Don’t you just love the end of a meal, the dessert, the coffee, the petit fours and the bill? Okay then maybe not!
I am reminded by a quote by Edmond Blackadder: ‘Sometimes I feel like a pelican – whichever way I turn, I’ve still got an enormous bill in front of me’
The thing is that although bills themselves are bad, one cannot complain too much about getting them, after all you (or at least someone in your party) ordered that stuff so it is right that you pay for it. However, frequently sorting out what to do with the bill/ check can be one of the most frustrating experiences of a meal out.
First of all, why is it that commonly after a night of perfect service one cannot find anyone to ask for the bill (or more commonly to do that wavy gesture with one’s hand that is supposed to look like signing but really looks like you are waving strangely at your other hand / the floor)? Then when you do manage to ask someone they just disappear and after 10 minutes you have to ask again? To be fair in my case this problem may be increased by the fact that I am usually on one of the last tables to leave and thus half the staff have already done so.
When you get the bill; there is then the issue of service- don’t get we wrong this is not a Pulp Fiction-like rant; I am all for paying a service charge unless something has gone seriously wrong. Although, paying the service sometimes is a bit of a minefield. Thankfully many higher end restaurants now add service on to the bill and I would prefer it that way for convenience. I realise there is an argument that you should be able to add any amount that you want but I don’t mind if they add 12% to 15%, if the service has been awful you can ask for it to be removed. The problem is some still don’t, thus you have to watch out- that line on the bill is where the VAT that has been added, not the service, I still need to pay… Then there are the open credit card payment lines, hold on why is there a gratuity option, was it not already on the bill?
Then, when one has the final total, it is frequently time to split the thing. At its most complex this is a task that could require a spread sheet- X and Y were not drinking, Z had a dessert and two cocktails, no one else did etc. etc. Even when it is simple and everyone just goes equals… well I am not sure what has happened to our mental maths abilities but dividing a random 3 digit number by 5 is suddenly a HUGE challenge (I will blame it on the booze)! With some of my friends, when someone frequently suggested a number that seconds later was proven very wrong, the person who initially guessed would retort: ‘it a good thing I don’t work with numbers’ (they always worked in finance…). It looks as if we could soon be spared this problem (and mental maths will continue to die…), not only are there a number of apps to help you add service/ split the check but now some bills are helping us as well.
The picture shows my bill from Fresh and Buns, here you can see it has conveniently been divided by the number of covers. In the States they sometimes have a similarly handy feature where they show a total at 3 different service charges- say 15%, 17% and 20%.
Now if only they could make the bill arrive quickly.