Ask The Salty Waitress: When Should Servers Take Away The Signed Check?

Hey Salty! I've been waiting tables and bartending for pretty much my entire adult life, so I like to think I've mostly got things down as far as how to handle my tables. However, my restaurant just got a new general manager who's been pushing us to pick up the signed credit card receipt from our tables before the guests have left. To me (and a bunch of my coworkers), this feels like an almost greedy way to go about it, and goes against what I've always been told to do.

Am I right to be opposed to this? Is it really not a huge deal? And how would I take this up with the GM without seeming like I'm just resistant to change?

Thanks!Promise I'm Not Greedy


Dear Not Greedy, Hmm, I see why this might not sit well with you. But I feel like there's reasoning behind your manager's new policy. Is it to make sure everything's A-okay with the customer's math? To make sure they didn't forget their card? Or just to ring in checks faster and get butts out the door?

Either way, it could make some tables feel like you're rushing them. If they've been camped out forever, fine, go ahead and snag that signed check and pretty much everything else not bolted to the ground. But to take the signed check without making guests feel shooed away, you have to do it right.


Since a bunch of your coworkers also feel weird about this, ask your manager to lay out why this is the new policy. While you're at it, you should ask them to give a quick refresher on good receipt-taking procedure. (I'd also like to know what your manager's like so I could have a better read on whether they're going to throw a conniption when you ask questions about this.) I've seen servers snag the signed copy from the table, then stop two feet away to check the tip. Honey, no.

The key is to make the receipt pickup not feel like a weird, brusque kick in the ass out the door. As you pick it up, flash that winning smile and ask if there's anything else you can do for them, check to see if anyone needs a water refill, etc. Some servers think that picking it up while you're "on your way" to bus a table or do something else makes it look more smooth; I think it just makes you look sneaky and embarrassed. If you feel really self-conscious about it, you can quickly open the check holder and say "Great, just checking that you didn't leave your card. Happens all the time!" (It does.)

As long as you're not hovering near the table snatching the bill they minute it's signed, this shouldn't be a huge change. Thank the table again, offer any refills, etc., and you're fine. You're probably going to save a lot of left-behind-credit-card headaches, so that's a plus.


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