The Insane Waiter

Running wild on customers, chefs, owners and managers since 1997. I bring to you, The Insane Waiter. What do bring to your table? A crisp bottle of San Pellegrino ? Perhaps a lovely seared Sashimi Tuna? Start off with a wonderful bottle from Tuscany perhaps? Why I'll be more than happy to bring you your White Zinfandel and Chicken Caesar. No you can't order the mac and cheese off the kids menu and sorry no, we don't serve cheese sticks....

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Reasonable Question

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.


At 4:28 PM , Blogger Paul said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 4:34 PM , Blogger Paul said...

I have been reading oyur site and for a long time now, and with the help of both of you i have decicided to write about the stories of the UK restaurant in which i work washing up

I have my next shift tomorrow, which is when the first story will appear. I would be honered if you, and anyone else, would read it. Tomorrow evening, 1800 UK time, it will be my first story post!


At 4:35 PM , Blogger Paul said...

Sorry for the spelling mistakes, i am in a rush at the moment.

At 4:57 PM , Blogger Wraiths said...

Often, several of us will go to lunch together from work. If it's just my buddy and I we just switch out days to apy, but if it's one or two others, we tend to split. When we do ask to split, I had always added another dollar on top of the 20% tip just for the hassle of splitting the bill, after reading your site and waiter rant. Maybe I will add two now.

At 5:18 PM , Blogger Fly Girl said...

I know that split checks are a pain i the ass, and when I am dining socially, would never dream of asking a waiter to break out a check.

However, when it's business dining it's a bit more complicate as the company/client wants me to have a receipt for reimbursement and/or the IRS wants me to have a receipt to deduct it. Having one person cover the check and then settling up isn't a viable option.

I don't take it out on a server if it takes a few extra minutes, and I tip generously, but I also don't want anyone taking it out on me because I need the documentation. It all trickles downhill --

At 7:00 PM , Blogger oryoki said...

Or the person in a large group of split checks that rants about their change being a dime or a quarter short.

The whole damn tip isn't going to make your day much less a dime.

At 7:09 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The bottom line is be prepared to wait. If it is so important that you pay for yourself seperately, then it's going to take awhile. Most restaurants only have two computers. Each transaction takes a minimum of three minutes, when it is busy, there are about seven other servers that need to put in orders which takes priority, so seperate checks are pushed to the back of the line. Would it be fair to the other guests to make them sacrafice their service and experience because some obnoxious business women can't do the math themselves? A majority of restaurants are making it a policy for one check with parties of six or more because of the service issues and havoc it creates.

At 9:55 PM , Blogger bwhitt said...

As a waiter and a consumer i know sometimes a check has to be split, however most of the time the check is split because of cheap people. not for exspence purposes. its just another way cheap S.O.B's can get away without tipping.
The resturant i wait at now doesnt do it no matter what.
screw those cheap bastards

At 11:38 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a waiter, I find it better sometimes to OFFER to split the check.

If you don't, then the asshole who orders three martinis in addition to his appetizer and entree and leaves $30 to cover his $50 bill winds up costing me money because the other people in his group don't feel like picking up his slack.

Then I'm the one who gets screwed.

At 5:54 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having waited tables for a long time, I'm a bit surprised by the reaction I often get when we ask, AT THE BEGINNING OF THE MEAL for split checks and the server has a hostile or negative reaction. Hey, I'm trying to make the server's life easier with forewarning.

And I know it is a pain to split checks, but as mentioned above, there are issues with receipts, people who just order a drink, or are totally math-impaired, etc.
Hostility is not warranted.

A good server needs to deal -- carry 90 $1 bills if you need to -- keep a separate notepad and calculator in your apron, whatever you have to do.

Sorry, we're JUST your customers, no big deal. And I know we all suck. Sorry.

At 8:33 AM , Anonymous Michael C said...

Well if the reason management doesn't allow split checks is because they want tables to turn over, that isn't going to happen. If the check isn't split, larger parties still have to pass the check around, figure out who owes what, get change if necessary, put all the money together, and have someone count it up. Either way, we're not leaving the table for awhile. Even if we put it on one person's credit card and let them collect the money, we're still going to need change, figure out who owes what, and collect the money. And guess what? We're going to do it comfortable and taking our own good time at the table. And no, no one and no group is cheap because we go out dinner and expect each of us to pay for our own meals.

If the reason you like no split checks is because the gratuity is automatic, when I encounter forced gratuity, that's all you get. And generally parties I'm with tip much more than the forced gratuity.

But all that said, the best thing to do when encountering restaurants with customer hostile policies such as this is to not eat there. There are so many restaurants that realize they don't have a monopoly and we don't have to patronize them. You have to realize you need to tailor your policies and practices to meet the needs of customers. Customers want separate bills, we often need change, we often use multiple credit cards. Get used to it.

