Tuesday, 13 April 2010

One bill per table

I have been having the internal wrangle with myself for a few years now, and wrote down my feelings in an attempt to 'talk' to myself about it and rationalise this farcical situation. I'd be interested in hearing others opinions on this matter........


I have another pet gripe! The ‘one bill per table’ sign!

While I understand it from the change perspective, and convenience perspective, nothing is guaranteed to piss me off more than seeing that un-empathetic sign in a restaurant or cafĂ© in this predominantly card-carrying-only era. You never know ahead of time what a particular restaurant’s attitude on this subject is, so if you are a person who generally doesn’t carry cash round (like me and most of my friends), you don’t have the actual hard cash to pay your portion of the bill.

My question is what is the difference between 6 tables of 2, and one table of 10? With the tables of 2, you’ll be giving out the appropriate change separately to each table (if they happen to pay cash). What’s the difference between providing change for 6 smaller tables or 1 large one? Surely the fact that you get paid for the services you have delivered should be your main concern. Hand in hand with that, for me, would be the fact that I don’t want to alienate any of my clientele, so the awareness of the fact that many don’t carry cash and an acknowledgement of same surely would go a long way to securing a return visit from them?

And the thing that also grates on pedantic Rita is the phraseology. Usually the signs read, as per the photo, “One bill per table”. Well literally speaking, they HAVE only given you one bill per table. The fact that all 10 of us at the table elect to pay separately is neither here nor there! The sign SHOULD read “One payment of the one total table amount accepted only”, or words to that effect!


I’ve been perplexed of late about the age-old custom of ‘one bill per table’ versus everyone paying separately. Come bill paying time, at a prominent restaurant I have eaten at recently, to my surprise, out of our table of 8 people, 7 had the correct cash to cover what they’d eaten and drunk, and one person wanted to pay the balance with their credit card. All the cash was combined at the table, then the person who wanted to use their card to pay went to the desk to settle the bill.

I was amazed when cash-taker told him we couldn’t do it that way. Surely the logic behind ‘one bill per table’ is to prevent those horrible scenes where everyone is standing at the till, trying to escape, and arguing the toss over who had what and how much they owe? The ‘one bill per table’ ruling took the discussion away from the till area and back to the table for them to sort it out there BEFORE they got to the paying/settling stage.

But in my mind, I honestly can’t see the difference between the table for two next to me paying together and departing, then my table paying cash for 7 people with a separate transaction for the credit card person. Even if the credit card person kept the cash and paid the full billable amount on their credit card, a card transaction still has to be transacted so what is the difference for the restaurant? It wasn’t a time issue, and no one was queued up behind us waiting to pay and leave as well.

Posted on by Rita


Hotelier said...

Hmmmm. I will give you my perspective as a business operator as well as a guest. I do both rather frequently. We don't have these signs at our establishment, by the way, but I have used them in the past, in other states.

As an operator, the "one bill per table" sign is a way to cut down on mistakes by staff as well as speeding up the transaction. Time, afterall, is money. The desk may not have been busy when you were there, but that may not have been a typical time of the day. Unfortunately changing signs to cater to different periods in the day would be a little difficult and staff tend to not want to change policy on the run, regardless of whether or not it will result in a better experience for the guest.

I don't carry cash. Not that I don't love handling small and large amounts of the stuff, I just cannot be bothered getting any from a machine. I have three or possible four alternatives in my wallet, all of which are widely accepted.
I tend to dine in groups of 2-6 people. If someone doesn't have cash, they usually take care of the entire meal and are re-imbursed by the group. The bill doesn't typically exceed $200, so it never seems to be a problem. The person that pays also gets the frequent flyer points.

If the situation irks you so... go to an ATM before you head out. The staff should be more than happy to provide change if you need to split a larger note.

Anonymous said...

that sounds like its gone way to far Rita. I have a one bill per table policy in my restaurant( its not written anywhere) but guests can split the bill however they like (eg a table of 10, works out between themselves how much they each pay and may pay with cash and 3 cards). These policys are there to STOP big tables paying seperatly EG each walking up to the cashier saying I had the steak, half a bottle of wine and shared an entree quail etc etc etc which unless you are ordering pay as you order counter meals in a pub does not work with restaurnt service.
Everything from that table is on one bill, i dont care who had what, how many transactions you want me to process just work it out between yourselves and pay the total thanks.

sir grumpy said...

