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How to split the wine $, dining out w a group?

Sometimes when dining out with a group it makes sense to get separate checks. Someone orders the wine, and it gets put on that persons/couples check. Now what?

It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it seems like we have ordered the wine, and essentially just "comp" it to the table rather than make an issue of it. Usually someone hasn't had any wine, and it wasn't a pricy bottle, but....

Any experience or suggestions to share?

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  1. When we go out say with 2 other couples we split the check 3 ways. When someone gets detailed enough to add up "their" portion of the bill, that's the last time we go out to dinner with them.

    2 Replies
      1. re: FlyFish

        I don't disagree, except for the scenario of those who repeatedly over-order a great $ amount (compared to everyone else) and don't offer to pay extra. I'll take that a couple of times, then that's the last time for me too.

    1. I agree with the exception of dining with nondrinkers in which case we would offer to cover a larger percentage to cover alcohol unless it is minimal. I know of some people that have gotten a raw deal by dining with the "Opus One" crowd and they do not drink. That seems a bit unfair.

      1 Reply
      1. re: TonyO

        Or if that crowd orders a really expensive bottle of wine that not everyone can afford to pay for.

      2. Sometimes we're the drinkers, sometimes we're the couple that orders dessert. While we are perusing the menu we discuss who's having what casually and then the bill is already "understood" when it arrives.

        If you want to enjoy a meal with other couples, communication should be a no brainer!

        1. it doesn't sound like you're talking about a lot of wine, or expensive wine. say it's 3 couples and a $50 bottle. that's about $8 a person. if somebody is haggling over that, it would be my last dinner out with them. did everybody have the exact same number of courses for food?

          why does wine make people so uptight? i never ever order dessert, and don't expect to discount that off my portion.

          5 Replies
          1. re: hotoynoodle

            The jfoods do not drink and we also view this as a price of going out with friends. There are times when its just us and another couple where the other couple will drink >$100 of liquor and wine and we are hit with >$50 of their bill. At $10 who cares, when it starts moving to real money it does get a little annoying, but still it's our decision not to drink. To the person who does not order dessert, i have no problem ordering dessert when others aren;t to try to "even" things a little

            1. re: jfood

              i was using what seemed like the op's example. if my s/o and i ordered $100 worth of wine and our friends didn't drink, we would insist on paying for the wine. if this happens to you with the same couple often, i think they are taking advantage of you.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                In 25 years that has only happened once. My college roommate and his SO ordered a $150 bottle of wine. When the bill came he isisted on paying for the wine and splitting the rest. a real mensch.

                Maybe that's why i chose to live with him for three years.

            2. re: hotoynoodle

              I frequently dine with a few friends at "family" restaurants because some have kids, it's inexpensive and convenient. One of these people routinely orders an app (which I don't eat) a more expensive entree (I usually get a sandwich/salad type thing--I don't order high priced menu items at these restaurants) then dessert. His share of the bill is often around 25-30 bucks and mine is 12, plus tax/tip. Sorry, I'm not going to pay for more than half of his meal.

              Haggling over every nickel, I agree with you. But I'm not going to pay even 16 bucks/couple for something I did not partake in. I suppose some would consider that to be cheap, but I really don't care.

              1. re: marcia

                I agree with you, Marcia. I think some people on this board forget that not everyone has enough money to have the luxury of paying a big portion of someone else's meal. $16 taken out of one person's bank account, could equal the same percentage as $200+ taken out of someone else's bank account.

            3. Before ordering the wine simply say, "Wanna share a bottle of wine with us?" Split the cost of the wine accordingly.

              If it's going to cause any kind of awkward situation, order your wine by the glass and add it to your bill.

              1. If you are the person ordering the wine and want to order something nice and not make the other couple feel bad you should get up from the table to go the restroom and then go to your waiter/manager and hand them your credit card and ask that the wine be charged to you on a seperate check.

                Another option is to call the restaurant beforehand order and pay for your wine then so it won't be part of the bill later. A plus to this method is they can open and decant your wine prior to your arrival.

                1. Or ask the restaurnat to put the booze on a separate bill which can be split among the rinkers. Really easy to do before the meal, still pretty simple for the restaurant to handle after the order is taken if they ahve a good electronic computer cash register.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: deangold

                    For some reason I've never thought of doing that. This is great. We often go out with some non-drinking friends and subtract the alcohol from the total bill and split the rest. However, I always feel I'm not doing the math right and screwing up on the tip.

                  2. ...or if communicating with your dining companions is really that difficult select BYOB restaurants and enjoy your own wine.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: HillJ

                      So... I went out to dinner in Chicago with 4 aquaintances - we were all from out of town. We picked a tasty little Morrocan place that turned out to be BYOB. It was freezing cold out, but apparently there was a liquor store just a couple blocks away. Two of us decided that we wanted wine with dinner badly enough to make the trek to the grocery store. The other 2 didn't care that much. So we bought one bottle of wine for dinner. The waiter brought out 4 wine glasses and the other two women decided they would have a glass. :-( !!! I was less concerned about the cost of the wine, I was just expecting to get my 2 glasses of wine, and ended up muttering under my breath that, had we known, maybe TWO bottles of wine would have been appropriate. My bad, I know.

