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Jan 6, 2012 03:05 PM

Suggestion to people who dine out in groups and get separate bills

With modern POS systems, splitting the check is no problem at all and it eliminates some of the problems with people not throwing in enough to to cover what they had. While splitting the check is easy, what often throws the server off is collecting for 10 separate checks using credit/debit cards. With the new chip and pin terminals it often takes a minute per card, so 10 minutes to collect payment, during which time the server's other tables are neglected.

Please consider making it easier for your server to provide good service, and bring cash in appropriate denominations if you're dining out in a group and getting separate bills.

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  1. Never really thought about that before. Good point.

    But is making change for 10 people faster? I can't guarantee that I will have a small bank of bills covering all denominations to cover a bill who's final total I really have no idea about.

    12 Replies
    1. re: thimes

      It would save even more time if you didn't ask for the change back. In that case I am sure that they wouldn't mind of you giving larger bills and leaving larger tips.

      1. re: thimes

        I eat in group situations regularly. In almost all cases you round up (leaving a somewhat larger tip for a group is always a good idea and fair in my opinion) and there is change possible within the people at the table. It is rude not to bring cash to a group meal - preferably with a variety of bills- but change is rarely a problem. Break a twenty and you have change enough for everyone.

        1. re: Steve

          I hear you all and I'm on the fence on this one.

          I certainly do my best to be a "low maintenance" diner for servers because I understand how quickly you can get in the weeds (and I've worked in restaurants before).

          But on this one I'm leaning towards - tough sh*!, taking the money is part of your job. If a credit card isn't easy enough and takes too long - and making change takes too long - so now you're expecting your customers to check their wallets before they come in and make sure they have the proper bills to pay their check easily . . . we've moved too far from being in the service industry and are putting way too much back on the customer.

          Dealing with the check is my least favorite part of eating out with a group and restaurants implemented POS systems to allow for easy splitting of checks because of the need for it (both from customers wanting it and from servers requesting it because splitting checks the old way took too much time). There will always be service issues with dealing with large parties, if you can't take the heat get out of the kitchen at some point.

          1. re: thimes

            Well it was just a suggestion for people who don't ask for separate bills out of consideration thinking it's easier for the server, there are a few like that. I thought if they knew that splitting the bill is easy, it's collecting for each bill that's hard, maybe some would care enough to bring cash and say "no change" or "$5 back, please". Yes, if everyone pays cash with $20 bills and wants exact change back then sometimes it's not any faster.

            Of course we are in the hospitality business and we accommodate what people want, it's just that sometimes it doesn't occur to people that certain small things can make it a lot smoother for everyone (including the customers who aren't getting any service for the 10 minutes while the server is collecting payment, and the persons who can just plunk down their money and go instead of waiting for the payment machine to make its way around the table).

            1. re: fwsr

              LIke I said, i hear you on this on fwsr and I hadn't really thought about it before.

              My reaction as more to Steve's comment of "It is rude not to bring cash to a group meal - with a variety of bills" - not the premise of the post. Payment is never rude in any fashion.

              1. re: fwsr

                PS @fwsr where are you? Here in Ohio we don't really have the Chip/Pin credit card terminals and in fact many US credit cards don't have them - which you'll find out when traveling europe and you can't use your credit card anywhere because of it.

                1. re: thimes

                  I'm in Canada and since March 31, 2011 liabiity shift is in effect i.e. if you swipe a chip card through a non-chip enabled terminal and it turns out to be stolen or fraudulent you get a chargeback with no recourse. It only takes one to find out the hard way that you need to run everything through the chip terminal.

                  In the old days a server could collect 10 cards, run them all through the swipe terminal on the POS (at maybe 10 seconds per card) and the only tough part was matching up each card. Now the server has to take the chip machine to the customer, enter the amount, insert the card, hand it to the customer who enters the tip, enters the PIN, hands it back to the server, gets their card and copy back, about a minute total per card.

