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Seperate Checks?

I was out to lunch yesterday with a group of ten women. As the waiter began to take our order, several of the women asked that we all have seperate checks. I consider this a breach of restaurant etiquette. What do you think?

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  1. It's not a breach of etiquette unless one of them offered to host/treat you and then reneged. It may not be common in your experience, but it is not an etiquette issue as a general matter. The correct time to request separate checks is before or at the time the server takes orders (it becomes an etiquette issue if the request is made after that point, because it's very awkward for the server).

    1. I don't consider it a breach of etiquette, especially with that large a group--unless it was a set price menu and everyone would be having exactly the same thing, including the drinks. There are usually some folks in a group who are more frugal, some that like to have a drink or two, and usually one that has been stiffed when the tab was supposedly split up on some other occasion. With very close friends we will go for one check though a couple we know always asks for their own check because they're dealing with some money problems.

      2 Replies
      1. re: escondido123

        Agreed. In fact, there are restaurants that are happy to provide you with separate checks and will add the obligatory large group gratuity on to each one of those checks for you.

        Not uncommon......

        1. re: Dee S

          And the only person conceivably burdened here is the server; but, with large parties, separate checks are a wiser way to ensure a server doesn't get the short end that often happens with large parties going dutch. If the server is willing, I can't see how anyone at the table should have reason to be offended as a general matter.

      2. Why do you think it was a breach of restaurant etiquette?

        In my experience the only time that I thought etiquette was breached was on a company trip where they were trying to woo us into moving. The "host" asked for seperate for all the tables and then asked who would cover the table that we were at because we were to lowest ranked and couldn't expense.

        If you read a lot of the etiquette threads the most common response in "next time get seperate checks".
        Usually its because someone doesn't want to pay more than their share or because they fear that their dining companion isn't a good Tipper.

        1. Is this a regional thing? I live in Boston and rarely see separate checks. In fact, I don't think I've done it in a sit-down restaurant.

          21 Replies
          1. re: LeoLioness

            I dont think its a region lthing. I just thinks its how your social group interacts. I Wouldn't expect seperate checks unless requested. Have you ever asked for seperate checks? When we sit at the bar we frequently get seperate checks without asking. But unless we ask we rarely get seperate checks when eating in the non bar area.

            1. re: viperlush

              I believe it is, actually. We have family that visit from other areas that views separate checks not only as common but as the default state. They hate it when they come to Boston and find that not only is it not default but often declined altogether

              1. re: jgg13

                I can see how its regional. We were recently down in Fl visiting bf 's parents (originally from NJ) and we got in a conversation about restaurants. The lack of good restaurants, the overwhelming number of chains, and the frequency in which they now eat at restaurants. His mom mentioned that she is still surprised that when they go out that everyone gets seperate checks. Even at her Red Hat luncheons each of the 12+ women gets their own with out having to ask. His dad said that there are restaurants that they will no longer eat at because they wont do seperate checks.

                1. re: viperlush

                  Even at her Red Hat luncheons each of the 12+ women gets their own with out having to ask. His dad said that there are restaurants that they will no longer eat at because they wont do seperate checks.

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                  I can absolutely believe the above. No doubt someone calls ahead to make sure the restaurant will do seperate checks. I remember my waitressing days when large groups of older ladies (sans red hats) would dine together. Just keeping the coffee "warmed up" was a job for one waitress alone. (the coffee could have been 221 degrees and it still would have needed a "warm-up" afer each sip)

                  1. re: cleobeach

                    I really don't understand what the problem is. If twelve women,or what ever number, go to a restaurant would a server actually assume that one woman is going to pick up the check? I would assume he or she would ask if there were going to be separate checks if he or she had any brains.

                    1. re: Mother of four

                      The problem is some kitchens can't or don't want to deal with 12 seperate tickets. In that case, it is reasonable to expect the women can work out splitting the check on their own.

                      1. re: cleobeach

                        Then I suggest they ask what sex is making the reservation for how many of the same sex and then refuse the reservation! Written with tongue in cheek!

