A fellow diner pointed out how the check was calculated at a popular Boston restaurant recently. Each diner’s drinks and food were grouped together with a subtotal. Certainly a nice feature for those who don’t subscribe to the “let’s just split it n ways” method of restaurant check payment. The only thing missing was our names. Come to think of it, if our names appeared, it would have been just a bit creepy.

A couple nights later, at a different establishment, I noticed that they offered up some gratuity recommendations. The bottom of the check showed the tip amounts for 15, 18 and 20 percent of the check. Another nice feature.

In my world, we would call these “nice to have” features. After all–in the realm of eating and drinking establishments–these two features are probably not going to be at the top of anyone’s list of what makes for an enjoyable experience. “Nice to haves” have a low probability of ever being developed. If they ever make it into a system, it usually means that they were fairly easy to do and/or someone had some spare time on their hands. In this particular case, I doubt any restaurants were really clamoring for this feature. For the vendors of point of sale systems, this seems to be a fairly minor selling point at best.

Nevertheless, these “nice to haves” really are, well, nice to have. No one is going the convince their friends to go to a restaurant just because of the way the check is printed. In fact, this post might be the most that has been written about restaurant check formatting in one place to date. However, they make figuring out what one owes easier, so shouldn’t all restaurant checks do the same thing? Perhaps, especially if it doesn’t take any additional effort to do it.

The real reason for this post is not to plead for additional splitting and tip calculating lines on every restaurant check. It is to remind me of something: Think twice before writing off a “nice to have”. Our world is filled with little things that someone thought would be nice of at some point. We could just as easily get along without them, but they make life just a little bit easier. Those of us that have something to do with creating the things people use in their daily lives need to remember this when a discussion of the niceties comes about.

This last bit is for any restaurant POS system developers out there. Here are a couple more nice to have features you might think about:

  • Calculate the total check amount with some popular gratuity amounts added.
  • Split the grand total by the number of covers (diners) so each person knows what to pay.
  • Combine the two above mentioned features.

2 thoughts on “Functionalities

  1. I too love that little tip calculator and wish they all would do that. But I agree that it will never outweigh the food when choosing a restaurant.

    But in software, people are known for being fanatical fans of an app or OS just because of the little nice details that make it feel like the thing is really paying attention to your needs and it’s easy to get stuff done. So I’m a big believer in paying attention to the small stuff.

    I once had the idea for an uber-geek restaurant where the check would come with a little PDA showing the things you ordered and you could do a quick vote while you paid, rating the dishes that you had. Then the menu would rearrange itself daily based on what was popular. I was imagining reprinting the menu showing the items with their votes, like on digg.com. Kind of like Netflix goes to dinner. Hey, I did say uber-geek.

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