After a very enjoyable meal in the Jambo Grill & Restaurant in Gilmore Place, the other evening, where I ate jerk spiced chicken and plantain (shown above), I started to think about restaurant bills and how they are presented.
This had nothing specifically to do with the Jambo Grill bill. Their bill was hand written, and like most bills was presented item by item as they had been ordered. Many restaurants nowadays produce computerised bills. These also list items as they are ordered.
This is all fine if one person is going to pay the bill. It’s also fine if the bill is going to be split equally between diners.
It seems to me that, increasingly, groups of people are eating out at restaurants. The walking group monthly meal, the yoga group end of term group, the this-or-that group. Often, the people in such groups don’t know each other particularly well, and within such groups splitting a bill equally can have its downside. Imagine if the group included Albert, who might spend the entire evening nibbling on a bowl of prawn crackers and sipping a half pint of beer with no beer in it, and also Fat Mac, who might order soup, extra bread, six pints of Guinness, a bucketful of vegetables, a bottle of red and a pudding. Come to think of it, splitting the bill equally between Fat Mac and anyone else might not be very fair. It’s probably just as well that he doesn’t often eat out.
Now, if you’re well organised, you can ask at the start for separate bills, and this may work quite well apart from the time it takes for everyone to pay up at the end, with their various credit cards/cash. And it might make the person who initially suggests separate bills to look a bit stingy or calculating.
Instead, why don’t restaurants list items on the bill by diner. Diner 1 ordered a starter, mains, bottle of beer, coffee – with subtotal £x; diner 2 ordered a mains, a bottle of wine and a coffee – with subtotal £y; and so on, with the grand total at the end. This would surely solve all problems, would allow each person to pay according to what they ate, or to agree to split the bill, and would show that the restaurant is billing people with them in mind, and not simply according to the food/drink as it is delivered.