                        1. re: cleobeach

                          "The problem is some kitchens can't or don't want to deal with 12 seperate tickets."
                          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                          It depends how modern the POS system is. A fairly new system can present a single order slip to the kitchen while generating separate bills for the customers.

                        2. re: Mother of four

                          I guess I would assume the women would work out the check among themselves (as my friends and I do when we go out in a group).

                          1. re: LeoLioness

                            You would think so, but I can't count the number of times I've ordered the cheapest thing on the menu because I was short of funds and then had the rest say "we each owe $50 plus tip" . I remember once saying that I'd only had soup and no drink and was told that "This way is easier" so there went my grocery money. I remember another occasion when I didn't have enough to cover it, only enough for what I had plus tip, and I was told that if I couldn't pay my "fair share" then I shouldn't have come. You have to be aware of people's situation and allow them some DIGNITY! I resent paying the tab for hard drinking relatives or people who order the most expensive thing. How is that my share?

                            1. re: dianne0712

                              This is why splitting evenly needs to be by express opt-in within a social group. The default is every-tub-on-its-own bottom.

                              1. re: dianne0712

                                Sounds like you need to speak up or else find new dining companions, then.

                                1. re: dianne0712

                                  I think that there's a difference between the case where one's share is radically different from what they really owe vs. when it's just slightly different.

                                  I know this isn't what you're talking about but all too often I see a case where someone is raising cain over what realistically is going to amount to a couple of bucks. "Oh, bob got an extra beer, it's not fair to split it up!" ... uhh, $6-7 split 10 ways is less than a dollar. "Mary got the special, it was $10 more than everyone elses!" .... $10 split 5 ways is only $2/pp.

                                  However, if what someone got was say $15 and the even split was $30? that's highway robbery and the splitters should recognize that.

                                  1. re: jgg13

                                    When I'm at a big dinner, I can't say I often keep track of how much the entree of the guy at the end of the table was compared to mine, though, or who had how many cocktails. Why shouldn't the onus be on the person who wants to pay less?

                                    1. re: LeoLioness

                                      I try to pay attention as I'm often on the higher end in a group so I'd rather be aware if I'd be sticking it to someone else

                      2. re: viperlush

                        Actually, I did notice more separate checks when we I lived in Boston. As poor students, we were more likely to have financial problems and couldn't manage paying for "the group's" extravagances. Also, in Europe it is very common to ask for separate checks, and Boston has a lot of Europeans/European students.

                        When I lived in England as a student, every time we went out to eat it was separate checks. Even for the huge parties of 20 people getting a cheap curry dinner. This was my first experience with separate checks, and I thought it was great. The servers were used to it, and managed it well. They also tended to get more reliable tips since large groups of students eating together and paying together are NOTORIOUS under-tippers. Although people tip much less in England, of course.

                        1. re: violin

                          But was it based on being in Boston or that you were poor students? It seems that from reading these boards its is more a poor student/mooching friends/uneven incomes that lead to the splitting of checks and not the geographical location of the chowhound. I wasn't aware that there are regions of the country where splitting checks is unheard of or where the default is split checks.

                          1. re: viperlush

                            See, there's the oddity. It is only recently in Boston that I've seen separate checks be something that a place would do, and many places I go to won't do it at all. It has been people from other places that seem to think it is commonplace. There have been previous threads which have claimed it to be geographical (which is where I realized that the people I'd be with asking for separate checks weren't just PITAs).

                            Maybe it is just reflective of the places that I go in Boston.

                            1. re: jgg13

                              No, it's just that the service side to Boston's restaurant scene has historically been pokey in terms of focus on the customer, shall we say.

                      3. re: LeoLioness

                        I definitely believe this is a regional thing. I rarely see this in NYC but when I visit friends in Memphis or Austin I see it done all the time.

                        1. re: LeoLioness

                          In many restaurants in PA they actual ask "Is this all together?" or "Will this be on one check?" It is more often done in our college towns than in the larger cities.

                        2. Thank you all for your replies. My close friends and I always just add the gratuity and split the bill evenly. We figure over time it all works out pretty evenly. I was thinking that we were putting extra burden on the waiter but your replies have helped me revise my thought process.