You can solve that problem Rita.
Don't eat out.
Then you'll save all those eateries from misery. Their lives would seem to be heaven if only it wasn't for us pesky diners.
After all, they're doing everyone a favour by offering food for sale, out of the goodness of their hearts. Bless 'em.
We should all be very grateful.

Nuf Sed said...

Firstly from a business owners point of view:

1. With groups of customers, if they are told 'one bill per table, one payment per bill', all the diners give cash, including a small tip to one person. That person then goes up and settles the entire bill - but pays for it on his CREDIT CARD, meaning the other diners have just heavily subsidised this pricks meal and the wait staff miss out on a tip.

2. A table of 6 ladies go into a cafe and spend $3 each. After they have sat in that cafe for an hour and a half and chatted to each other, they decide to proceed up to the counter to pay. They all pay individually, and every transaction is $3. It takes them 5 minutes to go through their bags and drag out the $3 cash and then they spend more time waffling on to an employee who I am paying $25 per hour.

So we end up with $18 Nett for ladies who have taken in excess of 30 minutes of labour time, as well as taken up a table that could have been sat at by people spending serious money.

So, $12.50+ in labour time because they waffle, and that leaves us with $5.50 to cover our overheads, and the cost of what they ate etc etc etc.

3. Customers in large groups always ty to rip you off.
I have worked in a place where 10 people have dinner at $50 per head, they all pay individiually and then I look and see 8 x $50 payments and they are all starting to leave?

This then places me in a farcical position and embarasses them, as at least two people were trying to rip me off.

So from a business owners POV it is obviously a no brainer ---


Stuffing around with dozens of extra transactions takes time, costs money and is a waste of resources. If the customer dosen't like it, bad luck.

It makes sense guys.

Nuf Sed said...

Oh and my other problem is when customers come up to me at the end of the meal and say things like

"I had one eighth of a bottle of wine"

"He had less bread than me"

"I didn't have an entree tonight but XXX did and XXX did but XXX didn't so how much would that be and can you also remember I only had one quarter of a bottle of wine so you can charge them the rest" This person then proceeds to wave her hand in the general direction of the dining room.

Anyone with an IQ higher than 12 could see that from any hospitality employee's POV it is far more smart, economical, clever, business savvy and just plain normal to say ONLY ONE PAYMENT PER TABLE.

Anonymous said...

Oh I used to work in a cafe

Two ladies would come in and share a $3 biscuit and then each seperately pay there $1.50 each at the end.


sir grumpy said...

See what I mean?

Anonymous said...

For goodness sakes Mr G, cafes & restaurants are not the enemy.Just pps making a living

sir grumpy said...

No, we are the enemy for some (a small percentage, thankfully), it would seem.
Thank God for the good guys out there, they get the repeat business.

sir grumpy said...

PS and what if two or more of the party are called William?
Will they be split up, be forced to sit in the corner?
Yes, we have to go through hoops to get a feed these days.

Anonomouse said...

I thought restaurants were there to serve the customer? Isn't that their raison d'etre?

Time is money? Maybe it takes you an extra 10 minutes to finish. Your not exactly paying staff doctor's wages. I thought repeat customers were money...

Waffling on to staff? This is why service staff get such a bad wrap. Maybe the customer is just being friendly. Maybe the customer enjoyed their meal and want to enjoy some customer service. And maybe it was their first time there and the next time they would be happy to spend big. Maybe they would return if you had of shown some interest.

If a customer doesn't like it - THEY WON'T RETURN. Pretty simple guys...

I suggest that restauranters don't rest on their laurels and expect people to keep coming. Sooner or later it will dry up. Especially after staff have been willing to f all for them.

Lucy said...

I'm with you Rita. I loathe the one bill per table sign.

I eat out a lot with friends. We split the bill and inevitably haven't always the correct change. However, I've only a couple of times in my life been faced with reluctance to split the bill, even when it's advertised as such. We all tend to tip separately, so while Anon 5.57pm and Nuf Said cite extreme examples of people splitting small bills without tipping, they're not necessarily illustrative of all customer behaviour.

