restaurant jobs I had (office work in between, then I got laid off and went back to serving). The restaurant 10 years prior had better, more updated software than the one I ended up in 10 years later (both chains). With the older place, it was touch screen and you could literally just touch buttons and then hit a line to indicate the end of that check, then touch buttons for additional products for check #2, etc until all the items were gone. If you messed up, you could easily move an item off of a particular check and back into the general space and then re-assign it to the right check. It printed out on blank pieces of paper so you didn't waste actual checks for each person and you could easily do however many separate checks you wanted. Each "check" within that one table could take up to 5 methods of payment in any combination, in any order.

                                            The 10 years' later restaurant, if you wanted to do separate checks you had to get a manager and they had to log in and then you had to stand there and tell them what went on each one. And if they were busy dealing with an upset table or in the back expediting, you had to wait until they were free while the table sat drumming their fingers. If you messed up in telling them the dishes/checks, they had to log out and log back in and start over from scratch. You could only pay 2 ways and if someone was paying part in cash and part another way, you had to put the cash in first or else it wouldn't work. It was a nightmare when people wanted sep checks, believe me.

                                            Just trying to illustrate that sometimes it's the software's fault.

                                            1. re: nkeane

                                              Bump for a year-old thread.

                                              It shouldn't cost a restaurant more than twenty cents to swipe a credit card. If they're paying more (per-swipe) they're doing something wrong. Also, the "discount rate" -- the percentage the card companies get -- has been reduced, thanks to competition in the card-processing marketplace, to about 1/4 of what it was when I started in this business in 1981.

                                              Now, brace yourselves for this -- when your card becomes de-magnetized and the cashier/server must enter it by hand, the discount rate escalates exponentially. It's because the terminal can't read your security code off the magnetic strip. In the old days, we could protect ourselves by running an "imprint" of your card in one of the old-fashioned devices that'd take the card numbers right off of the raised digits on the card, with either NCR paper ("carbonless") or an old-fashioned carbon-paper slip (how many 'hounds remember those?!)

                                              In their infinite wisdom, the card companies have decided to start using cards that don't have the raised numbers. It's a little early in the game for that, because now, as a merchant, if the power's out, the terminal's broken or the data system's down, I can no longer take an imprint of the card and if the customer disputes the charge it's my word against his/hers that they were present at the restaurant at all...

                                              Most of this information is in a much-belated reply to the delightful Bill Hunt, who's made some entries hereinabove. Would that all of my customers were as generous (and well-heeled, and worldly) as our good friend the wine maven...

                                            2. In Florida they ask all the time- sometimes even when it's just me and my husband! (I guess they are so used to asking they don't look?) It was surprising when we first moved here and went out with my parents- around here it must be the norm...

                                              1. My experience (and this US based only) was that years ago, restaurants would make separate checks but then it all got a bit ridiculous when groups of 15 were asking for separate checks. After that, I noticed restaurants started to refuse separate checks and also started the practice of automatically adding gratuity to parties of 6 or more.

                                                Nowaways, I often hear servers verbally say it's restaurany policy not to take more than 2-3 credit cards per order if it's a large group. Or it will actually be printed on the menu (this is more rare). I have also been in large groups where we ask what their policy is before ordering and the server is always happy to tell us - responses have ranged from max single bill to they'll split it for everyone.

                                                On Saturday in NYC, I was next to a group of 6 who had just paid. The server came back with 5 credit card slips plus the cash change from the 6th person.

                                                1. Maybe it's because I spent some year in engineering, before I got a life, but I'm always glad to hand over 2-3 credit cards, and let them do the math. I no longer carry my slide rule with me. In 30 years, it's never been a problem, other than do they take AMEX, or MC, or whatever.

                                                  I don't worry and just pay my share. If there is dissension in the ranks, I pick up the tab and do not worry. I just do not dine with the dissenters again.


                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                    Exactly. It just doesn't seem like a big deal to me, and if it turns out to be, those guests are no longer getting an invite.

                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                      Again, a delayed response on a year-old topic, but I felt compelled to respond yet again to Mr. Hunt who is one of my very favorite 'hounds...

                                                      Bill, you're absolutely right. You're a man of substance and the people of your stature that I know personally are all just like you... they'd rather pay up and then run in the opposite direction than get into a p*ssing-match about the difference between a couple of entrees, and perhaps the errant bottle of wine (which, respectfully, I'll submit that in Mr. Hunt's case might cost over $100).

                                                      One thing you ought to know is that these days, American Express is the diners' friend. In the old days only the top-level cards afforded a diner with any kind of protection against restaurants' unreasonable demands for limited-split payments.

                                                      Look at your cardmember agreement -- on-line if possible, so you get the latest information about their policies. If you've got Gold or Platinum you've got recourse if the restaurant's policy is contrary to Amex's (if you wanna go that far). And the new Amex black card is fabulous, because it basically identifies you as a VIP to the business and I guarantee you unless the business owner/manager is totally out-of-touch, they'll "get it" and accommodate any requests of their customers, whether they think it's reasonable or not.

