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Separate checks = staggered service?

4X4 Oct 30, 2013 06:50 AM

This weekend I had dinner at a local restaurant with my girlfriend, her mother and her mother's friend (we're not sure yet if they're dating or just hanging out.) We asked for separate checks when we first met our server. They had no problem with one check for me and my gf and one for her mother and friend.

My gf and I got our entrees pretty quickly (in fact, they brought them out while she was still eating her soup.) About ten minutes went by and they still hadn't brought the rest of the order. We flagged down another server and asked about it. She brought one of the owners over. The owner told us that when you ask for separate checks it can cause a delay in service. Apparently the kitchen staff has trouble figuring out that two checks can be from the same table.

Has anyone ever heard of this before? My gf works in the hospitality industry and she hasn't. This is a restaurant I've been going to for years (for meals, drinks and live music) and I've never had poor service there before this happened.

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  1. h
    Harters RE: 4X4 Oct 30, 2013 08:23 AM

    I assume the kitchen is regarding it as two separate orders which, of course, it is.

    1. m
      Maximilien RE: 4X4 Oct 30, 2013 08:25 AM

      Maybe a just poorly trained waiter that did not push the proper buttons on the POS terminal and the ticket was sent to the kitchen like 2 different orders (2 checks) instead of 1 order (2 checks).

      1 Reply
      1. re: Maximilien
        KarenDW RE: Maximilien Oct 30, 2013 09:35 PM

        Sounds plausable, considering the point in the OP about the timing of other entrees.
        The situation described by the server reminds me of the challenges of "separate bills" in our local restaurants 20 years go.

      2. jrvedivici RE: 4X4 Oct 30, 2013 09:01 AM

        Did you happen to notice if they were using handwritten checks or a POS (point of sale) computer system?

        My hunch would be that if they were doing it old school with hand written checks/dups to the kitchen the kitchen might not see or realize it's the same table.

        If the order is coming from a POS system then it should be clear on the slip in the kitchen the order(s) are the same table.

        1. h
          Harters RE: 4X4 Oct 30, 2013 09:12 AM

          I've never really understood the desire for separate bills, particularly when the diners are friends or family. For example, we'll be dining with another couple later in the week. We'll pay 50%, they'll pay 50%. I am not such a tightarse as to be worried that, for instance, we have not consumed 50% because I don't drink alcohol or my partner didnt want dessert.

          (This is a general comment. I am not so ill-mannered as to suggest that the OP *is* a tightarse)

          10 Replies
          1. re: Harters
            LeoLioness RE: Harters Oct 30, 2013 09:40 AM

            I never do separate checks either (I think a lot of this is regional? I'm in the Northeast US and never see this while it's common among my Southern friends).

            That said, I DO often insist on paying more if I have alcohol and dining companions do not. A couple of cocktails and a bottle of wine can easily top $100--no need for anyone else to pay for my vices!

            1. re: LeoLioness
              jgg13 RE: LeoLioness Nov 2, 2013 09:28 AM

              It's becoming more common in the northeast but still the exception. When we have visitors from other parts of the country they're always mystified when places won't split the checks

            2. re: Harters
              4X4 RE: Harters Oct 30, 2013 09:41 AM

              No, I'm not a tightarse. Sometimes separate checks makes things easier.

              1. re: 4X4
                melpy RE: 4X4 Oct 30, 2013 02:21 PM

                Sometimes they will only run one credit card per check. In the plastic age this makes for an awkward situation if the other party has no cash.

                1. re: melpy
                  plaidbowtie RE: melpy Oct 30, 2013 05:21 PM

                  the app Venmo makes things easy in situations like this. It's paypal-ish, and you can "charge" your friends for their half via your smartphone, which they then authorize and the amount is transferred. We use it often.

                  1. re: plaidbowtie
                    4X4 RE: plaidbowtie Oct 31, 2013 04:40 AM

                    I don't have a smart phone.

                    1. re: 4X4
                      plaidbowtie RE: 4X4 Oct 31, 2013 04:34 PM

                      It was more a general statement, rather than directed at you specifically. I would venture that a significant percentage of frequent diners DO have smartphones.

                  2. re: melpy
                    4X4 RE: melpy Oct 31, 2013 04:40 AM

                    Nobody in our party used credit cards until the meal was over and we got the checks. The problem was with the service during the meal.

                    1. re: 4X4
                      DeppityDawg RE: 4X4 Nov 1, 2013 04:06 PM

                      I think the suggestion was that you could have asked for a single check (and avoided the service issues) and worked things out among yourselves the old-fashioned way. And that there are now some new-fangled tools to help people do the old "I'll put it all on my card and you all pay me back". Personally I'm interested in checking that app out.

                      That said, I totally understand that not everyone wants to do that, and so I agree with you that if you ask for separate checks, and the restaurant accepts, they should have a decent system in place that ensures that the whole table stays on the same timing.

                2. re: Harters
                  melpy RE: Harters Oct 30, 2013 02:19 PM

                  It depends on the group. I have friends that will drink 100 in alcohol and we might not have any. 50 dollars extra for someone else's booze is a little tough to swallow.

                3. Cherylptw RE: 4X4 Oct 31, 2013 12:48 PM

                  I have worked in the kitchen of restaurants; when people at the same table requests separate checks, it is considered two different transactions. However, usually the server will speak to the chef & ask that both tickets go out together. Sometimes, depending on how busy the kitchen is, it does not work out this way.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Cherylptw
                    kmcarr RE: Cherylptw Oct 31, 2013 02:11 PM

                    Unless the restaurant has a modern, rational POS system. The server can divide up the table into as many check he wants to come payment time, it will still spit out a single ticket for the table back in the kitchen.

                    1. re: Cherylptw
                      debbiel RE: Cherylptw Nov 3, 2013 07:02 AM

                      It has been a very long time since I have worked in a restaurant (21 years?), but in the three different places I worked we had a system for this. Separate checks same table (handwritten back then) went in together, came out together. Each place had a system for marking it.

                      (Now that I think about it, at one of those places the system was to put everything on one check but to indicate separate with horizontal lines. I can't recall what the coding was in the other places.)

                    2. Ttrockwood RE: 4X4 Nov 1, 2013 10:11 PM

                      The response of the owner should have been nothing shy of apologetic for the lack of communication between the waitstaff and the kitchen....

                      1. Cheflambo RE: 4X4 Nov 2, 2013 01:43 PM

                        Depending on how orders go to the kitchen (as so many here have noted) it is possible for food orders, even for the same table, to become separated from each other. Acceptable in this day and electronic ordering age? No, not really. But it does happen.

                        I occasionally have a restaurant meal with a tightwad brother-in-law and his wife. BIL announces to all who will listen that we will be having SEPARATE CHECKS and because he's usually the one with all the questions (can I have this instead of that?) he ends up ordering first. Many times his food comes out before ours, and he dives in like a hungry dog. Once he was halfway through his lunch before ours arrived a few minutes later.

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