Restaurants have always been more than simply places to grab a bite to eat. Now more than ever, restaurant dining is a social experience that brings family, friends, coworkers, and new acquaintances together to share the joy of a delicious meal.
Too often, however, the light and happy mood at the table fizzles when the check arrives. That’s when the members of the dinner party attempt to calculate their share of the bill, trying to remember who ate and drank what. For restaurant servers and and managers, the process of splitting the bill of a large dinner party can bring the usual table changeover to a crashing halt. This is when a restaurant split check policy pays dividends.
The techniques described here will help restaurant owners, servers, and diners sort out the details of split checks quickly, simply, and accurately.
Decide Early How Your Dinner Party Will Settle Its Bill
One of the best ways to prevent split-check drama at the end of the dinner is by having the server ask before taking the order whether to use one bill or separate checks for each order. Some restaurants place a cap on the number of checks per table. Patrons should ask the server about the restaurant’s check-splitting policy before ordering. If they intend to split the check more than four ways, it’s a good idea to call the restaurant ahead of time to confirm that doing so is allowed.
The Open Table blog recommends that even when someone offers to pick up the entire tab, it’s proper etiquette for the treated diners to offer to pay the tip. (If the offer is turned down, be sure to express your gratitude to your generous host.) When a party splits a check, it’s often a good idea to have one member of the group serve as a “foreperson,” preferably someone with good math skills to calculate the split-check shares for each diner. Especially with large parties, the process of splitting the bill requires extra time and effort by the server, so be sure to leave a generous tip of at least 20 percent of the total dinner tab.
Keep Your Restaurant Split Check Policy Simple, but Keep It Fair Too
When a group of friends has gotten together for a meal and a couple of drinks, they can save time and avoid the hassle of totaling the cost of what each person ordered by dividing the bill equally among all diners. This approach is suitable when the meals and drinks everyone had were equally priced and evenly distributed. However, when some diners had several drinks and high-priced entrees while others ordered only salad and tea, it’s appropriate to adjust the split to prevent some people overpaying and others underpaying.
For more complicated restaurant bills, remember that smart phones come equipped with calculators so diners need not rely on one person’s math skills. Once each person’s share of the total bill has been determined, you can help the server by writing the last four digits of each diner’s credit card number next to their portion of the bill. Many restaurants limit the number of credit cards that can be applied to a single bill. Another tip for diners is to avoid undertipping the server for their portion of the tab by assuming that the other diners in their party will make up the difference.
Split Checks vs. Separate Checks
In the past it was common for restaurants to have a “no split checks” policy, or to limit the number of splits they allow for a single check. As the fine-dining site Eater points out, the advent of restaurant point-of-sale systems simplifies the process by supporting more payment options, mobile payment apps, and other features. Many restaurant POS systems have built-in capabilities that let servers split orders by position at each table. They also allow bills to be split by a combination of tender types: cash, credit card, check, gift card, or store credit, for example.
Often the simplest way to avoid confusion among diners in a party when the check arrives is by requesting separate checks. The clarity of separate checks prevents anyone in the party from coming across as cheap or a mooch, but it may not always be practical to keep everyone’s order separate. For example, the rise of small-plate meals that several diners share can leave people scratching their heads when it comes time to settle the bill. Using separate checks can also be a burden for servers handling dinner parties with six or more people.
Demonstrate Diplomacy When the Check Arrives
Regardless of the restaurant’s split check policy, it’s important for patrons to communicate to their fellow diners their preferred method of paying for the meal when the server places the bill on the table (if the party hasn’t decided the matter beforehand). Money Crashers recommends the straightforward approach: simply ask your fellow diners how they prefer to pay the tab. This lets everyone know that you’re willing to split the bill so each person pays for their own order.
There are various options for splitting a restaurant bill. Some diners may not have brought cash so will want to pay with a credit or debit card. One option is for that person to charge the entire bill and tip to their card, and then be reimbursed with cash paid to them by the others in the party (including each person’s share of the tip). If the same group of friends meet for dinner regularly at similarly priced restaurants, it may be simplest to take turns picking up the tab for the entire party.
The best restaurant experiences are enjoyable from beginning to end. Keeping patrons happy means supporting their preferred payment options, including mobile payments and house accounts. The easier it is for restaurant patrons to settle the bill, the more likely they are to become return customers.
Learn more about how the talech POS system helps restaurants and other retailers improve the experience for their customers and optimize the management of all their operations. We work with you to determine the best ways to meet the needs of your customers and employees so your business can thrive. We take the time to learn your business so we can balance your specific needs with your budget and comfort level in a custom POS system implementation. The result is a valued investment that will pay for itself in short order. Reach out to us today to sign up for a free demo and learn more about how talech can be your valued partner in the POS world.