                                                      1. re: shaogo

                                                        Ah, the "fine print." I get those in the mail, and have to admit that I seldom bother to read 3 pages of 2pt. type. I use my Centurian and let thing fall, where they may. I am sure that I am missing some tid-bits, but then I chalk that up to "life in the fast lane." Well, actually, at my advanced age, that might well be "life in the slow lane... " [Grin]

                                                        Thanks for the pointers.


                                                        1. re: shaogo

                                                          "...the new Amex black card is fabulous, because it basically identifies you as a VIP ..."

                                                          At a hotel, where you show your card at check-in, maybe. But at a restaurant you don't pull the card out of your wallet until it's time to leave. I suppose if you frequent a place they'll remember it - but if you frequent a restaurant and are a well-mannered diner and a good tipper they should remember that anyway.

                                                          Funny, I owned a retail business some years ago and was paid to take part in a focus group made up of various types of business owners and managers. One of the questions asked of us was, "does the use of a "status" credit card induce you to treat your customer differently?" The answer from all (except one person who managed a hotel) was a variation on, "Of course not, we don't see the card until the transaction (whatever it may be) is done."

                                                          1. re: BobB

                                                            I've encountered more and more businesses recently that no longer accept AMEX. Don't know why, but many are restaurants.

                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                              Visa and MC charge about 3% as Merchant Discount Fees, AmEx is a bit more than 5% of the transaction. It does add up.


                                                      2. The only time I am annoyed by a request for a separate check is when it comes at the end of the meal.

                                                        1. As a former server here's my opinion: separate checks inevitably take up more of your time, sometimes this can cause headaches, sometimes not. I think often servers dislike separate checks, because in my experience this often indicates that you're dealing with cheapskates and you're going to get undertipped.

                                                          27 Replies
                                                          1. re: haggisdragon

                                                            Out of my personal curiosity, how does it play when the gentlemen hand over two credit cards for one check? In my circles, this is quite common, and I'd love to hear your perspective (from the other side) on this.



                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                              That would be a different situation Bill, and you're correct to point out the distinction. I assume when you say that the gentlemen hand over two credit cards, that they are splitting the bill equally. That would be an easy operation for the server and would not indicate that poor tips were likely. I would not mind that at all.

                                                              1. re: haggisdragon

                                                                Thanks for that clarification. Considering the various comments, I wanted to hear from the service side of things. Sometimes, the diners do not consider all aspects of their service. I attempt to be sensitive, and know that regarding service my wife is great, but still sometimes one misses things. From my general experiences, the tips are usually a bit more than might have been forthcoming, were one person to have picked up the entire bill. I normally tip a bit more than the norm, and usually there is discussion amongst the gentelmen. I am usually first to share my tip amount. I assume that most follow close behind. I've never heard anyone say, "whoa, that's much too much." Still, I am usually not privy to what the other amouts are. Just a guess.

                                                                I am often surprised at some of the responses on CH, especially the Not About Food board. Some are things that I would never have thought of, until I see a post here.



                                                                1. re: haggisdragon

                                                                  Hmm I find this very interesting since in my past experiences it would seem that when people do the math for one big tab and then it always ends up short and people put in more cash than your tip would be lower than if they could use the credit card do separate checks, as people only carry so much cash and people are reluctant to have to pay for other people's share, but maybe the fact that normally if it can't be split people pay cash and you don't get any of that taken out like with credit cards that helps?

                                                                  As someone who never carries cash you would get a much bigger tip from me if you split a check... but I rarely eat in big groups anymore so I could be wrong.

                                                                  1. re: ktmoomau

                                                                    Now, this is going back to another time, but way back then, I found the same thing. A group would start doing the math, and would never come close to paying the bill. Who ever was holding the money would ask again, and again. Everyone claimed to have paid their "fair share," and then some. Maybe it was because I could, or maybe it was for some other reason, but I began being the "banker." After a few calls for the others to "own up," I'd just cover the rest, and then tip predicated on the service. Since I'm a pretty good tipper, the servers were no longer being shafted, and there were no arguments. Maybe some of these folk "played me like a violin," but in the end, the check was paid, and the servers rewarded. I did start to shave a few people off of the list, however.

                                                                    Usually the guy, or gal, who pulled out the HP pocket calculator to figure the exact amount that they owed, somehow got it wrong by about -$20. Maybe it was those HP calculators back then? Stiff me once, and I'll cover you and the server. Stiff me again, and I'll never dine with you after that.


