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Aug 22, 2005 03:49 PM

ground rules for dining out?

  • j

A group of six couples will be going out to dinner together for the first time. Some are big drinkers; some don't drink at all. Some are wealthy; some of more modest means. Some big eaters; others are dieters.

Are there some ground rules we can establish ahead of time to avoid the awkwardness of bill splitting? Separate alcohol tab? I don't want anyone to feel they were taken advantage of. Let me know what has worked for you.

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  1. What worked for me is avoiding dining out with five other couples.

    Good luck.

    1. Separate cheques.

      Otherwise it is a mess and someone ALWAYS gets hurt feelings for exactly the reasons you cite.

      13 Replies
      1. re: Sherri

        Many restaurants won't do that. I am a big believer in split the bill equally. In the end / over the years it all evens out. If it will upset you that much you shouldn't be going out with this group. Nothing worse than "well I only had..."

        1. re: chowgal

          I cannot say it any better than you, Chowgal. EXACTLY how I have always felt.

          1. re: dave g
            Janet from Richmond

            Hubby and I eat out with friends often and most are big drinkers/eaters but some are not. We split the bill by the number of couples. It's something of an investment in friendship.

            1. re: Janet from Richmond

              Just make a big impression and cover the whole tab.
              Now that's a big investment in friendship!

              1. re: Pablo

                I have a circle of friends I dine with once a month, and we just take turns paying the tab and picking the restaurant. That way we get to pick what we can afford, and look forward to five free meals before our next turn!

            2. re: dave g

              Thank you. I now realize how blessed I am to have such generous, never petty, fun-loving friends!

              1. re: chowgal

                I am with you. I have no patience for pettiness.

            3. re: chowgal

              I've never found these things even out in any appreciable way. The big eaters and drinkers are always the big eaters and drinkers, and the people who just order a salad, always just order a salad.

              If you can't get separate bills by couple (and if you ask at the beginning of the meal, there's no really good reason why a restaurant shouldn't be able to do this, though if you ask at the end, well, I dunno, you should probably be shot), I recommend splitting the bill by who actually had what - unless the salad only people all agree to the even split, without pressure from the other couples.

              Another method I've seen work fairly effectively is a split by course thing based on the average price of entrees. Everyone who had appetizers puts in $X, everyone who had a main throws in $Y, everyone who had dessert adds $Z, the drinkers toss in for their own drinks. That way, the only had a salad person pays either X or Y, depending on whether their salad was an app or a main, and the people who ate all three courses are carrying their share, but you're not calculating down to individual dishes and pennies.

              1. re: chowgal

                >>Many restaurants won't do that. I am a big believer in split the bill equally. In the end / over the years it all evens out.>>

                You don't know my brother-in-law. This guy always orders twice as much as everyone else and then says grandly, "Let's be adults and split the bill evenly." He and my sister can't get anyone to go out with them any more.

                1. re: bibi rose

                  I wouldn't go out with your bil either. What kind of person does that to their supposed friends?

                2. re: chowgal

                  HAving done this for many years, I have to disagree; it rarely evens out over the years, and can corrode friendships by the quiet resentments it creates. Which is not worth the convenience.

                  There can be no equal splitting without express prior consent of all (I am normally quite happy to do that, btw, and I often don't partake of cocktails et cet.) The default rule is each pays what he or she consumed. That's what's fair. And what's fair trumps what's convenient.

                  1. re: chowgal

                    I'm with you on that one. For the most part my friends and I always split the bill evenly, or one person offers to pay. I have one friend who always wants to split things by how much each person ordered. It always feels very crass and uncomfortable to most of us, so after several attempts to get him to agree to splitting evenly, we've stopped inviting him. Especially since he always gladly accepts the offer of being treated and has never been the group treater.

                    If a few bucks is going to cause resentment in friendships, I'd have to agree on questioning whether those are people you'd really want to be friends with.

                  2. re: Sherri

                    Call ahead to the place of your choice and ask if they will split checks - then when placing your reservation ask them to place a note by your resv stating your preference.

                  3. You have it figured out already - get a separate bill for alcohol. That's the single biggest factor in driving up the cost of the check. It's not fair for the non drinkers to pay a share of a $150 liquor bill.

                    All of the other methods of trying to parse the final bill to individual people are overly fussy and not the type of thing you want to handle at the end of the evening.

                    1. We can all tell you what we do.....

                      Amongst my group of friends we split evenly and know we've been friends long enough and will be friends long enough that in the end it'll even out. We try to be fair about alcohol and it works out (I don't drink at all but my husband is a big drinker, so that evens out with the moderate drinking couple).

                      .however, it MAJORLY depends on your particular group of friends. Are some cheap and picky and going to get all freaked out? If so, then perhaps call ahead for seperate checks. If not, then sort it out at the table. But don't forget TAX. We always forget tax and end up having to refigure.

                      Or go to a place with a fixed price? That might solve the entire issue.

                      As a side note: I disagree with the poster that said the person that is the big eater is always the big eater, and the salad eater is always the salad eater: sometimes I eat a late lunch and want a small salad, sometimes I haven't eaten all day and want a huge plate of SOMETHINg. But again, that's how I am and most of my friends are.....everyone is different.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: krissywats
                        Morton the Mousse

                        An easy way to do the tricky tax and tip calculations is to add 25%. Depending on your state's sales tax, 25% will include a gratuity between 15 and 20%. Adding a quarter to the cost of each dish is much easier than figuring 17% + 8%.

                      2. I don't have any good advice for you... at work we always split evenly (unless someone was clearly eating less -- a $4 bowl of soup amongst $12 entrees, for example). By unspoken agreement, those of us with bigger appetites pick up a cheque for the ones who don't eat as much now and then so that we ensure it works out.

                        Our friends at dinner, though... if the bill works out pretty evenly, we're likely to split it, but if it didn't, or if we have a huge group, we resort to parsing the cheque and writing names down on the back of it -- in university days we had more than one person try to skip out and leave the group $30 or $40 or $100 short (depending on how many people went). One infamous person, when told her dinner, with tax and tip, came to $24, handed over a $20 and then tried to get change back. Her latest trick is to say, "But you always overtip! I don't want to tip that much."

                        We have a hard and fast rule about calculating tax and tip -- you add 25% (8ΒΌ% tax and 16.75% tip) and round UP to the nearest $2 so the waitstaff, who had to deal with a group of 12 or whatever, don't get stiffed. A lot of places add the gratuity in for us.

                        It's not a good thing. I do have to say that I love my LG cell phone -- it has a tip calculator on it (MENU+8+3) that allows you to specify a percentage of tip and then split it amongst N people.