California Reader had this question, and its a good one...
"Sorry for this OT comment, but I would like some expert advice. Recently, I went to a very nice restaurant (i.e. $35 and up for a steak) with 2 friends, plus a couple that I had just met. When the waiter came to take the order, I asked "may we have separate checks?" His response was "no, we don't do that here." Now, if it hadn't been for the couple that I did not know at our table, I would have simply said "OK, we'll take our $350 elsewhere," but I didn't want to rock the boat. So...why IS it that some places (or is it a server decision?) refuse to make this (seems to me) very minor accommodation? With computer POS machines it is not difficult. Recently at Chevy's (for crying out loud!) the server asked US if we'd like the bill broken out. WOW! Thank you...Extra 5% tip. As for Mr. "I can't do it", he certainly cut off his own nose, because his tip was definitely reduced. So...What's the "professional" advice on this?"
Ok, while separate checks are indeed a pain in the ass...
Generally I do them without complaint because that is the way things are.
Don't punish the server however if it is store policy. Many places are going to this method to expedite the dining experience and get that table turned in a more timely manner.
It could be the first few times he got grief for the policy he did ask the manager. Or maybe he was told that its just the way it is.
Either way if you have a store policy and make exceptions why have the policy at all?
Then you have a bunch of people coming in saying,"well they did it for us last time..."
Thus voiding any reason for the policy in the first place. Get over it, if it does bother you write a letter to corporate or let a manager know.
Don't shoot the messenger in other words.
So why are splitting checks a pain in the ass?
Simple, it takes us time, and a lot of it.
Time better spent servicing other tables that might be neglected.
I don't think splitting a bill for a couple is a big deal, but after the group grows to six or more it is a royal pain.
It seems when this happens people are impatient, throw their server books at you out of order and want theirs done first. It gets rathr unruly.
One other problem is that with split checks the individual checks are usually small, especially at lunch when prices are lower.
Today for instance I had a group of twenty separate checks, it was the worst I've seen in a long time. They were in such a hurry and I had to tell them that it would be a few minutes and to be patient, unless someone stepped in to pay and they took care of him later.
Of this group about 10 paid with twenties, on bills that ranged from $8.95 to $11.75 at the outside. I was wiped out of all the change I had to give with just the first two checks. I then had to harass a busy bartender to change out $40 to ones and quarters, not fun...
The rest paid with credit card, on the POS system you can only run one at a time and I have to log in each time I run it...
5 minutes just with credit cards, all with angry customers breathing down my neck.
So it took me nearly ten minutes to figure out change, run to the bar, wait for that change to be counted out, not to mention the credit cards.
That's the major reason I dislike split bills...
In that span of time I had three tables sat in the other half of my section and they had to wait unduly while I glanced nervously over my shoulder at them.
The second reason is tipping.
For big groups I get automatic gratuity, hell we even add an extra charge if they want splits.
For small groups of under eight its all up to them as far as gratuity.
It seems to me there is always one or two people in the group that thinks its ok for the others to carry the tip.
Either they leave less then 10% or nothing at all, thinking that the others in their group have tipped sufficiently.
That's just being cheap, you look like an asshole to me and eventually your friends will catch on and think you're an asshole as well.
I love it when people like that get caught, seen it happen, nothing like witnessing a cheapskate getting called out on it.That being said most people realize it is at least a minor hassle and handle the wait with grace and are fair as far as tipping. It's just that 1 in 5 rule that experience tells me will result in a bad tip.