                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                      My 2 cents... Separate checks are confusing and time consuming for your server. Splitting the bill among two or three credit cards isn't any harder than one card or cash and any server that gives you trouble about this is either having a very long day or just not good at his/her job. If you are with a small (4-5) party splitting a check is no problem as long as the restaurant's software is able. If it is a larger party splitting checks is very difficult if people shout drink orders as you are walking by with salads for the other end of the table or if people are playing musical chairs. I know where seat 17 is at the table but i can't remember everyone's face. If the credit card system is on a network it isn't that big a deal to run a bunch or credit cards because they process in seconds, but if the restaurant has yet to update it can take a minute and a half for each credit card to process so a ten top with ten credit cards can take 15 minutes plus the time it takes to deal with the server's other tables because they cannot be abandoned for 15 minutes. But it is a servers job to give the costumer what he/she wants no matter how painful it may be. It never gets mentioned that since the server is doing literally twice as much work on a split check big top they should get tipped 30%, and I'm not saying that they should but if anyone was asked to double his workload wouldn't they be surly without extra compensation? If you discuss payment before any orders are placed it makes things much easier. Most importantly if you have a good attitude like Mr Hunt Seems to, you are much more likely to have a good time and get whatever you want.

                                                                      1. re: trask

                                                                        "since the server is doing literally twice as much work on a split check big top they should get tipped 30%, and I'm not saying that they should but if anyone was asked to double his workload wouldn't they be surly without extra compensation"

                                                                        If the only job the server di was the check that would be the case, but most servers jfood has encountered do a heck of a lot more. And if that was the only interface the server had with the table, it would, well, not garner the normal tip, but it would go in the oposite direction.

                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                          I'm not saying that the only job a server does is to run the check. Splitting up a big top, and and running a bunch of credit cards is 5000% more difficult than running one card, it really does double your workload for the table.

                                                                          1. re: trask

                                                                            OK, maybe I missed the answer, or maybe I did not phrase an earlier question correctly. We often find ourselves in non-business situations, where we'll hand maybe 3 cards to our server with the bill. The split is always by the number of cards. Does this create a problem?

                                                                            Just curious,


                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                              2,3,4 credit cards are no problem ever, especially on an even split. I'm talking about like 10+ credit cards and having to figure out what goes on each person's check

                                                                              1. re: trask

                                                                                Thank you for the clarification. While I guess that it could happen, we've not done more than and even 3-way in decades. When we have more folk, than that, I'm usually hostiing and paying.



                                                                              2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                People handing over a few cards and asking for each card to be ran equally is not a big deal. Where I work, we have a modern system that's pretty standard and you just hit an Equal Pay button and the number of cards. It may take a couple extra minutes to keep organized, but no biggy.

                                                                                It's only difficult when there's a pile of cards on the tray and people say, "Okay, put 45 on this one, 66 on this one, 100 on this one and 95.75 on this one over here." That's just asking for trouble.

                                                                                1. re: Azizeh

                                                                                  Thank you for that. In my personal case, we attempt to break things down, before our server is involved.

                                                                                  Most start by saying things like, "hey, I had the Sauternes with the foie gras, so I owe more." Usually, everyone chimes in and the consensus is that if someone had 3 glasses of the Ch. XXXX, and all the rest had 1x glass, then that person would provide the fine wines at their home at a later date.

                                                                                  We always end up splitting by the number of couples (usually figuring in any solos), and letting things fall, where they may.

                                                                                  Still, I appreciate the comments from the people, who end up having to deal with our dining and our urge to split things by the rough number of couples.



                                                                              3. re: trask

                                                                                "doubles your workload?" 5000%? I don't think so. If you're running a bunch of credit cards at small tables and running a bunch at one big table, the workload is the same.

                                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                  I guess I'm wrong, I don't know how much work I do. I've only been working in restaurants my whole life...

                                                                    2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                      I'll jump in and answer. It is not a problem. It is made even easier if the partons say either "Split it between the cards" or" $50 on the Visa and $100 on the Amex." it is just a matter of running two cards. It is when they accost the server at the end of the meal and declare they want each of their family's meals on different cards and then when you go back and calculate it, they get their feathers ruffled over - say a glass of tea on a $150 meal being on the wrong check - after you have run the card. You have to then rerun the cards with the adjusted amounts and the restaurants book keeper wants to slather you with honey and push you on to the hive.

                                                                    3. re: haggisdragon

                                                                      To be honest, haggis...If I do go to a restaurant and I do ask for separate checks, and I do get an "Attitude" from the waiter/waitress because of it...you'd better believe the tip is going to be "cheap". But that is the only reason for it. Generally speaking, in my crowd, if they don't feel like they are being shafted by paying for everyone else's extravagances, they are more likely to tip freely.

                                                                      Also, I am really amazed at some of the responses here. The arrogance and patronizing attitude of some people towards this subject is obnoxious. People who don't want to order a salad appetizer and end up paying $30 towards their share of the wine and oysters that they didn't eat, are not cheap and classless. They are prudent and not made of money.

                                                                      This wasn't supposed to be a question about class warfare. It was about service levels in restaurants.

