Dining out with others, especially a larger group, can result in some uncertainty about how to divide the bill at the end of the meal. There are two simple ways to share a restaurant bill with others. Both require having an understanding upfront about the nature of the dining out experience and what the expectations might be. An easy way to save confusion and embarrassment right from the start is to ask the waiter or waitress for separate checks, if the intention is to have everyone take responsibility for their own meal. Many restaurants are more than happy to accommodate you if you make your request at the time of ordering.
If you neglect to make this request upfront, or if this particular restaurant has a policy against separate checks, it is sometimes best to simply divide the check equally among the diners when the bill comes at the end of the meal. If you dine with the same people often, there is no need to worry about everybody paying their fair share; it all evens out eventually.
There are some potential problems that can come into play if you decide to divide the bill equally at the end of the meal. If one person dines on a salad and another orders the prime rib and lobster dinner special, there is certain to be inequity in the division of charges. In this case, the person ordering the larger, more expensive meal should voluntarily speak up and offer to cover his or her own disproportional share of the bill. In the event the offending party appears oblivious to the higher cost of his meal, it is not at all inappropriate to point out the difference to him. Just do so discretely or with a casual comment about the high market price of specialty menu items.
Occasionally, in the situation where a couple is dining out together on a semi-formal dating type of arrangement, there may be confusion about who should pick up the bill. Tradition suggests this is the province of the man to treat at dinner but modern day male/female relationships have moved away from this scenario quite a bit. Today, women are willing and often insistent on paying their own way in their social circles. Dining out in the dating world is often handled as “Dutch treat” where each party pays their own way. Another option to this scenario is for the man to pick up the bill one time and the woman to pick up the bill on the next outing, alternating back and forth.
The critical point when dining out and paying the bill is that you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you or other members of your dinner party are embarrassed. In order to avoid that happening, it is always best to reach an agreement ahead of time. If someone is willing to pick up the tab for the others, courtesy and good manners suggests that this is made clear before anyone places an order for their food.
1. Going Dutch
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3. How to Split the Bill When Eating Out with Your Friends