10 ways to speed up the payment process when you’re ready to leave the restaurant

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been sitting in a bar or restaurant, or how great a time you’ve been having, when you’re done – you’re really done. At that point, all you want is to pay up and go home, but sometimes your server doesn’t seem to get the hint.


Here are 10 ways you can speed up the payment process and get home in time to watch that 9 o’clock movie (or make it back to the office before the boss starts doing an impersonation of the Gastown steam clock!).

  1. Make sure your server knows you’re actually finished. Often, people have been nibbling away at food for ages and your server won’t even consider bringing a bill while you’re still eating. Is your cutlery lined up together along the edge of your plate? A paper napkin on the plate, or carefully aligned cutlery are common signals that you’re ready for the next step in your dining experience. Servers don’t want you to feel rushed, so they try not to push.
  2. Be up front about time restrictions at the start. If you have a specific time limit (only 45 minutes for lunch?) or are in a rush for any reason let the server know what time you need to leaving by. That way they can plan ahead and help keep your schedule on track. If they are busy, they will know to drop off the bill or process your payment sooner, so you don’t have to wait for them.
  3. Don’t wait until the last second to ask for a cheque. If you’re in a busy restaurant (which most good ones are) your server will be managing several customers besides yourself. It may take a few minutes to get you change or run your credit card. Start the payment process 5-10 minutes before you need to be out the door. You can still finish your beer, but that way you won’t be dealing with a panicked rush at the end.
  4. If you are with a large party (especially if you want separate cheques) then make sure you’ve told your server when you ordered that you wanted to pay separately. This will give them time to separate out the bills while you are enjoying your food and drinks, and will speed things up at the end. If you have more than 4 people paying separately, it’s a good idea to allow at least 10-15 minutes for payment processing.
  5. Have your payment method ready. It’s amazing how many people will say they’re in a hurry, wait until the server has brought the bill, and then spent 5 minutes digging through their bag (usually while still talking to the person beside them) until they find their credit card or head off to the bank machine! If you’re planning to pay cash and are in a hurry, it’s wise to make any necessary bank machine visits BEFORE the cheque arrives. Paying by card? If your card is visible when you ask for the bill, most servers will bring the payment processing machine at the same time and save you a step (or direct you to the cashier).
  6. Leave your credit card sitting on top of the billfold, or at the very least make sure that the card is still sticking out the end if you put it inside. If your server can’t see the card, they will usually assume you have not yet chosen a payment method.
  7. If you need change, be sure to leave a bit of money sticking out of a closed billfold. Or, if the bill was delivered on a tray, place the cash on top of the receipt where your server can see it. This will communicate to them that you have chosen a method of payment and that they need to help you out with change.
  8. Be aware whether or not taking payment is the responsibility of your server, or if you are supposed to pay a cashier. Most of the time, this information is printed right on your bill (usually at the bottom). If you are in a restaurant with a cashier, then you might wait for a long time for someone to come to see what you need if your server believes you to be done and doesn’t want to interrupt your end of meal visiting time.
  9. If you are planning to pay by credit card or debit card, be sure you know your PIN & have ID ready to show. Very often people have stored their PINs in their devices, instead of memorizing them (don’t even get me started on whether or not that’s safe!!) Have your ID ready to show if you’ve written “ask for id” on the back of your card.
  10. Don’t be afraid to tell your server what you want! There are lots of phrases you can use that are both polite and clearly communicate what you want. Ideal, is when you say something like, ”We’re ready for the cheque/bill now and we’re running to [catch a train, get back to the office, make it to the theatre, watch the game...insert reason here]. If I want to pay by credit card do I pay you directly?” They’ll know that you are finished, and to bring the bill and payment processing machine at the same time. If you don’t know your payment method yet, just request the bill and then make sure your chosen method is visible. If you’ve told your server that you are in a hurry, then they should know to check back quickly to see if you need change or a card processed.


In most restaurants, the ordering and billing systems are handled electronically. Each staff member will have their own access codes and in many restaurants only your server (or a manager) will be able to properly print your bill or process your payment. Be sure that you know your server’s name (or at least what they look like) so that if you need to ask someone else to get your server, or ask a manager to bring your bill and/or process payment you will be able to tell them who was looking after you. This will considerably speed up the process.


If your server has suddenly become very busy, or has somehow missed all of your cues and requests for speed, then don’t hesitate to ask a manager to help you with settling up. Managers are generally dressed more formally than staff, and should be easy to identify.  If you don’t see a manager nearby, then ask any staff member you see to find a manager for you – this is something that doesn’t require access codes and anyone can help!

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