So the wife and I were up at WonderCon last week, and for lunch we toddled over to Chevy's, a chain restaurant across from the Moscone Center.
Now for the most part (actually, for any occasion) that I've been at a restaurant with sit-down, wait staff service, you get all your food and drinks squared away first, and only at the end do you get the check and pay (and tip).
To my unpleasant surprise, this particular Chevy's had adopted a "convention policy", which was not made clear to us until over an hour had passed since we were seated. It did not really gel until the check was placed on the table, and, thinking it was a mistake, I pointed out we hadn't even gotten our food yet, much less finished it.
So then the waitress explained that, since we were on the patio and had indicated we would be paying in cash (which we thought was a strange question when she'd asked it earlier, but again, not explained why they were asking), we were required to pay for our food ahead of time to avoid the possibility of us skipping out on the bill (had we intended to use a credit card, they would have taken and held it hostage for the same reason).
At that point I politely requested to be billed for the drinks, paid for those, and we left. It's not so much that the service was so slow (though that certainly didn't help), but that I was frankly offended by the policy itself, and would have at least liked to have had it stated up front so I could have found somewhere to eat with less in the way of trust issues.
So exactly how common is this? I had a panel to get to, but my wife and her friend went to another restaurant nearby the Moscone Center that operated in the usual "pay at the end" mode and had a good experience, and I've never had an experience like this at San Diego or Long Beach.
I probably won't feel any less offended if I hear it's common practice around other conventions, but eh... I'm at least curious.