HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Am I idealistic, old-fashioned, out of touch, a romantic, or just plain wrong? (Multiple choices allowed)

The more I think about this, the more it bugs me. It's one of those things like the tune that keeps running through your head that you can't identify and can't shake off either.

Here is the issue, question: It has been my belief that when dining in a restaurant of some stature, that the check is never presented until requested. It has always been my impression that that is standard restaurant etiquette and that to do otherwise is tantamount to telling the diner that your time is up, leave now.

Recently, four of us were at a Michelin 3 star in NYC and right in the middle of my Fernet Branca, the waiter laid the check down on the table. Now I have been in dives and diners where the waitress walks from table to table passing out checks as an expediency, always explaining such and also explaining there is no hurry, just getting the job done.

In this case there was no explanation, just "plop" here is the check.

Am I so out of touch with today's concept of etiquette to have suffered a sense of umbrage ( there were also multiple phones on multiple tables multiple folks using them, but I acknowledge that that is a battle clearly lost.)

Thanks for your opinions.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. IMHO NYC and etiquette don't mix together well.

    7 Replies
    1. re: kagemusha49

      No, it's just faster, because everyone is in a hurry. As Amy Poehler pointed out, you just say 'Hey, great to see you, thanks for the kidney, gotta run!'

      1. re: kagemusha49

        In my actual experience NYC is the most friendly and courteous city in the world.
        Unless someone actually asked for the check or indicated that there was "nothing else." It would seem premature to receive the check.
        In one of the finer restaurants I would not have felt rushed and would have lingered if that fit my comfort level.

        1. re: Motosport

          "In my actual experience NYC is the most friendly and courteous city in the world. "

          Thank you! One of my dearest friends moved to NYC from Minnepolis and was nervously riding the subway late at night in his first couple of weeks here. He got up from his seat in the sparsely populated car and was moving toward the door to wait for his stop - and as soon as he did he noticed the two young men seated across the car look at each other, look at him, look again at each other and then get up and walk toward him. As he was trying not to display his panic, one of the guys reached out his hand and said, " Hey, buddy, you dropped your wallet."

          1. re: ratgirlagogo

            I have to agree, I've run into more random kindness from strangers in NYC than anywhere else I've ever been.

            1. re: ratgirlagogo

              That happened to my wife on the bus.

              1. re: ratgirlagogo

                I live in the Minneapolis area. Compared to here, New Yorkers are gregarious, outgoing, and effusively friendly. They will actually TALK TO A STRANGER, which is, I believe, forbidden in Minnesota.

                I do have to say that this seems to be changing here, maybe as more people move in from other states/countries. You know, to sort of offset that Scandihoovian standoffishness.

                1. re: sandylc

                  This morning I struck up a long conversation at Maison Kayser with an out of towner comparing croissants of Paris and NYC. Great fun!!

          2. I don't see any reason for angst.

            3 Replies
                1. re: kagemusha49

                  No you're not because it isn't like that.

              1. Yeah.......I don't know if this ruffles my feathers. If they served you the Fernet Branca, or anyone else and asked as they served "will there be anything else" or made any other comment to which you/someone responded no, I would expect the check to be dropped. I don't know......if I wanted something else I would have ordered it and made him re-print a check.

                9 Replies
                1. re: jrvedivici

                  It's always been my belief, probably erroneously, that in a restaurant of any standing the check is never presented until requested. Maybe I was wrong to think that in the first place.

                  1. re: singlemalt

                    It's a fine line, trying not to insult anyone!

                      1. re: EWSflash

                        Actually, insulting someone is a finer line if done creatively.

                    1. re: singlemalt

                      I agree. Someone was probably ending their shift. Heck, they don't even do that at our local brew pub! I'm with ya, singlemalt.

                      1. re: sandiasingh

                        I hate waiting for the check, I'd rather have the option. As long as you don't feel like they are rushing you, which I can't say I've ever felt.

                      2. re: singlemalt

                        No, not at all erroneous. I was taught as you were. Even though I find *not* being able to get the check in a timely manner frustrating, I am keenly aware of the pushy/insulting implications of an unrequested check. Old fashioned? Count me in.

                        1. re: singlemalt

                          I'm not remotely saying your belief is erroneous, you are certainly correct that should be the normal practice.