                                                                      1. re: mwk

                                                                        I get where your coming from mwk. When your out dining with a group, particularly a large group with people you might not know that well, and everyone is paying their own share, settling the bill can be a hassle, or even an uncomfortable/embarrassing experience. There's always one or two people in the group who 'forget' to pay their portion of the tip, or tax. Then you, being a reasonable person, feel responsable for making up the difference. And you resent that. Thats perfectly reasonable. And a simple solution from your perspective is to have separate checks, which bypasses that potentially unpleasant situation. Thats fine.

                                                                        To state my opinion clearly, I am not against separate checks. I simply have observed that it inevitably makes things more difficult for the server.

                                                                        You're right that its all about the level of service. If a server is good at their job they should be able to anticipate and deal with requests for separate checks when serving larger groups. However there are many factors which affect the ability of the server to do this efficiently. Chiefly, they may or may not have support from the management and other staff who can look after their other tables while they take the extra time to process multiple bills. If this support is there then no problem. Staff costs money of course, so a restaurant with truly great service, including splitting bills efficiently, must spend more money to provide this higher level of service. If you are dining in a restaurant where the server doesn't have that level of support, than you rely solely on the competency of that server, and the many, and various factors that may be affecting that server's ability to perform your request and keep up with their other tables.

                                                                        That being said, let me get back to the server's perspective. I'll give you my story, which I hope will explain my previous posts.

                                                                        When I was a server I was pretty good at my job. I enjoyed doing my job well and enjoyed making people happy. I was good at math on the fly and knew how to work the POS system properly. I didn't have a big problem splitting checks for people. I never, ever gave people attitude for requesting split checks. However, I still hated doing it, for two reasons: 1) I worked at a restaurant with poor management. So I usually didn't get any of the help I spoke of above. So I might have to neglect my other tables while I was processing the split bills, or I might have to make the table with split bills wait, which leads me to my second point 2) I noticed, over time, that tables that requested split checks, on average, tip less than tables with one check. This is because, going back to the example at the top of my post, the guy who 'forgets' to tip, actually didn't forget he just never tips because he's a jerk. He's the kind of guy who really identified with Mr Pink's opening rant in Reservoir Dogs. My Pink was a jerk, he also got shot. Anyway, so if I as a server gave separate checks to Mr Pink and Mr Blond and Mr White, and the other guy, then Mr Pink still wouldn't tip, and the other guys wouldn't make up for Mr. Pink's ignorance because they were no longer responsable for the entire bill, just their portion. So I would make less. But the Reservoir Dogs didn't take separate checks, because even know they were gangsters, they were also gentlemen. Ofcourse they didn't pay Mr. Pinks tip for him either they just threatened him until he coughed up but I digress...

                                                                        Simply stated if the bill is split then (usually) no one will cover for the cheap guy. Also, if there are some sneaky closet cheapos in the group they can get away with leaving a poor tip and no one else in the group will know!!

                                                                        If I gave bad service then I expected a bad tip. My Bad. But some people just never tip. It's not necessarily a class thing. I've been tipped very well by strippers.

                                                                        The bottom line is you shouldn't have give a fiddlers fart about how your server's day is going or how hard they work or whatever, and your server should always try their best to fulfill your requests. It's very refreshing though when as server you encounter a guest like Mr Bill Hunt who makes an obvious and thoughtful effort to see your side of the equation.

                                                                        1. re: haggisdragon

                                                                          I appreciate your very thoughtful reply. I certainly understand the rationale behind the argument that it's a pain for the servers and the restaurant. But, my original reason for posting this, was because I went to a place where it was standard operating procedure.

                                                                          When I was in Montreal, I was not ever asked IF I wanted separate checks, they just came that way. Even when it was just me and my husband. I had to ask for one check in most cases.

                                                                          One night, we were a party of 12 people, and at the beginning of service, the waiter asked how we wanted the bill split...not IF, but HOW. There were 5 couples and two singles, and we got 7 bills with 7 credit cards and everyone there thought it was all completely normal and a non-issue. I even asked our friends if that was normal and they told me that it would never occur to them to get only one check.

                                                                          So I was wondering how it can be so casual and such a non-issue in one place, especially a large cosmopolitan city with tons of restaurants, and be seen as such a problem in other areas? Just this thread, for example, is it possible that all the restaurants and wait staff in Montreal have managed to find a way to make bill splitting a no-brainer? If so, I'd like that technology to spread around the US.

                                                                          Then again, if it's such a royal pain for everyone involved to handle, why do they do it as a matter of course?

                                                                          1. re: mwk

                                                                            "Then again, if it's such a royal pain for everyone involved to handle, why do they do it as a matter of course?"

