Splitting the Bill

After a wonderful meal with great company, there is no worse way to finish the dining experience than having confusion over the bill. No matter the circumstance, a business meal, a group of friends, or a celebration in honor of someone, this type of confusion can always make attendees feel uncomfortable. In order to avoid any awkward moments, here are my tips for splitting the bill:

  1. Splitting the bill can be a touchy subject – The following are important to keep in mind as you plan group meals.
    • People do not want to “get stuck” paying for the expensive meals, additional appetizers, or alcoholic beverages of others when they do not consume the same. Not everyone can afford the same thing and it is important to keep this mind when you decide how to pay the bill.
      • Food for Thought: When the bill is split evenly between people who did not actually order things costing the same amount, those who are charged more often deduct from the tip. This is not the right thing to do as is not fair to the servers, but it does happen in an attempt to save money.
    • If going out as couples, it is often easiest to split the total as an even amount per couple; however, keep the first bullet point in mind!
    • Ordering as a group? First make sure everyone is OK with “family style” dining then agree to evenly split the bill for the food. If everyone is not consuming alcohol or ordering separate drinks (versus sharing a bottle of wine), considering getting a separate check for the drinks so that is appropriately split.
    • Bringing cash (and a variety of bill amounts) when you know you will be splitting the bill is a good idea. You do not want to owe anyone money after the fact or be responsible for holding up paying.
      • For those who are comfortable with digital payment methods, consider using the apps like Venmo and PayPal.
  2. If you plan to split the bill – Always make the plan known ahead of time!
    • If you are the organizer for a group get together, but you are not the host, you should let attendees know ahead of time the bill will be split. After receiving the R.s.v.p. list, send a confirmation note to all attendees including “reminders” and stating the plan for the bill.
      • For example: “A request to split the total for brunch as individual bills has been made of the restaurant. Brunch will be divided by what you order, not split evenly among everyone, in order to be fair to all. Thank you for understanding!”
    • If you make a reservation for a larger number of people, call the restaurant and ask if separate checks for a large group is possible. Also, ask if gratuity is added for a group of your size. Some establishments are unable to do separate checks; therefore, it is important to let your attendees know in advance if paying in cash will be necessary.
      • For example: “Please bring cash for dinner or have Venmo setup. We have been told splitting the check between several credit cards is not possible; therefore, having cash/Venmo will make it easier for us to divide the cost ourselves.”
    • Always tell your server you wish to split the bill when he/she begins taking orders. This way, when you order, your server can enter your drinks and meals as separate checks.
      • It is very frustrating for servers to receive a joint bill back that says, “Put $25.51 on the red card, $34.22 on the blue card, etc..”
  3. Ultimately, who is responsible for the bill?
    • Typically, if your boss/manager is present and extended the invite then it is his/her responsibility to cover the bill.
    • Similarly, with client lunches/dinners or interviews that take place over a meal, the hosting business is responsible for the bill.
    • If you are hosting a meal out for friends, family, etc., the cost of the meal and gratuity is your responsibility. Think of it as hosting at your home – You do not ask guests to pay for their meal in your home when you host; therefore, you should not expect them to pay when you extend the invitation to join you out for a meal.
    • If you are out to celebrate a special occasion for someone (birthday, promotion, etc.), it is customary that his/her bill is covered by the other people at the table. As a guest, be prepared to split the honoree’s tab!
    • If you are asked to evenly split a bill for a group whose meals are clearly not equal in cost, speak up in a polite manner to the person who is overseeing bill. Simply saying, “Excuse me, everyone did not order equal amounts and I think it would be unfair to expect each other to make up for our portions. May we split the bill based on our meals?”
      • If this is the plan ahead of time, but you know you will not consume at the same level as the other guests, you may ask the server to split out only your portion. This allows everyone else to evenly split the bill and for you to pay the appropriate amount for yourself.

No matter your age or the setting, splitting the bill is typically an uncomfortable situation to navigate. I hope these tips help you find a solution easily and relieve you of some dining out anxiety in the future!

Cheers, y’all!

AB

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