                          I guess I'm just jaded or predisposed to disappointment in the finer neuances of proper service. Like holding a door for a lady, saying please and thank you, it just seems we live in a more casual world these days.

                          1. re: jrvedivici

                            Just another reason to reduce a tip.....

                      3. I have to go with just plain wrong. In my experience it is only outside of the US that you ever have to ask for your check. Why would you need an explanation? You were enjoying your digestif, dinner was finished, you were given your check to pay at your leisure.

                        I am happier NOT having to request my check. If the server has been attending to my needs all evening, s/he should know that I am not going to order more food and may even desire to leave. I don't want to linger at a restaurant all night, I get tired of sitting in the same place for more than about 2 hours.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: babette feasts

                          I don't like having to ask for the check, either. My preference is for the server to say "Can I get you anything else?" Then I say "No, just the check." The end.

                          1. re: small h

                            But, then....you are asking for your check.

                            1. re: mwhitmore

                              It's a subtle but (to me) important distinction. I'm being offered the check at my table, rather than having to flag someone down to ask for it. That makes me feel as if the server is anticipating my needs.

                        2. I'm aware of the differences about presentation of the bill between America and what I'm used to here in Europe.

                          Now, I have to be honest and admit to being prejudiced against the American way - it just seems to be the antithesis of my understanding of "hospitality". And, yes, I understand why it happens - but I don't like it. But, even in America, I would also have taken umbrage at that sort of attitude in a 3* place.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Harters

                            Totally agree with Harters. I would expect three star etiquette along with the service and food.

                            The petty, little snot of a boy side of me would undoubtedly come out and I would order one more item.

                            And leave it at the table.

                          2. I've only eaten at restaurants in the U.S. and my experience is that they don't bring the check until I ask for it (in finer restaurants) especially Italian restaurants.

                            I never like having the check just "plopped" down.

                            1. Hmm. I'm trying to figure this out. I've been to most of the 3* in NYC. I'm going to rule out 2 of them because I don't see a fernat branca as something you would have at the end of the meal at either place. I will eliminate one more unless you decided to pass on the complimentary brandy in favor of the fernat. I think that leaves 5 places and I will say that I've not had the experience of a check just being plopped on the table at them. Someone will come by and ask if there is anything else we wanted and if that answer is no, someone may drop the check off without a request and I don't have a problem with that. Honestly, after a 3 hour meal, I'm not looking to linger any more so a prompt drop off of the check is appreciated. If the final check to see if all was well prior to the leather folder being dropped wasn't done, that would be a problem. But maybe this is just a reflection of the difference in expectations between a visitor and NYer.

                              1. I think you are probably overthinking this. If this is the thing that is causing you such angst..I would say to simply be grateful for a charmed life ;-)

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: BlueMagic

                                  I agree wholeheartedly. I am fortunate enough to be able to have our Christmas dinner there and afford the whole trip to NYC for four of us. It is sort of a peak experience and my wife's Christmas present. Yes, I have a good life.

                                  I think it has to do more with changes that have occurred over my lifetime, some for the better and some not. For example, consider all of the folks who had their cellphones out. For me this was an extraordinary experience, although we have eaten at other fine restaurants in different places, that does not require a picture of my food, and is such that I do not want to be interrupted by a phone call ,nor interrupt the person at the table next to me. Others obviously do not regard the experience with the same amount of importance as I.

                                  Times are changing and some of the conventions simply amounted to what I call the attitude of " graciousness" and "consideration"' if not "respect". As a civilized country I don't think we are any better off losing such ideals.

                                  Not to get preachy or anything like that.


                                  Now let's all FORGEDABOUTIT!!

                                  1. re: singlemalt

                                    I see what you are saying...and understand even if the same issue doesn't bother me all that much.

                                    However, I do agree with you on the cell phones. While I don't have a problem with people snapping a picture of their meal ( the social media world we live in..lol) I think the calling and ringing phones have no place in a restaurant.
                                    My cell phone is always on because I am the health care proxy for an elderly, ill, relative and the nursing home must be able to reach me. On the rare occasions when they have called and I am out at dinner, I always excuse myself and take the call someplace more private.
                                    It's always amazing to me to see people on dates who are playing on their respective phones.

