Want Separate Checks at the Restaurant? Here’s the Deal.
I’ve got a dirty little secret and it’s an unpopular opinion for most servers to have: I am a fan of separate checks. Let me clarify. As a server, I’ve had several credit cards tossed in my general direction at the end of service with customers assuming I have kept track of every morsel of food and every drop of cocktail that went into whose mouth. In cases like that, I am 100% not in favor of separate checks because those customers aren’t helping me to help them. I know what it’s like to go to dinner with a group of peopled and have that awkward uncomfortableness when the check arrives. There’s always that one person who says, “Lets just split it six ways.” You look over at his third Grey Goose martini and then you look at your second glass of Sauvignon Blanc. You consider the Caesar salad and fettuccine alfredo you had for dinner and compare it to the crab cakes and Surf and Turf he had and think, “Yeah, that’s not fair at all.” As a diner, I almost always want a separate check. As a server, I don’t mind giving them out because I find that the tip is usually higher on a bunch of smaller checks than one big one. At the risk of offending every server who has ever worn an apron, I say this: it’s okay to ask for separate checks. But there are a few things to keep in mind when you ask for them.
Alert your server at the beginning of the meal
It is 100% easier to make separate checks happen if the server knows from the get go. Waiting until the very end and expecting the server to know how much money needs to go onto each credit card is only going to complicate things. Make it clear from the beginning.
Don’t switch your seats
Once you order, don’t start playing musical chairs and expect the server to remember where you were sitting when you ordered and where you’re sitting when it’s time for them to organize the checks. This is not helpful at all.
Not every POS (Point of Sale) System has the option to split an appetizer three ways. Some do and some don’t. Don’t assume they’re going to be able to divide up the cost of that plate of calamari seven different ways. For the love of all things holy, just be the person who says “you can put the calamari on my tab.”
Sit close to the people on your same check
Don’t point to the other end of the table and say, “I’m on the same check as Mary and my kids are around here somewhere.” At least try to make it easier for the server.
Dividing up a check takes time. Not only are there a lot more buttons to push and menu items to drag into different columns on the computer, there are also more check presenters to find as well as enough pens for everyone to sign. Splitting the check is not as easy as one might think.
If they say no, accept it
Some places simply don’t have either the time or the capability to do separate checks. If your server tells you it can’t happen, open up your Zelle or Cash App and deal with it amongst yourselves. There’s also this handy dandy thing called a calculator that’s buried amongst the apps on your cell phone. And there’s this other relic called “cash” that allows you to pay for practically anything you want. It’s old fashioned but it works.
If you’re tipping on the service, please recognize that splitting a check is definitely part of the service and you want the server to know how much you appreciate it.