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Aug 9, 2010 10:20 AM

Splitting the bill etiquitte PRIOR to the dinner

I'm hoping to be arranging a dinner with about 15-20 people at a local tapas place and am curious for advice on the billing of the meal. In my group we sometimes split the bill evenly and sometimes split based on who ordered what. Sometimes there are people that order more drinks or more expensive items than everyone else, or those who always seem to fall a few bucks short from everyone else.

My question is: Is it rude to state the billing procedures prior to a dinner? i was thinking that in the general email invitation I would state that because it's tapas and everyone will be sharing plates and pitchers together, we would be splitting the check evenly. This way people go in knowing the situation and there aren't any uncomfortable moments when the check comes. Then again, would it be more fair to split the food and ask people to pay for their drinks? I'm curious for thoughts on the etiquette of this....

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  1. I think it's perfectly acceptable to let people know beforehand that you will be splitting the bill evenly, especially at a tapas place where sharing is the whole idea *and* where you will probably be ordering many, many more dishes than you would at a regular restaurant. Just explain it fully. I do have a question though:

    "Sometimes there are people that order more drinks or more expensive items than everyone else"

    Are those people the same people every time, taking advantage of the even bill splitting to order extravagantly for themselves? Because if they are, those people definitely get on the nerves of the people who don't do that. I'm basing my advice on the people I usually go out with, and we don't have (for example) a person who doesn't drink being asked to pay an equal share with someone who orders $50 worth of drinks for themselves. If that's what you are dealing with, you may want to go with splitting the food evenly and paying for drinks separately.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Buckethead

      I don't think it's "taking advantage" as much as ordering freely without realizing how unbalanced the ordering is. I tend to order what I want when I am out so I'm usually less bothered by this than others are. it's just something I think about when considering the etiquette. I am assuming that everyone will have at least a few drinks, so that balance shouldn't be too off given the number of people attending.

    2. I would clear this with everyone before you go, with this many people it's easiest to split the bill and get everyone to start their own drink tab and pay that separately. Then you don't have the situation where a few have to pay for those who drink the most or the most expensive so no bar tabs on the food bill.

      1. Well, if you are sharing all plates and pitchers of sangria, that's fine, but you may need some agreement about a cap on the numbers of pitchers that are covered, over which the indulgers pay for themselves....

        Otherwise, in a group of that size, there's likely to be significant variation on the beverage side of the tab, and the lushes need to pay up.

        1. I'd ask people to split the food evenly and pay for their own drinks. As a non-drinker, I always get so annoyed having to pay for others' drinks. Even among drinkers, not everyone is going to drink the same amount, especially if there are designated drivers in the group.

          1. I think it's great to set expectations ahead of time but, as some others suggest, non-drinkers/DDs shouldn't have to pony up for alcohol. I would hope that after a certain point, adults would all be cognizant enough to realize if they're ordering significantly more (booze or food) than others, and would offer to chip in more.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jdinsf

              I think most of us would hope for that, but in my experience it doesn't always happen. I drink very little alcohol, not more than one drink per evening/event. I've definitely had some otherwise very mature people "forget" how many drinks they had. The worst offenders are colleagues at the "group dinners" during our semi-annual research meetings. With people from seven different institutions with seven different policies on meal reimbursement, most people are conscious of the cost of their meal, but there are always 2-3 people who leave the rest of us scrambling.