                                    1. re: BlueMagic

                                      My partner and I are sometimes those people you find "amazing", because we are sometimes on our phone during a meal. Usually it's to figure out where to have a drink afterwards or find out what time the bus is coming or texting friends with whom we are meeting up....

                                      Not really so amazing, just multi-tasking. We've been together long enough that dinner usually isn't a sacred event....

                                      1. re: LeoLioness

                                        I think this is mostly a matter of people who grew up without cellphones and those that had them all their life. Can't we all just get along!!??

                                        1. re: coll

                                          Sure. But I didn't grow up with a cellphone, just saying.

                                2. Um.....
                                  As a new yorker this actually sounds like a polite and discreet way of not interrupting you final drinks and saying when you're ready the check is here.

                                  And unless you were the last seating of the night it may have also been a not so subdle cue to wrap it up.

                                  IMO no foul or faux pas here

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. I never thought about how and when the check is delivered but I can tell you we were recently in a quite an upscale restaurant for an 8PM reservation that lasted until around 10-ish. At that point, the wait staff started rearranging furniture around us.

                                    It's quite an intimate restaurant with dining on 3 levels. The tables in our section had been arranged in 3 groups. The 2 others finished before us and the furniture was being arranged back into 4 tables.

                                    We were the last on our floor but new parties were still arriving on other levels, the kitchen remained open, and, since the restaurant was expecting us at 8 and we had not gone invisible, it should have been clear that we needed a bit more time. In fact, our server who was also helping mover furniture had not delivered our check.

                                    A three-figure per person check will buy you food these days but not necessarily courtesy or consideration.

                                    1. I would order another Fernet Branca and see if it gets comped.

                                      1. I'm going with old fashioned. :)

                                        1. Laying down the check but not indicating you must leave in the next few minutes wouldn't bother me but if I'm still enjoying my coffee and dessert and the waiter actually says when you're ready and plops down the check I'd probably respond with "not yet" and smile.

                                          No one is rushing me through a meal.

                                          1. Interesting question. My husband and I are fairly fast eaters and we do not linger to socialize. We know the restaurant needs to turn the table. If we want to socialize, we take it to the bar or to the home of one of the diners. I haven't noticed the drop-the-check manoeuver, but I have noticed - with annoyance - that wait staff often don't even bother to ask if we'd like dessert or if we'd like anything else. I realize that it will take a few more minutes to deliver the dessert menus and there is a chance that no one will order dessert. Particularly if the diners had large meals. And even if one or two order, it means that the table can't turn and the couple of desserts won't increase the bill by much.

                                            Still. Please give me the option. Do you want me to return to your restaurant or do you want me to feel that you don't care about having my business?

                                            I think this is basically the same thing that you complain of.

                                            And BTW, I don't live in NYC. I live in DC. There is no reason to criticize an entire city (not OP, someone below) just because OP wrote about dining at a restaurant in NYC.

                                            1. See thread, "Are Chowhounds smarter than the average bear.

                                              1. How long had you been in the restaurant at this point? It might have been a hint.

                                                But in general, no, this doesn't bother me. I'm expecting to get a bill fairly soon after I'm done eating, so it's not like I find the reality of it offensive to my sensibilities.

                                                1. My personal preference is that the bill is brought after the dessert plates are cleared - placed with a "no rush" "At your leisure" type sentiment... It's never dawned on me to ask for the check as being proper. I'd much rather the bill to be presented for me to handle when I wanted vs. waiting for the check to be delivered.

                                                  I dislike it bring brought out with any course (either while I'm still eating my main course are at the beginning of dessert, etc.)

                                                  1. I was at an Indian restaurant last week for the lunch buffet, dining alone, when a server walked by as I was still in the middle of eating and slapped the bill down on the table in front of me. Now, this is a very casual place and the bill was all of $9.99, but I was still shocked. More shocked when he came by a couple minutes later and apologized for his brusqueness, but it was appreciated.

                                                    1. I love the new idea of electronic pay at the table. I've never seen it in my holler, but I'm all for it.

                                                      1. I have never received the bill until I ask for it in a fine dining restaurant.

                                                        1. I am very annoyed when a server brings a check when *they've* decided I'm done. I've seen this happening more and more, often before I'm even asked if I would like coffee or dessert!

                                                          Dining out is functional entertainment, not a feeding trough. The customer should be the one to determine when the meal is at an end and a server of any merit should never preempt the experience.