The 'one bill per table' sign sends a negative and unhelpful message to customers. Yes, we can be annoying, but without us there'd be no industry.

Anonymous said...

The purpose of the bill splitting idea is to annoy the establishment.

Why you cant just get some money out and pay sure beats me.

Better idea than standing around arguing about who had 100mls more or less wine or who didn't have an entree and who shared desert etc etc etc.

Customers constantly demonstrate signs of being negative and unhelpful, and are rude, arrogant and obnoxious and should just follow house rules.

Sorry, we dont adjust company policy for you alone, Darling.

lemon curd said...

I used to work at a restaurant where this was very common (splitting of bills). Naturally we were pretty cruisy with this as has been pointed out above, they are the ones paying the bill. However, especially with larger groups, we did end up writing quite a bit off by the end of the night (those items that weren't identified during the splitting process) - it got to an average of about $70-$80 a week we were writing off. This was getting quite regular (try as we might, it was difficult to keep track in such a fast paced environment), so we instituted some conditions on large groups (10pax +) including that they provide a credit card guarantee against any 'left overs' - this was an easy noting of the said credit card at the beginning of the evening. If someone was hesitant to hand it over, we would just pay particular attention to that table when paying.

Smaller tables though - we were happy as long as they paid, didn't really care how! I find it a bit incredible that an establishment would ask for one payment type only though...

Last anon - think you might be in the wrong industry Darlin!

**Was up in Launy recently, great meal at Black Cow but really really mediocre service (like having to get my own water from the bar because the glass remained empty for 10 minutes, infront of the four waiters behind the bar!).

Anonymous said...

"Last anon - think you might be in the wrong industry Darlin!"

LC - well hey, instead of making comments like that, when you have just admitted that accepting individual payments from large bookings of PAX is farcical, how about thinking about the people in this industry who have to continously explain the policy to customers - who have obviously all operated restaurants before, as they seem to know better than me.

Hey, I will happily stand with a customer and argue for an hour if I have to. No skin off my nose. :)

Nuf Sed said...

Speaking of frequent flyer points, Hotelier, I have just calculated that I need to spend $165000.00, thats right one hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars on my credit card, just to get a free flight to Melbourne.

lemon curd said...

I didn't admit I accepted taking individual payments from large bookins is farcical - merely recounted a story by which we identified that the consumer wanted to pay a certain way, which we were fine with, but we instituted a system by which we could mitigate any financial loss we were incurring.

If you are "continuously having to explain the policy", why not look the policy from another angle and see whether you can get the outcome the punter wants as well as saving yourself a few grey hairs?

Still stand by my comment though mate - if you need to argue with customers, there's something wrong! You'll go home feeling a lot better if they do!

Anonymous said...

anon 3.05 13/4
is it legal to refuse seperate payment of one bill???
If I was at the woolies/ Big w / K&D I would be able to pay my bill with cash and card or put a bit on 2 cards.
I dont think anyone has a legal right to dictate how a bill is paid.
If the bill is paid in legal tender, if its paid in one dollar coins or split between 10 cards its paid!

Rita said...

What an interesting variety of opinion, thus proving one of my original points about diffferent restaurants possessing different attitudes towards the 'one bill' rule.

I totally agree with all who spoke about the annoying customers who stand at the till citing the fact that they only had one glass of wine so shouldn't have to go quarter's in the whole bottle payment, as being one of those situations where you, quite frankly, want to commit the most foul of murders on the spot!

However I found the last comment about the legality (or not) of restaurants not accepting any specific form of payment for services rendered also very interesting. I hadn't thought of that particular aspect of the issue before.

I have previously commented that out of sheer frustration (and anger with my fellow diners) I have been known to go to the desk and pay the whole amount owed by a table of 14 I was eating with one night, when they spent a good 15 mins breaking down the bill, and who ate what, and who owed what! I paid and left in disgust, very quietly. They later attempted to repay me what they felt they owed me but I childishly refused to accept payment, as I just couldn't bear to have a bar of that sort of pathetic behaviour!

I still stand by my feelings of recent frustration that the well known venue I mentioned wouldn't accept the combined cash/card option of payment when everyone at our large table had already done their sums, and provided payment AT THE TABLE. One person went to pay at the cash desk, offering a brief and concise payment option for the girl. It should have been absolutely no problem for payment to be transacted in that way, whether or not there were many queued up behind us to pay (which there weren't).