                                                                            My #1 answer to this is that they have to be using more modern and more standardized technology in their restaurant computers than we have here in the US. In some restaurants, splitting checks takes a little more time as well described by haggisdragon, but can be done. In others, it is absolutely a Herculean task, involving getting a manager to do an override in the computer and various other ridiculous crap that takes eons and it is NOT easy. We're not talking an extra 2-5 minutes here, we're talking maybe 20 solid minutes of ignoring other tables while you wait for the manager to stop expediting or get off the phone or finish their cigarette or finish handling the customer complaint on table 40 to come do the override on the computer, and then an archaic amount of button pushing and calculating and having to put things in in a particular order (e.g. you MUST put all cash checks in first, then credit cards, then gift cards or else the whole sep check transaction will freeze/become void and you'll have to start over from scratch), etc. It's amazing to me how different the technology is from restaurant to restaurant; literally, I worked in two restaurants that were next door to each other, 10 years apart. The first one had a very easy separate check procedure, any kid who plays video games could quickly and easily figure it out and produce 100 checks if you wanted, in almost no more time than it takes to do one. In the restaurant next to it, over 10 years later, was the archaic system described above, and I've seen everything in between as well.

                                                                            My #2 answer would be that culturally, that's just how they roll up there. For example at lunch, most places I've worked you automatically ask if they want separate checks because most lunch diners are business people and want their own check, but you don't automatically ask at dinner. I mean, if you're waiting on mostly families, you don't ask if they want separate checks. If you wait on a large party, you ask up front.

                                                                            1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                              Of course rock, you are probably right. I'm sure the restaurant owners in Montreal would all laugh at the archaic and outdated technology in use in most of the restaurants here in the US.

                                                                              For a country that considers itself to be so modern, our entire credit/cash transaction system is so outmoded it's ridiculous. Don't even get me started on the Credit Card PIN issue. I had a huge amount of trouble using any of my credit cards when I was in London last fall, because of the lack of a PIN number.

                                                                              I look at it as a symptom of a general lack of concern over providing good customer service in many of these places. You would be amazed how much use such a system would get, here in the US, if people knew that it was readily available and they wouldn't be sneered at for asking.

                                                                              1. re: mwk

                                                                                Of course, in Europe/UK, where the handheld LAN devices are in use, there are a dozen autos parked outside. Each has someone intercepting the transmissions and funneling them to Eastern Europe with all data. Yeah, maybe we need more of this in the US.


                                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                  Bill, I'd be interested to know where you get that information from? Was it an article you can point to, that I can read?

                                                                                  Considering that I've had my credit card replaced twice in the last year, once because of the TJ Maxx security breach, and then again because of our local Hannaford supermarket chain being breached, I don't feel it's necessary to fix the problem by becoming a troglodyte. Those LAN devices can be made secure, just as the land-line-based systems can be very insecure.

                                                                                  Meanwhile, in the US, I give my credit card to a total stranger, who takes it in back, out of my sight, where he can do whatever he wants with it. There have been thousands of cases of waiters, gas station attendants, etc, who had special magnetic card readers in back, and would steal customer's card numbers when they had possession of the cards. No system is perfect, so could we at least have the convenience factor?

                                                                                  1. re: mwk

                                                                                    In my case it was from Interpol, due to some major credit card fraud in the Shepard Market area in Mayfair, London, UK. I worked with them and a major US bank's credit card fraud division, as I had info that would never have been put together by even Sherlock Holmes. It was not that I was so very bright, but that I had data that I could connect, that would have taken dozens of cyphers years to find the correlation. For my help, they shared much with me from their end.

                                                                                    In this case, it was an Eastern European group with a bunch of laptops. Most sat in their autos, as "drivers" do, when waiting on their passenger, and just downloaded all the data from many of the nearby restaurants. In our cases (there were three cards involved), all info was compromised, but the US bank, and Interpol, caught it all, before anything could happen, regarding use. They nailed several in this "organization" with thousands of credit card numbers, and even some background info.

                                                                                    No article. No URL. It's just from having been allowed to be on the "front lines." At least, in our cases, no harm was done, other than having to get a new account, and then notifying all the legit business that had that card on file.

                                                                                    Similar happened in Paris later. I did not get to work on that problem, as I had nothing to offer, other than observations from the earlier event. There were no dots, obvious to me, that could be connected in that one. I did get the followup, but details were far more sketchy, than the earlier event. Still seems to have been a similar operation.

                                                                                    Several of the charities, on whose boards I sit, use the LAN devices. I have shared my experiences, and the IT folk maintain that their security is 100% and cannot ever be broken. Still, it's a concern of mine, and I voice it often.


                                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                      One of the biggest nightmares in my career was the server who was given (by a Chinese syndicate operating out of Brooklyn, New York) a little device that could memorize the numbers and codes from the cards he was entrusted to take from table to cashier.

                                                                                      One of the cards that was compromised belonged to a District Attorney for our state -- thank God he was a good customer and didn't have *me* locked up!

                                                                                      In just two days' time, fully ten cards had been abused (they have computers that "write" valid card information on phony or stolen cards' mag-stripes).