And just as we should go to restaurants that have customer-friendly policies and not go to the others, instead of bitching about it. Maybe waiters should accept that all the difficulties they bitch about are part of their jobs. If making all the money you claim to make stops being worth it, find another one.

At 9:19 AM , Blogger Sketchy said...

Well said, Secret. You covered all the bases in great depth. I have to reiterate your point that separating checks is a time consuming process that takes away service time for other customers. Many people do not realize that they are not the waiter's only table and are only concerned with their personal needs and service expectations being met - they could care less about the people sitting two tables away, much less the people at the bar. If you want a butler or personal valet, go hire one.

At 9:52 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why should it be up to the server to decide that one person has to pick up the check for everyone? When I dine out with friends, unless it's for a special occasion (birthday, etc), each person or couple is expected to pay for their own meal. Maybe the server is more generous with his own friends (doubtful), but that's the way most of us work.

That shouldn't be a problem. If we walked in to a restaurant, asked for separate checks right away, and were told that wasn't an option; we'd leave. We're willing to wait a little longer while you process it - that's fine; but don't act like it's your decision.

At 10:53 AM , Anonymous mistycal said...

In my restaurant we operate on the prehistoric system of handwritten everything. So - even if you are a 20 top with fore-warning I can get the checks separated.

That being said. Don't ask for separate checks and give me twenty 20's on 9 and change bills. It will take me forever to hunt down change. Not a rule, just a little courtesy.

The best large top, separate check experience happened when everyone paid by card, was patient enough to wait and hand it to me in order, and 'perk' most of them even had their own pens. Tip was fair but because they were so nice, even if it wasn't I still would have spoken nicely of them. Class Act!

At 11:54 AM , Blogger DrinkingTea said...

I waited tables for years and was good at it. I didn't like it, but I did what I had to do and what was the best option at the time. I was polite and respectful to the customers. This did not mean that I did not get irritated from time to time. Being able to rant about it kept me sane enough to do my job and do it well.

Why is it that most others are allowed to complain about their profession from time to time, but not servers? When was the last time you heard someone tell an accountant, "It's part of the job and if you don't like it, quit" because they were upset that the software package was acting up, an HR manager to like it or lump it because Oregon labor law is making them crazy regarding the issue of only one particular jobsite out of twelve, or a bank teller to to get therapy because he got a papercut and was irritated with a customer who wanted to change his hundred to twenties and then one twenty to ones and then the ones back to fives?

It amazes me that so many people just can not handle the thought that a person might not be serving food out of love of the job and the customer. I doubt the Almighty Customer (not to be confused with a regular dining patron or person wanting to eat) that reads ranting customer service person sites realizes that a rant is not representative of how that particular server feels all of the time towards everyone. Apparently, the lower status the job, the less one is allowed to express displeasure or vent after a bad day without being told, "If you don't like it, quit" or "You need therapy!"

Gotta keep up the underlings showing happy faces, I guess.

At 11:58 AM , Anonymous California Eater said...

Thanks for your answer!

Let me clarify that it wasn't the issue of splitting the checks that reduced the tip. He was snappy, impolite and the $35 was improperly cooked and cold when it got there (I realize the latter two were not his fault). It was less than expected from a quality restaruant.

At 1:48 PM , Blogger Secret said...

California, I guess I had a two part answer, one was in response dirrectly to your question, one part was in response to less reasonable people.

Also to one of the posters above, I DO appreciate it when told before hand about seperate checks. I might not like doing it, that being said it makes it easier to be sure every item belongs to the correct person...

actually I'll do a mini rant on my next post...


At 1:49 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey how about a simple charge for split checks?
I never appreciated why there is a fixed tip for groups , but this seems as good a time as any for a time to do it.

At 2:01 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would disagree with the service charge for splitting, not because they don't deserve a good tip, but because I don't want to be constrained.

Last night, we had the checks split (at the suggestion of the server). She was so pleasant and accommodating, prompt and efficient, that I simply gave her all the cash I had (which was a 35% tip). Not that I couldn't have added onto a service charge, but I don't think the others would have.

At 2:20 PM , Anonymous CurlySue said...

Splitting checks is a pain in the ass. If one MUST do it, then PLEASE request it BEFORE one orders. That will help somewhat. Still, it just should not be done. Add up the friggin' meal plus tip, divide, and pay up outside. How hard can that be?

At 2:20 PM , Blogger Secret said...

We do a seperate charge for splitting large groups, 2% in addition to the 18% gratuity. It's stated on the menu that split checks take time and we appreciate your patience.

At 4:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is it that the customer is supposed to make server' jobs easy on them? Sure, you don't have to be an asshole and make it hard, but since when do servers get to dictate our dining experience?

