Should anyone be picking up the cheque

As we now live in the world of multiple forms of payment in a restaurant (cash, debit cards, credit card, apple pay etc). We can only hope that all these options eliminate the potentially awkward moment of working out how to pay or split the bill. Have you ever been embarrassed working out payment in a restaurant? For most diners, paying one’s bill at the finish of a restaurant meal is a simple, uncomplicated process, a no-brainer. Or should be.

I’m of the personal belief that apps like Uber have been revolutionary when it comes to payment methods. Not only in transport, but spilling over into other industries like hospitality. There’s no mention of payment, no money changes hands, no “don’t forget you owe me the $6 from last time”. It’s seamless, unspoken, a simple app notification. I believe this has essentially changed consumers’ expectations, altering social norms.

This slides into my opinion that the ideal execution of bill getting-and-paying should be a near-non-event. While hospitality is not quite at “Uber” status yet, the only words exchanged should be those of thanks between the payer and the server, and from the recipients of the evening’s generosity to one giving it.

Additionally, when it comes to handling the handing of the cheque, it may not always be obvious who should be receiving it. Especially depending on the nature of the event, a date, a social outing, a work lunch. How does a venue eliminate the potential awkwardness of the “discussion” needed (or not) to be had?

The last thing we, or the servers, want is patrons fighting over the cheque. Suddenly, the food-and-alcohol-induced peace and harmony at the table is rocked by diners grabbing the for the bill or worse still, shoving their credit cards left, right, and centre. What an uncomfortable way to end a pleasant socially engaging meal.

In this day and age, why on earth our eating premier establishments are putting people through this is beyond me. Fair to say that each reason for dining can be a case for a different scenario of who is paying. No doubt a first date payment debate or expectation is far different to a business lunch where colleagues and/or customers are celebrating the signing off of the latest multi million joint venture. But the challenge remains the same.

Innovation has assisted the industry with the ability to “pay at table” utilising top of the range Integrated Eftpos machines. Gone should be the days of paying or queuing to make payment. Often these devices allow you to split the bill, add a tip (because that can be embarrassing for some people too), even better, receipts can be emailed directly to you. Great for people like me that travel constantly.

My view is that there is an appetite for VIP Dining (at least that’s what I call it). Having the ability to set your payment method before you even enter the establishment. This can be through credit card or even invoice / direct debit if it is a business related expense. This would eliminate many awkward moments - the servers know in advance who the “host” is. The guests do not have to worry about the awkward alpha moment at the end of the meal. Also the venues build a trusted relationship with their clients which is another way of enhancing the customer experience and ensure repeat business!

Simple. Or maybe not so simple for the first date scenario - but that is a debate I will not enter into!