                  I don't see why they wouldn't take your card if it doesn have a chip, liability shift doesn't apply in that case - i.e. if it swiped and was authorized and it later turns out to be stolen or fraudulent you don't get a chargeback if you followed proper procedures.

                  1. re: fwsr

                    In many places in Europe they only have the chip machines (some restaurants, gas stations, small vendors, etc) - so no chip, no can charge - not so much in say Paris but get out of the city or off the beaten path a little and you're in trouble. The states are very far behind in including that technology.

              2. re: thimes

                It's not a question of making it easier on the server, it's a question of making it easier on the diner - everyone throws their money in the middle of the table and takes their change. You can be out of the door in seconds. It really does work.

                1. re: Steve

                  Steve there is always one or two cheapos that dont remember the extra drink or their part of the tax and tip so in my experience it rarely adds up with your system. Whats the difference if you have 10 couples sitting at the same table or 10 couples sitting at individual tables, the restaurant is making good money, I say seperate checks is their problem.

                  1. re: malibumike

                    "Whats the difference if you have 10 couples sitting at the same table or 10 couples sitting at individual tables"

                    Usually 10 couples sitting at individual tables don't all need to pay at the same time.

                    1. re: malibumike

                      We usually wind up with too much money and leave a handsome tip. Just ask everyone to round up, and that shouldn't be a problem.

                      However, if it doesn't work for your group, then by all means use another system.

                      I simply encourage anyone reading this to try it with cash. It can be simple, effective, friendly, and fast.

            2. In the 1970s I taught high school English and was the school's resident foodie. As a result, my boss asked me to select the locations for our twice-a-year department luncheon for about five years. It was a big school and had about 30 English teachers. We were poorly paid and my coworkers insisted on separate checks. Therefore, I was saddled with the unenviable responsibility to find a restaurant that (a) served no "weird" food (I was practically lynched the year I set the luncheon at a creperie--never did that again!) and (b) would issue separate checks.

              At a time when the economy was doing extremely poorly (thank you, Jimmy Carter), many restaurants still declined the business, rather than issue separate checks. It taught me a lesson about how strongly restaurateurs HATE separate checks. Frankly, when I first started arranging for restaurants, it never even occurred to me that this would be a problem.

              Your point about the POS systems is well taken and is your suggestion that people come with small bills in large quantities.

              1. Don't people get separate checks for a reason? Like that they don't want to have to figure out what everyone ate and how much each person owes, plus tax? Or because they don't want to split the check into whatever number of equal parts because equal parts can be unfair? People dining on business may need separate checks for their individual expense accounts... and I'm sure there are more reasons to do it. Just splitting it because its easier for you on the POS doesn't work for everyone, and neither does bringing various small bills wherever they go. Sorry, but I think this falls under the categories of That's Life and It's Called WORK for a Reason.

                9 Replies
                1. re: babette feasts

                  I'm sorry, I think you missed my point. It's really easy on modern POS systems to split the bill so that exactly what each person had is listed, even to split items if people were sharing them. I wasn't suggesting that people should split the bill equally.

                  Lots of people use cards and I'm not suggesting that they shouldn't. I was just suggesting that people consider it, if they care to make things easier for the server. Obviously they can reject the notion for reasons of their own (eg. need to expense it, collect points, etc). I just posted because a group of co-workers may not prefer to sit around after lunch waiting for everyone to pay when they could be out of there a lot faster if some of them paid cash and didn't need change.

                  1. re: babette feasts

                    I don't think this is about a server not wanting to work - the post is giving info to empower the customers to be able to make the choice which works best for their time frame.

                    Restaurants often go cheap on technology. This results in 8 servers having to share one machine to input orders, split checks and process charge cards. One minute per charge transaction sounds about right.

                    Time moves at a slower speed when the customer is ready to go but has to wait for a charge slip. They get cranky, they get frustrated, they don't understand why a simple transaction took 10 min. Well, it took 10 min. because the restaurant doesn't have enough machines (they cost $$) and your server (they cost much less $$) had to wait for two other servers to run separate charge slips for their split ticket tables.