                                                                                      All the cardmembers got every penny of the criminals' charges returned to them, nearly overnight.

                                                                                      The silver lining to this story is that the perpetrator (the server; who'd left our employ quite suddenly) was identified by a photograph a friend had taken at a banquet; the police sent the image out on their collective information service (I forget what you call it) where it languished for two months.

                                                                                      The perpetrator was stopped (on the other side of the U.S.) for speeding. It was merely good work by the apprehending officers that resulted in this guy's arrest. He was inordinately nervous and they asked him to get out of the car and then searched the vehicle. In the trunk of the car were about 150 phony or stolen credit cards, a couple of the mag-stripe-theft devices (very clever, very miniature) and also a laptop computer, etc.

                                                                                      This stuff goes on all the time. One needs to measure the convienience against the potential for fraud. Additionally, one needs to ensure that one's cards have a $0-fraud-responsibility protection clause in the contract. That way you can use the card (within reason) without fearing loss due to fraud.

                                                                                      It just seems to me that the card companies can merely stay neck-and-neck with the crooks; they can't come up with security systems/procedures that will foil *all* of them *all the time...*

                                                                                      Where's technology when the good guys need it?

                                                                                      1. re: shaogo

                                                                                        Ah, one of the issues with the remote credit card machines is that most are wireless, and there are often several "other folk," parked nearby, intercepting the numbers for nefarious use. Worked briefly with Interpol on similar, as we had 3 cards compromised in Mayfair, not that long ago.

                                                                                        Since all three cards had only been used at one spot on Earth, we knew where the compromise came from. As Interpol pointed out, it was likely not the establishment, but the folk parked outside of Shepard Market, intercepting all transactions. That was there business, and I just gave them the details. The rest was out of my hands.

                                                                                        Last time at Shepard Market, there WERE a dozen autos, in the area, and the drivers had laptops and other hardware, and I would guess that some were intercepting the credit card info from that area of Mayfair.

                                                                                        That was not for me to grab them by the neck and demand an explanation. That is what the cops are for.


                                                                    4. Yesterday at the supermarket, the people in front of me asked to pay the bill with several credit cards. Yes, in NYC we pay one bill with multiple credit cards, but I never thought to ask for separate checks. The grocery store splitting was something I had never seen, but I imagine it happens all of the time.

                                                                      12 Replies
                                                                      1. re: doughreme

                                                                        Similar, I've seen one cart at Costco (a chain big-box membership store) split 5 ways. I'm usually in line behind such a cart. Then, one person wants to pay their share with a 3-party check drawn on a Bolivian bank, and their ID does not match any of these parties.

                                                                        Oh well, I'm behind the same folk in line at the bank...


                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                          Very funny!! I guess I'm not the only one.

                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                            I have a Costco membership and have had friends who went along. I paid with my CC and they paid me back in cash. (I've also had people pay in cash.) I wouldn't feel comfortable paying in another form of payment with a different name.

                                                                            1. re: Unraveled

                                                                              While we have a Costco membership, I've never gotten around to getting a card. When I go with a friend, we each have our own cart, and use our own credit card to pay, but my friend shows her CC for each of us. I've never had a problem w/ CC on that issue.

                                                                              1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                Maybe it depends on the store or the cashier. I had my CC refused while there with my sister on her membership. So now she pays and I pay her back.

                                                                                1. re: Sooeygun

                                                                                  wow...at the norwalk costco, jfood could not use mrs jfood's card and vice versa. one membership card, one member, one credit card

                                                                                2. re: MMRuth

                                                                                  I thought a Costco card was automatically provided- or did you mean the Costco Amex?

                                                                            2. re: doughreme

                                                                              Maybe some was for personal consumption and some was being picked up for work or a charitable organization?

                                                                              1. re: Jetgirly

                                                                                That or people who are stretched to the max on their credit lines. "$40 on this card, $30 on this one and $100 on this, please."

                                                                                1. re: Azizeh

                                                                                  Maybe we see less of that in Canada? I have never known someone stretched to the max to that extent, and in YEARS of working retail (chocolate shop, department store, high end boutique, tourist attraction) during my teens I probably saw fewer than a handful of customers do that.

                                                                                  As a teacher today, I'm always picking stuff up for school and then grabbing a few items for myself, requiring seperate bills.

                                                                                  1. re: Azizeh

                                                                                    I get really frosted when that happens at my business.

                                                                                    I can't imagine having to be so crafty so as to keep one's credit cards at their paltry maximum limits -- month in and month out.

                                                                                    If you can't afford to eat out, go to the grocery store and buy food and cook it. Don't incur interest and potential over-limit charges for dinner out, I say.

                                                                                2. re: doughreme

                                                                                  I do that occasionally. Never more than two cards, though.

                                                                                3. I think the key is informing the server up front. An intelligent server should enter things appropriately into the computer so that it's not a big deal regardless.