Do they consult patrons before raising prices or changing their menu?

This server's false sense of entitlement bothers me.

At 4:15 PM , Blogger Sketchy said...

"Do they consult patrons before raising prices or changing their menu?"

Since when do servers raise prices or change the menu. That is the management's decision.

At 1:41 PM , Blogger Segue said...

If a waiter refused to split my check in a party of less than 6, I would laugh. Deal with it.

That being said, I always tip at least 20%, and 25% on alcohol. If I can't afford that much, I shouldn't be eating out. I've done my share of serving, bussing, and cooking, and I would never screw someone in the service industry. If I'm a pain in the ass, I'm probably aware of it, and I will compensate you for it.

At 12:55 PM , Blogger Sondra said...

Thanks for the info, Insane. I don't often ask for split checks, but in the instances that I have, it's always been AT THE BEGINNING of the meal and never more than four people. I will, however, keep it in mind next time we go out.

At 1:00 PM , Blogger me said...

i was helping at the little restaurant my bf manages... maning the take-out counter and payments...
when i was cashing out a group of four (two mothers, two daughter-these are the upper middle class, over privileged, with spoiled children, too-high hair, too much make-up and suv's) one of the mothers and one of the daughters, who was probably all of 12 years old, came to me to split their check.
1) the check is hand written by the waitress and hard to make out. the customer see's this, but hands it over expecting me, the cashier, to decipher what they had- just because the price is written beside the item, doesn't mean it's right. i gotta know EVERYTHING- price varies according to extras.
2) the mother tells me what she and her bratty daughter ate and pays, leaving girl #2 to pay the rest (my first impression of this woman was of her and her daughter arguing over the cell phone; then of annoyance and 'gratify me' because i'm spending my precious precious time with you). she proceeds to hum and haw over what they ate "we only had this and this..." ... then i'm like... well who had the bcb with fries? "o... i think that was..." and the mother was like... "o i had that..." (although i'd already cashed her up) and i have to ask who had the two large fp's and side order of slaw? which was greeted with a SUPER DUMB expression.
needless to say... i was the only one on the counter taking take-out orders and payments, the line was growing considerably longer and i had this over-done mother and over-done kid before me... sigh.
i do wish that people would ask for split checks in the beginning of their meal instead of settling down at the counter for what will be at least 10 minutes of deliberating about who had lettuce and who had mac and cheese.

i'll split 'um... but i'm not psychic and i DIDN'T SERVE YOU and i DON'T HAVE TIME TO FIND THE PERSON WHO DID SERVE YOU...

that was my rant... gee that felt good:D

o. and i agree it's easier to just hand over cc's and say "divide it between"... that way you don't look cheap;)

At 9:06 PM , Blogger Brad #1 said...

anonymous, the servers get to dictate your dining experience the very second you sit down. That's exactly why you went out to eat, right? For service. Service between servers is not ever the same. Just like fingerprints, we're all different. If you want an enjoyable dining experience, I suggest you don't carry that arrogance with you when you do dine out.

At 11:04 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I go out with friends, we usually split the tab roughly by who ordered what and pay on one check. I like to give a big tip because servers don't expect it from older women. If I been in a restaurant before, I usually remembered and get great service.

At 11:05 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a waiter at a resturant, and my employer decided to start accepting Visa and Mastercard. The bad thing about this is that they do not allow us to accept gratuity on the credit card. I was just wondering if this was illegal or if a business is allowed to deny an employee the right to accept tips on credit cards when we only make the minimum wage of $2.13. This is very unfortunate due to the simple fact that many people carry no cash on them, thinking that they will be able tip on their credit card like every other resturant. I am just looking for some insight on this, and have not been able to find any answers.

At 4:02 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actualy, I love split checks.

We have an Alloha system that makes splitting them very easy, and before I cash out a table I always inform my hostesses that I will need a few minutes to process the info. I always inform the table right when they ask for split checks that it will take more time to process thier payments and I usually have no problems. Does the table listen...usually not...but thats ok, because I remind them very pointivly when I am processing them out.
Two weeks ago, I waited on a table of 20 that had 10 seperate checks. It was tough ordering, to make sure every drink got on the right seat number, but in the end 10 seperate...and perfect checks (with auto-gratuity mind you, I am always amused when some table thinks that they can fleece the auto-gratuity policy by splitting their 8 top into 4 two person checks...always brings a tear of joy to my eye when they find out they cant do that..) Anyways, when they all tried to hand me thier checks at once, I just told them " you are the ones with seperate just sit tight while I go down the line and collect from each one of you, One At A Time." Suddenly they realize the time it actually takes, while they are waiting for me to process each one. Its great.

Just cruisin by,



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