                                                          8 Replies
                                                          1. re: Harts52

                                                            So one meal "buys" you a table for the night, should you so desire? That's not really fair to other people who make a later reservation, or to the restaurant who allots a certain amount of time per seating....

                                                            1. re: LeoLioness

                                                              Why would you read my post and go to that extreme? Any customer with half a brain and a normal-sized ego knows that one meal does not buy the table for the night.

                                                              1. re: Harts52

                                                                Okay, then how long do you feel entitled to sit there? Does it matter if there are other people waiting for a table?

                                                                My point is that sometimes dropping off the check is a hint to campers...

                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                  One of my favourite Italian restaurants in my region categorically states on its website that the table is yours for the evening, regardless of what time your reservation is for. Of course, very many others have the same policy in practice, without needing to declare it. Needless to say, I'm not in America - which always seems to have a different interpretation of "hospitality" than I'm used to here in Europe.

                                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                                    Indeed, America is different from Europe in many ways. Hospitality customs vary with the territory.

                                                                  2. re: LeoLioness

                                                                    Sorry, I'm not going to take your bait. I love the Chowhound threads but not when someone grabs on to the tiniest nuance of a post to try to explode it into a heated argument.

                                                                    1. re: Harts52

                                                                      I understand, though I sincerely didn't see nuance in your statement:

                                                                      "The customer should be the one to determine when the meal is at an end"

                                                              2. re: Harts52

                                                                unless of course it's common knowledge your reservation is for a stipulated amount of time. which 2 hours is the standard. This of course if there are no mishaps during service.

                                                                At a place like Bern's in Tampa, you finish your meal and you are expected to leave the table and not linger. If you want coffee or dessert or more drinks, you have to move upstairs.

                                                              3. It's been both my understanding and my experience that the check is delivered either after the customer has declined to have any dessert or after-dinner coffee/drinks, or after finishing dessert, or while enjoying their after-dinner drinks. It's only in Europe that I've ever heard you get the check after asking for it.

                                                                Now, if I go to a nice restaurant and they drop off the check without first asking about coffee, drinks, or dessert, I'll be pissed off.

                                                                1. I like the technique of server first asking if there will be anything more and, if not, I actually expect the check and hate asking for it.

                                                                  As an aside, while the op was enjoying his Fernet Branca, I have this picture in my mind of another hound on their smart phone by the host stand starting a thread on "How long after my reservation time should I be expected to wait to be seated?" I may be wrong, but my bet is that the table needed to be turned. I don't think they were necessarily trying to rush you out but it's just their way of hinting that they would like the table. Last seating of the evening, I might be a little put off at the perceived "rush".

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: bobbert

                                                                    Last seating of the evening, maybe everyone wants to go home? There's always that final table that likes to camp. Vacuuming under their feet is sometimes the only way they realize how late it is, but hard to pull that off in a fine dining situation.

                                                                    I too HATE having to ask for the check, maybe because I'm a woman (?) but still.

                                                                  2. I have to admit that we do far more "fine-dining," than anything else.

                                                                    Whether in Europe, or the UK, or the USA, I do not expect the bill to arrive, until I ask for it. In the USA, it does, sometimes, but not too often. In Europe, or the UK, it never does. I have to ask for it, and that is the way that I like it.

                                                                    When I encounter an "early check," I feel that I am being rushed. While I never linger, we often have several after-dinner drinks, which are part of the restaurant's bottom line, and considering a fine, Vintage Port, or Madeira for the table, that often translate into about US $ 200.

                                                                    I like the full Euro-model, where the bill will not be presented, until we are finished.


                                                                    1. How so much I really agree with you. I'm pretty old school too.

                                                                      Also, traveling a lot, dining in New York, London, Rome Paris... They I think really define etiquette.

                                                                      This is surprising from an M3 restaurant. My first question was if it was a crowded night, and were they counting on turning over the table for the next set of reservations. Even the finest spots are still a business, and have to keep customers moving. Sometimes you have to keep ordering wine to be able to keep the table.

                                                                      My personal bugaboo is when they try to pull your plate as you are taking your last bite of food. I was trained that if seated as a couple, wait until both have finished, or if 4 at the table, you can "ask" when the third's is finished. Otherwise the remaining diner(s) feel they are rushed to catch up while other are twiddling their napkins.