                                                                                  I think people that give you attitude are perhaps being on the lazy side but perhaps their computer systems aren't up to snuff. But today, really this shouldn't be a problem.

                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: salsailsa

                                                                                    We just returned from Florida and went out to dinner with a total of 20 people. The servers asked up front how we wanted the check divided and proceeded to break it up exactly how the group wanted it, which was very nice. Obviously they run across that and head it off at the pass so it is an easy thing to do.

                                                                                    1. re: roro1831

                                                                                      I would guess that some restaurants in some locations might encounter this more often and have a policy and possibly training on how to handle it.

                                                                                      Was this in a more tourist/convention area of FL? Just curious.

                                                                                      It's been too many years, since I really experienced "separate checks," that I am probably horribly out of touch.


                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                        I'm not sure if Stuart, Florida counts as a tourist destination or not. lol

                                                                                        1. re: roro1831

                                                                                          Could be, if one is a golfer, or a yachtsman. Thanks for giving a geographical location.


                                                                                  2. On my recent trip to Boise, Idaho I was surprised that nearly every restaurant we went to asked if we wanted separate checks. I was with other girls, so it was obviously not a date and there were no children. And after realizing that none of my friends ever reciprocated when I picked up nearly all the checks, I figured that people around there must not be paying for their friends all too often.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Azizeh

                                                                                      In my experience, a party of single women (not necessarily single as in unmarried, single as opposed to on dates or with families) are the most likely type of group to request separate checks.

                                                                                      1. re: BobB

                                                                                        Yep! This happens w/ my girlfriends a lot..
                                                                                        It also happens when DH is on business and I am on... well..joining him. We are always seperate and we make it clear up front ...not usually a problem especially if you say 'I'm on business.." - I think they think you're going to order more. :)

                                                                                    2. There's a little Vietnamese restaurant that I usually go to once in awhile with a group of coworkers. They always ask if we want separate checks. Since they ask, we say, "sure." When they take your order, they "number" each person, write down what the person orders, draw a line beneath that, then move on to the next person. If you add something to your order, they go back and write it in next to your assigned number. At the end of the meal, they place one hand-written check on the table that is neatly separated by person with separate totals hand written next to each person's order. We place all our payments (usually plastic) in the order written on the check so they know which card goes with which number/order/total. This is how they taught us. :) It's a pretty good system!

                                                                                      They use a cheap calculator to tally up the totals. There's no fancy electronic systems. If you pay cash, I do believe they have an old school cash register that is basically an adding machine with a drawer. They are very fast, almost always quite busy, and one of the friendliest restaurants in town, IMHO.

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Jen76

                                                                                        Yes! And that is probably while you all return there. Office eating can be very stressful! For this reason, the online Chipotle ordering system is pretty nice (tells each person what they owe!!)..for big office orders.

                                                                                        1. re: Jen76

                                                                                          When there's just 2-3 of us, we have a similar system: we'll take the one check, write the last four digits of the credit card number, a dash, and the amount to be charged at the top. Each adds tip onto their own bill.

                                                                                        2. It helps to ask them to keep it split before you order. Separating out food and drink - especially on a large table - can be tedious and that unexpected time consumer can make you screw up service for others as you busily try to remember who had what and how many.

                                                                                          1. Hubby and I have been dining out together for 30 years or so. When we dine out with a group, we always request separate checks (up front), and have NEVER had a problem in the U.S.

                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                              I think the fact that servers have been OFFERING separate checks is probably because they have been ASKED for them so many times. Its easier to know this up front, than to back out the entire order and re-enter it for each individual. If you've ever wondered what is taking your server so long to bring YOUR check, its because he/she is looking for that manager to help them get paid by those ladies-who-lunch who waited until the end of the meal to ask for separate checks, because "well, I only had a salad and tea, but you had the hamburger AND dessert ....."

                                                                                              Another downside of separate checks -- the order in which food is served. With separate checks, the orders are placed individually, and come out individually -- everthing on ONE check improves the chances that everyone will be served at approximately the same time.

                                                                                              Once a year I eat in a restaurant with the Cheapest Man On Earth and his whiney wife. When we are seated, when the server brings the water, AND when we order, he announces "separate checks!" He always orders first. This means that his food comes out first, and he dives in like a hungry dog -- often he is well into his meal before Spousal Equivalent and I get ours.

                                                                                              When I am served before others, I dont even pick up my fork until everyone else has their food. I was taught at a very young age that this was poor manners. I also do not start eating until my hostess is served and takes her first bite. No wonder I am always the last one finished.

                                                                                              1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                                I don't think I've ever seen food come out separately because of separate checks. It's been a long time since I waited tables, but we were able to indicate that a group of checks went together. At the place I eat at most regularly now, separate checks is no problem, but the food order goes in on one ticket.

