I find it interesting that so many restaurants still claim their technology won't allow for split checks. 14 years ago I worked for a popular TX seafood restaurant that had computerized checks (POS system). One of the basic functions was how to split a check. With a large group you simply asked discreetly if it was separate or together. Then if it was separate, you asked who was on which check and went from there. It all went into the computer on 1 ticket and the server used any downtime to breakdown the check into the separate tickets (abcde...). It really wasn't very hard at all. And for shared items, I would ask whose bill they went on.
I do think that in restaurants that allow splitting checks doing so *IS* an essential part of the server's job. Management has determined that their restaurant will provide this service. The server should be trained on how to do it and expected to do so without objection.
My mom eats out about once a month with several social groups; lunch and dinner. They go to a variety of restaurants, and in each and every one they are able to get separate checks. I do know if they can't, they don't go back, as its too much trouble that no one in the group wants to deal with.
I've actually declined to go out for birthday's etc. when I know there will be people in the group I don't know to avoid the situation described in the letter writer's story. I don't really drink, and generlaly can't afford to split a huge check which includes everyone else's drinks. My friends and I will go out and take out whoever's birthday it is, but there are 4 of us, and we will simply split the bill as we all usually order about the same amount.
I do remember being very irritated at one friend, who sent out an email, saying hey, we should all get together for dinner, letís try the new Melting Pot restaurant, how about this date? We all agreed, but she then said, in another email, itís Susieís birthday, so we can take her out!!!! The reason I was mad was that I had looked at the menu, and knew it was pricy, but as Susie was included in that email, there wasnít any way to politely say, hey, itís a little expensive, how about we just pay for ourselves?
I was fine with taking Susie out for her birthday, just not there! So we went, and she had no clue it was so pricy, but I think she learned her lesson when the bill, split 3 ways, came to 80-95 for each of the three of us! She was amazed it was so expensive, and that was with no alcohol! I did tell her later on that I wish she hadnít said weíd take Susie there, and she said yeah, I see your point.