Sir G - just don't change your name to Bill!

Rita said...

BTW - if you're a restaurant owner and the customers standing at the till arguing the toss about who had what is a frequent occurrence, a good way to assist with this problem would maybe be to issue the bills to the table, rather than have customers go to the till then pay! Just a thought!

Anonymous said...

Rita - What you are saying makes sense.

An intersting point - and something I learnt the other day is that anyone working in any business HAS THE RIGHT to refuse a form of payment if it is plain stupid.

ie I take 45 Kilos of 5c coinage into a restaurant to pay for dinner, the owner has the right to refuse that payment.

Anonomouse said...

But it's legal tender? Whoever said that has brought up a very interesting point. If a business refuses payment from someone who is using legal tender then by rights shouldn't the customer be able to refuse to pay? I think so. I know I would walk out. I don't think they would have a leg to stand on if it went to court if it is legal tender.

lemon curd said...

Check the RBA website:

An extract:
According to the Reserve Bank Act 1959, Australian banknotes are legal tender. According to the Currency Act 1965, coins are legal tender for payment of amounts which are limited as follows:

> not exceeding 20c if 1c and/or 2c coins are offered (however, it should be noted that these coins have been withdrawn from circulation but are still legal tender);

> not exceeding $5 if any of 5c, 10c, 20c and 50c coins are offered;

> not exceeding 10 times the face value if coins in the range 50c to $10 inclusive are offered; and
to any value if coins of value greater than $10 are offered.

Anonymous said...

The fact that you lot are squabbling over how much to pay, who should pay what & in what currency over a hyperthetical bill, frankly says a lot about the type of customers you are.
Its this type of small mindedness & mean spiritedness that make so many hospitality people throw in the towel after being ground down by these attitudes.
Good grief, do any of you ever talk positively about anything?

peeved said...

OK Rita you don’t like that one bill one table system, fair enough.

Here are a few things I don’t like about customers:

1. People who don’t book, then show up with twenty people and proceed to:

a) Get annoyed if there is no space for them
b) Ignore the waiter or door person and point to vacant tables that they think staff member is unaware of
c) Securing a table they then rearrange all the furniture
d) Monopolize the staff
e) Often don’t order much
f) Complain that its taking too long
g) When its time to go, haggle over the bill

2. People who think its OK to sneak in booze and food and eat it at the table
3. People who ignore the No BYO policy & bring in cask wine, half drunken long necks and cans of UDL
4. Parents who let their offspring hurtle around the floor screaming, taking thinks off other guests tables, picking all the flowers, biting the ends off sugar packs and get shitty if you bring this up with them
5. People who order a Bolognaise for instance then complain that they like Bolognaise but didn’t like this one because it had no duck or bacon or foie gras etc in it
6. People who can obviously see that the place it very busy yet still don’t take this into account when the coffee takes too long-If I came into your house one day unannounced with a pack of my mates and ordered coffees at the same time, would you be able to get them all out pronto-no.
7. People who ask the waiter for something then when they get it ask for something else and when they return then ask the waiter for something else again-why not just ask for all the things in one go?

Anonymous said...

Peeved, a great comment. :D

Interesting reading the RBA site.

Nuf Sed said...

Peeved, I can think of a way longer list than that.

I think it is interesting that a staff member can refuse payment if it is plain stupid and I imagine that 99% of places would not accept 1c or 2c pieces.

sir bill grumpy said...

Rita, I agree it's a two-way street and my comments were in the belief the diners had sorted out who pays what before the till moment.
Our mob always do. Arguing over who had this amount of wine etc never arises.
Those who do have more (e.g. extra beers, or pud, etc) will chuck in more.
But yes, diners sort it out at the table.
Not previously knowing the extent of the troubles restaurants encounter, I can see their side now too. Live and learn.
But they should allow cash and card mixes at the till. What does it matter?

Anonymous said...

It matters for all the reasons outlined above.

sir grumpy said...

Mind you, after all the above, my reasons for staying in far more and cooking at home make even more sense.
Yes, the pleasure of sipping in comfort while a nice pot of grub simmers away.

lemon curd said...

