It’s the time of year when you gather up a big group of family or friends and head out for a holiday dinner. Six or eight of you sit around a table; you laugh, you drink, you eat, and then you ask your server, “Can we get separate checks?”
Suddenly, you are a pariah. Your server’s smile starts to curl downward; the eyes begin a slow roll back into the head. You get the glare. The loud exhale. You are the worst person on Earth. Why are so many servers annoyed by what should be a simple request?
“The difficult part is keeping track of who ate what and who has which kids,” explains Stephanie Shimp, one of the head honchos of the Blue Plate Restaurant Company, which runs Edina Grill, Three Squares Restaurant, and the Lowry, among others. “Seven moms, seven kids—none of whom are sitting by their moms—and then seven credit cards to process.” Put that way, and it’s easy to see why the server has that look in her eye.
Enter Point of Sail, a local company founded by Sean Fuhrmann, owner of the New Hope Cinema Grill, with the aim of improving check technology. You’ve seen it at work if you’ve eaten at Icehouse in Minneapolis: servers take orders on an iPod touch, entering them by seat so the bill is automatically split. The system not only streamlines the traditional ordering process, but has an added bonus: “It has improved tips simply because it’s less stressful for everyone,” Fuhrmann says.
Of course, Point of Sail isn’t everywhere yet, which means not all servers have it so easy. “Many systems only allow you to split a check into equal portions,” explains Ryan Ecklund, who smoothly works the room at The Strip Club Meat & Fish in St. Paul. “Please do your server the courtesy of telling us that you’d like a check split before, not after, your experience,” he advises. “Believe me, it will be a shorter, less frustrating ordeal.”
Understandably, the last thing a busy server wants to do as he’s trying to get a new table of guests started is mess with a computer and eight credit cards. But Shimp says she pushes her staff to realize that taking a few extra minutes to split a check is not that big of a deal. “It’s part of the job,” she says. “Our motto: find a way to say yes.”
Jason DeRusha is a reporter/anchor at WCCO-TV. Have a dining mystery you want Jason to solve? E-mail him at DeRushaEats@gmail.com