Cafe Culture: Do or Die!

By Penny Cook

Sibylesque Bill Gates Quote

There’s a problem with Café Culture. Great service ends at the point of payment. Adelaide is not known for a service culture in cafés. Typically, you order and pay at the counter before you eat. So why would they care? You’ve paid already. Tables are often messy and the service so, so … slow.

I’ve been caught out in Melbourne where table service seems to be the norm. I’ve unintentionally walked away without paying. Just so you know, when I’ve realised my mistake I’ve happily and apologetically returned to pay because that’s the right thing to do.

Sibylesque Annie OAKLEY Gun 2

But in some cafés in Adelaide and in all restaurants, there is table service, which is great. Once again, great service ends at the point of payment. I would think, possibly naively, that if I am paying the dosh for the nosh, the recipients wouldn’t care how they got it, given that in all circumstances they are going to make a profit on what they have served up.

Increasingly, and with the introduction of pay wave, a lot of us aren’t carrying a wad of cash these days. So when I go out for a meal with friends, it frustrates the hell out of me to be given the task of the customer doing the math and splitting the bill and collecting payment, only to make it easier for the restaurant. When I’m told ‘we don’t split the bill’, I’m tempted to respond ‘would you like my money for what I ate and drank or not? I’m not responsible for the other adults in my party, only me.’ What is the legal requirement here? Can eating establishments insist on collective payment and if so, what lengths can they go to recover the money if I insist on being charged and paying individually?

This can be easily overcome, as it is in the US, where service equates to tips, by the restaurant having a system where they number each person at the table and assign the order to the person, so when it comes to payment, all they have to do is calculate the bill for each patron. Simple. That way they ensure accurate billing and payment and happy customers, who are likely to tip more and return.

Is this rocket science? I think not.


Penny CookPenny Cook has been an early childhood educator for over 30 years. She loves to travel  – anywhere. Penny is a mother and ‘Nan Pen’, who is continuously fascinated and amazed by her two young grandchildren.  She has always wanted to live in  a tree house by the beach …’s never too late!! 


Photo source: Social Archives



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