                                                                                                1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                                  Okay, Cheflambo, please 'fess up why you continue to eat with these people you don't seem to like! I'm dying of curiosity and I'm also facing a similar potential issue

                                                                                              2. I sure can't think of many, other than laziness on the part of the cashier or waiter.

                                                                                                One exception might be a small local place that gets hit with a surcharge for every bank card run through the machine, that could really add up over time. I would definitely keep that in mind and if I wanted a separate check I'd be sure to bring enough cash for the meal and tip.

                                                                                                1. I often cringe at the thought of eating out with large groups. Recently a group of 12 of us went out for dinner for my so and another friends bday. I requested a sep check at the beginning of the meal - and was told they couldnt do it. Wouldnt you know that we got stuck paying an extra $20?

                                                                                                  And in every large group it always seems like you got a few people that leave earlier than everyone else..... and never end up paying the right amount.


                                                                                                  13 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                                    How did you get "stuck"? If some left early, couldn't you call them the next day and let them know they were short on the check? Of just do a tally before they leave? Doesn't seem like a problem to me.

                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                      My husband had that problem with co-workers for retirement luncheons. Because it was lunch, some would have less time, throw in what they thought they owed and leave. You don't know everyone in the group. It just takes a few people to short their bill before it adds up substantially so he helped to pay the difference, being one of the last remaining and one of the more senior people. The luncheons were casually organized (phone call that a bunch of people are getting together for lunch for xxxx's retirement) so you had no idea who was coming or even knew all the people. Last remaining get stuck with what's left.

                                                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                                                        My experience in the "olden days" in SF, the last person made out great! Our groups seemed to toss in too much money.

                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                          It's great when that happens. That's generally what happens when I eat out w/ friends but when it's a group of others, you never know what's going to happen. It's a pleasant surprise when you end up w/ too much money. Once, we ended up with enough extra for the tip that the waitress actually ran out after us to ask if we had miscalculated. I felt like tipping her extra for doing that!

                                                                                                        2. re: chowser

                                                                                                          exactly chowser, they were friends of friends I had never met before. Plus its not like im going to make a huge stink over $20, but it is rahter annoying.....enlough for me to try to stay away from dining with large groups.

                                                                                                          plus its funny when the person who cant add 2+2 takes the bill and starts divying it up. Forget making the correct tip and tax calculations!!

                                                                                                          One other thing - I dont drink when I go out to dinner. Sometimes the solution is to "just split it X ways..... when you have a $15 meal and get stuck paying $40 - that also sucks. Seperate checks just avoids all the BS

                                                                                                          1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                                            Exactly--you pay and move on but it's bothers me to have to cough up $20 to cover cheapskates I don't know. I've talked about splitting the tip w/ a group I don't know well where I ordered pasta for $12, daughter had a drink and a kids meal. Others ordered appetizers, upwards of $25 each or entree salads for appetizers; main course, a couple of drinks, a few bottles of wine and dessert and split the tab. I paid close to $100 that night, and had to deal w/ people I didn't particularly care for on top of it. There were three of us in my situation, two of them had just shared a pizza!

                                                                                                            1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                                              I think in that situation it's quite easy to pluck the check from the server,quietly announcing to him/her and the table "I'm pretty good at this." Then tell each what they owe. Then they can either give you the cash or put that amount on cc. I've been doing this for about 40 years and it seems to work just fine.

                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                It depends on the situation and the number of people. In the case I mentioned, there were two large tables of people, probably 25+ people total and kids sitting at another table. Who ordered what, who shared what, who drank from the bottles of wine and who pays how much, especially with a crowd that is hammered. There was no easy way around it which is why I just paid. If I'm the party who has ordered extravagantly then I always insist on covering extra. I think it's rude not to do so.

                                                                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                  Twenty-five drunks at two tables??? Nope. All bets are off. I'd feel happy to emerge unscathed and paying more than my share :) Gratefully I've never had to suffer through anything like that.

                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                    Exactly--though, I guess $100 is a cheap price to pay for a story I can retell endlessly.:-)

                                                                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                      True. I have many of those in my repertoire (none restaurant related). When you amortize the cost, well worth it. Well, there was the time that two Mai Tais got dumped on my husband's head at a poolside bar on Maui.

                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                        Hey, we need to find other NAF threads so we can share our stories repeatedly, to bring down the cost per story! I would love to hear about the mai tais--maybe on a thread about wasted alcohol.:-)

                                                                                                          2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                            If getting stuck paying well more than your share of the bill isnt a problem for you - then lets do dinner.

                                                                                                        3. The Quebec version of the IRS decided waiters and waitresses were cheating on their income tax, so in 1984, they began demanding more detailed receipts of restaurants so they could audit the servers, and charge them 8% of their receipts as imputed tips. Some places put in computerized systems at the time to help comply with the audits.

                                                                                                          With any decent computerised system, separate checks would be no problem at all, but some are designed by programmers and software developers who've never worked in restaurants, so they don't know to implement this feature. As some posts have noted, to err is human, but to really screw things up, you need a computer.