                      1. re: jennywinker

                        oh jenny, you're just the better friend!
                        when all else fails-smile...and keep pour'in the vino!

                        1. re: HillJ

                          About once a month, Hubby and I attend a local social club type of thing where two couples host and everyone BYOB. It's held at a center (much like a Moose lodge or something, not at someone's home). Anyway, Hubby generally takes Wild Turkey and Ginger (or Gin and tonics in the summer) and I bring a bottle of champagne for myself. Last month a friend's husband forgot her wine, and she started in on my champagne. I was NOT happy.

                          1. re: Janet from Richmond

                            Janet, you mean she didn't notice the big piece of masking tape with your name on the bottle! The nerve!

                    2. I think ti depends on the group and how often you go out with them. .

                      If you or they never drink then it is something that needs to be connunicated and agreed to before dinner especially if you do are expect to dine frequently together.

                      If they are the kind of people who are going to be annoyed at "buying" your wine, then pay for it seperately.

                      If you go out all the time and sometimes they drink and sometimes they don't but sometimes they order the $9 dessert and you don't then a different type of communicaiton takes place. There are actually people who thing that your $15 wine is a big deal but thier $9 dessert is not. Of course you may start asking yourself why you keep dining with these people.

                      As a CPA, thre have been countless times I have been handed a bill and told you figure out everyone's bill. I now warn friends that if they hand the bill to me I am going to divide by the number of couples at the table.

                      1. For the most part, I dislike quibbling over the bill in minute detail. However, when with people who are big drinkers this does become problematic, because my husband and are rarely drink, 1 glass for us could last an entire meal.

                        For instance we were out to dinner with another couple - very close friends. They ordered several cocktails prior to dinner. We ordered none. With dinner, we all ordered wine by the glass, since we all wanted to pair our wines with what we were eating. My husband and I, as mentioned, only had 1 glass each. The other couple had 2 glasses each. Of the 2 extra glasses, 1 of them turned out to be an extraordinarily expensive glass - the wife decided she wanted something "special" and told the waiter to bring her "the best" of a particular type of wine that they had available without asking the price. Who knows what the 1 glass cost? Could have been $25 for all I know - which I wouldn't be surprised at since all the wines were pricey to begin with.

                        After dinner - we all had coffee, however her husband wanted an after dinner drink as well. Their drink tab alone now must have climbed well over $100 while mine and my husbands was a mere $30. As for the food - all of us ate our meals rather equally, although they had an extra desert, of which I wouldn't have quibbled over splitting.

                        To make matters worse - the other couple aside from being good friends, well, HE is also now my boss! Wasn't always - became my boss in recent years.

                        So the bill arrives and do you think he offers to pay his and his wife's extra amount of alcoholic intake? Nope, because probably he's too buzzed probably to even think of it by now which should be taken into consideration in these cases.

                        So, I pipe up and turned to my husband and told him what to give the other couple as our share, being extremely generous with the tip, as we always are and still most likely paying for a portion of their drinking. I don't know if my friend/boss even realized how much we had or hadn't given at that point, he just wisked the cash from my husband and paid on his credit card.

                        It's all very tricky - even when you know someone very well. A girlfriend and I have it completely down pat tho. She's a completele lush and she knows I barely touch the stuff - so she just automatically puts in her extra share without even batting an eye. And I always do still wind up paying a little extra for my meal, because we don't sit there with a calculator trying to get it to the last cent - after all, we're best friends and in the end, for the two of us, it's more about the company than whether I paid an extra $10 for my meal or not.

                        But in the situation with my boss - that one really irked me because it really just got excessive between him and his wife, and with neither of them even remarking on the discrepany. BTW, we haven't been out to dinner with them since and they both keep asking us why we haven't made ourselves more available to do so. I'm having a hard time coming up with plausible excuses for much longer :-)

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: sivyaleah

                          I would find a great BYOB place and let them know ahead of time. They can bring as much booze as they need, or at least a beer/wine only place since they usually have a more reasonably priced list.

                          This may be getting into office politics but when dining with one's boss, friend or not, I kind of think they should pay. But thats for another topic.

                          1. re: matt

                            "This may be getting into office politics but when dining with one's boss, friend or not, I kind of think they should pay."

                            You'll get no argument from me on that one :-)

                            1. re: matt

                              byob isn't always an option. it's illegal in my state.

                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                thankfully hotoy..communication is legal in every state!
                                if we could all just communicate well, these issues would be so much easier for all of us. ho hum.

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  oh, i agree! watching people settle the bill sometimes makes me think we have a better chance of signing the kyoto agreement first!