                    If a customer knows they will be in a hurry or that they hate to wait then it behooves them to bring cash. Most servers can make change with out going through the system and allow the customer to even-up quickly. It is not uncommon for servers to close out their cash transactions at the end of their shift when they won't bog down the machine and delay orders. A credit card has to be processed in real time.

                    The server is going to do the work involved in closing the ticket one way or another. This info was simply an FYI for those who prefer to wrap things up quickly. The post also helps those who work in other industries to understand why a seemingly simple transaction can take much longer than you would expect.

                    1. re: babette feasts

                      Yes, separate checks are for a reason. We eat out quite a bit, and we know who to split checks with and who to ask for separate checks with. Some friends eat and drink moderately as we do, others start with appetizers and go through the whole menu through dessert with much drinking in between. Really not interested in paying for their meal, nor do they expect us to, but we do enjoy each others company, so it works out for everyone. Have yet to go to a restaurant that was not willing to give us separate checks. After all, we are the paying customers and if it wasn't for us they would'nt be in business.

                      1. re: Mother of four

                        So if you have ten separate checks, how long does it take you?

                        1. re: Steve

                          Actually ten of us, our golf group, went out for a holiday dinner last month and I can't remember it taking any unusual amount of time. We do this twice a year without a problem.

                          1. re: Mother of four

                            Most servers are quite competent in handling these issues.

                            The best way we saw it handled was a server who took the bill and all of our various forms of payment and said that while he was processing the transactions, someone would freshen our drinks and he would return. Moments later, a member of the bus staff arrived with pitcher to refill our drinks by the time we were wrapping up the conversation and finishing our round of water and sodas, the server was back with our bills.

                            I am sure he was gone 10 minutes or so, but getting fresh drinks and continuing our conversation made his absence pass quickly.

                            1. re: Seth Chadwick

                              We were all quite content to sit and chat, so no waiting problem....we were also on the way to the piano bar for a drink and music. Maybe if a group is there for lunch and have to get back to a job, but I honestly can't see why people feel that they have to have the payment of the bill be so fast if they are there for a leisurely dinner.

                              1. re: Mother of four

                                I agree. And if a group is in a hurry can't they just ask for the bill earlier in the meal?

                        2. re: Mother of four

                          In my experience, split checks and separate checks take the same amount of time to process using credit cards. A group of 5 couples, i.e., 10 seats, using various payment methods, might be 5 different transactions, Cash would take less than 1 minute, credit or debit cards would take at least 1 to 1 1/2 minutes each. Add to that the time waiting for another table to finish using the wireless PIN/CHIP card reader.
                          When I worked in restaurants, we would try and time the smaller tables to be billed and paid before billing a large group. It was tough to explain to a table of 4 that we had no way to collect their credit card payment at the table. (there was a PIN terminal at the bar for people who just couldn't wait. But it was in a location not convenient for the diners).

                      2. And um, if you think all restaurants are using the most up to date and wonderful software systems, you are wrong. It is a complete PITA that takes a lot longer than 10 minutes at many places, sometimes even requiring a manager to enter a special code in order to do separate checks.

                        1. Oh, please, for god sake, just run the damn cards!

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: frank113

                            There is no one size fits all. Ten people with ten separate checks when you are all trying to get back to work means plenty of delay for the customer.

                            1. re: Steve

                              Do you actually go out with ten people for lunch all the time? Maybe you should find just a good friend or two!!

                              1. re: frank113

                                No kidding Frank113...what's the rush, anyways? What with the Slow Food movement and all? In the usually rare occasion that one dines with 11 other couples (often in a private room and all) and you book as a group, you're going to get hit with a service charge for a group over a certain number of people to cover these extras which compensates the restaurant for having to deal with all those orders at the same time, all those glasses needing to be refilled, and processing the payment. In the event that there IS no surcharge, just sit back and relax! If time is an issue, make sure your group brings cash. But I certainly am not going to stress about the 90 seconds it takes for a server to process my Chip card tableside. :)