God bless you Sir G - cheers mate.

Anonymous said...

Peeved, I think you need to be working somewhere other than the Derwent Tavern! hahahaha

Nuf Sed said...

Speaking of annoying customers, had an agrument with a lady at our cafe today after she requested boiled milk be added to her coffee.

Talk about a beverly-hillibilly.

I have found that customers over the age of 40 generally have no taste buds left anyway, and being younger than that, I obviously know better.

But what would I know about hospitality.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sean Here
Im gonna say it Tasmanian Hospitality Grinds to a holt again because the customer cant work there crap out and the business owner cant either......Hello

Daffodil Daze said...

I don't work in hospitality - I never have and being "over forty" probably wont.
So clearly I am just one of those obnoxious, annoying, "beverly hillbilly's" customers that pays good money to have an 'experience' in one of your establishments.
I am also one of those dreaded awful customers who chats to the staff, I am friendly and love to chat.
As a customer I am appalled at the negativity directed to me - your paying 'client' - all I can say is I wish you had identified your establishments so that I could avoid them like the plague or make sure I have correct money, I don't talk to staff, I don't linger, I don't question waiting too long and I basically just 'enjoy myself' hahahah
This is my first post here after over 2 years reading and lurking.

Anonymous said...

Sean Here
oh my...................... out of the cracks appearing in Tasmanian Hospitality comes a daffodil...to spread a ray of...........nothing

sir grumpy said...

Good for you Daffodil. But, fear not. There are lots of good places out there.
Me and the wife like to be friendly too (and are over 40) and it is sometimes rather humbling to be ignored and rejected, despite your best efforts.
I also think most of the owners who post on food blogs are more bark than bite.
Often the buggers are winding the rest of us up, or have had a bad day (week, month, year, life?) and want to sound off.
Look, 99 per cent of them are pussycats and Tassie is a fine place. (I am not drunk). But we all have our bleak moments.
I think I have at least two tastebuds left, one for food, the other plonk. That's enough, surely?

Rita said...

Hi Daffodil Daze - well done for finally commenting after lurking for 2 years! I was you before I plunged into the (blogging) water as well!
I echo your sentiments. I don't automatically start conversing with all and sundry in a restaurant scenario, as it's just not appropriate, but when the circumstance is right, love to find out what lies behind the face in front of me.

I suppose that's what defines, for most of us, what makes the difference between places we frequent, or not - that feeling of being considered a pest by both staff and management, contrasted with going regularly to a place where they have noticed you there before, so say hello/welcome back etc, and clearly are happy to indulge in the more human and genuine interaction than sheerly money-making, impersonal exercise that others indulge in.

auntyvida said...

Many years ago we went to a staff dinner at the Claremont Hotel. When the bill was presented it was set out in six columns across the page. Column 1 was the diner number, c 2 - soup, c 3 - entree, c 4 - mains , c 5 - sweets/coffee, c 6 - individual total. The total amount for the table was at the bottom of column 6 as per a usual bill. Needless to say it was the 'easiest' bill ever. I know that it was in the days of simpler offerings, no bread, sides, appetiser etc., and we bought our drinks at the bar - but it was still great. To add to our enjoyment we were entertained all evening by the most wonderful, charismatic gentleman with only one leg - who danced ('hopped' - very rhythmically and creatively) the night away, It was a night to remember!!!!

Rita said...

Hi Auntyvida - what a thoughtful thing to do, and a wonderful idea.
Wouldn't it be great if someone read this and instigated that at their establishment!
Wouldn't that attract a lot more happy customers?

Anonymous said...

After the experience I had today, I know why the 'one bill per table, one payment per bill' rule exists in so many establishments.

John said...

What I don't get is why the customers expect five star quality at family restaurants and cafes? You pay $150 for a 5 course meal with matching wines and a waiter who is both the sommelier and front of house star. The reason why you pay only $30 for a night's meal and getting minimal service is saying something. You're getting the service you're paying for. If you want less hassle, head over to your nearest fine dining restaurant. I'm sure the food comes out right on the minute and the service is way beyond what we can offer (busy family style restaurants) heck they'll even take your 10c 5kg bag worth of $150 if you pay them in that currency. If you want to complain, cook your own meal at home. We might be better off without rude customers like you.