                            2. re: sivyaleah

                              Did he actually suggest splitting the bill equally? Perhaps he just assumed (correctly, in this case) that you would pay your own share and they would pay theirs. It doesn't sound like he expected you to pay more to cover their drinking, more like he wasn't bothered either way.

                            3. If one person/couple is drinking the wine and the other/s aren't, then the ones who wanted it should pay for it seperately if you're splitting the check. Seems only fair to me!

                              1. I only dine with people who drink as heavily as I do. Never a problem, and we're usually past caring about formalities by the time the check arrives!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: hrhboo

                                  I'm with you! Only time it was a problem was when I got a call from the restaurant the next day and they gently explained that I had signed the bill, not the credit card receipt. Well, that was after 9 courses with wine pairings....

                                2. This is one of those situations that depend on the group and how close you are to the people you're dining with. If an individual is not a wine drinker and gets burnt lots of times because they just have 'regular' food and not the most expensive appetizer, entree and dessert on the menu, then I would ask the waiter beforehand for a separate check for the wine and alcohol. However, if an individual even has one glass of wine from the bottle then I believe they should split the cost of that bottle.

                                  Splitting the check at the end of the meal can be uncomfortable with a group unless everybody has agreed to split the check evenly. However, for the non-drinker this is not usually an even exchange. If it happens too often, speak up and ask that waiter for a separate tally.

                                  1. In addition to worring about themselves, I think people ought to "Be a mensch"
                                    and speak up if they notice somebody the party drifting in the direction of splitting
                                    the check evenly and that's clearly going to shaft somebody who just had a salad
                                    or no food and just joined the group for a drink and dessert etc.
                                    It's obviously a little awkward to single yourself out and much nicer if somebody
                                    else pipes up "um i think mary jane just had a salad and a glass of wine ... how
                                    about she throws in $15 and then we divide the rest."

                                    In my experience this is not uncommon when you get 8-9 singles/couples
                                    out on a friday night after work ... often somebody gets there late, has to leave early etc.
                                    Less of an issue at a smaller, more intimate dinner.

                                    sometime the "shaft factor" can be +100%! ... like the equal division might be
                                    $40 and somebody who "already ate" might only be liable for $15.

                                    1. Well, this has been a very interesting thread, and a number of good ideas have been proposed. However, NONE of them answered the question that I asked, which was: how to handle a situation where the "tablle" has asked for separate checks, and you have chosen (or been "appointed") to order wine for the table.

                                      This discussion, however, has actually answered the question for me by the sum of the replies. The answer is: if a table of diners has, for whatever reason, elected separate checks DO NOT order wine for the table. It's a losing proposition. If the "table" has a mindset that separate checks are necessary, that same mindset will ensure that you are going to be stuck with the wine tab, or at the least more than your share of same.

                                      As to the replies that said "hey, it's only a $300 difference per person, don't worry about it", that concept is good only if the difference is relatively minor for the participants. The question as proposed, and as it should be discussed here, is how to handle a situation where the difference is not minor, or happens too regularly to be ignored.

                                      Thanks everyone for your input.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Steve K

                                        Thanks for the add'l parameters of your question.

                                        1. re: Steve K

                                          In my circle of friends we usually consume a bottle per couple, so the first bottle goes on the first check and the second on the next etc. One bottle of wine is usually only four glasses so it doesn't go very far in a group. Alternatively, if this is frequently an issue for you then it's probably better to order by the glass.

                                          When the checks are presented at the end of the meal you could always ask your friends if they'd like to chip in for the wine.

                                          1. re: Steve K

                                            You're right some people are "begging the question" ["enjoy your dessert and the company
                                            and dont worry about it"], and other have gone on to interesting tangents [while you can
                                            certainly come back and clarify and re-focus, people are entitied to take things in in other
                                            relevant and topical directions in your own thread] ...

                                            I think the seperate checks part is an "administrative detail" and the issue up front is
                                            establishing the liability for the wine $$$. If you are the "special master", you could say
                                            something like "I recommend bottle A at $a, or bottle B at $b ... who is in?" Presumable
                                            only the participants in consumption will discuss and vote ... and this sort of makes them
                                            complicit in the decision making. After you pick A or B, you can say, "ok, that'll be about
                                            $a/n * 1.25 for the n drinkers" ... so that lays down the marker. Say $50 wine with 4 drinkers ...
                                            $15 each. Are you saying if you do the separate checks thing and it is established that one
                                            couple owes you $15*2, you wont be able to collect $30 in some "out of band" fashion?

                                            I have to say, beyond a point you do have to ask if you are being taken advatage of.
                                            If the people are being "conveniently forgetful", the issue is about them and not about
                                            accounting. And these things happen in many contexts ... somebody flakes on a cultural
                                            event or a movie after asking you to get him a ticket, how diligent are they at assuring
                                            you are made whole etc.