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Asking people to join you for dinner

What is the best way to word an invitation (verbally) to ask people to join you for dinner so that it's understood that you are requesting their company, but not necessarily offering to foot their bill?

I don't really want to get into more detail at this point, so I'm wondering if there is a neutral way of issuing an invitation without implying that you are hosting. TIA!

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  1. "Would you like to join us for dinner? We'll be going to Blabbity blabbity on 57th street at 7 p.m., let me know by 4 so I can make the reservation."

    5 Replies
    1. re: tzurriz

      Phrasing it that way would make me think you were paying, and that's something I don't usually think people mean.

      1. re: pollymerase

        Really? Wow, okay different interpretations I guess.

        I'd think asking someone to join you would imply that it is not a hosted event. For a hosted dinner I'd say something more like "I'd like to take you out for dinner . . ."

        Joining, to me, implies that I am going, and if they want to tag along at their own expense, that would be great.


        1. re: tzurriz

          As R&R says below, I think the word join is what makes me think it is hosted. Also the request essentially for an RSVP.

          Personally, I'd show up ready to pay and wouldn't be upset in the least, however since the OP is worried about the implication of the verbiage, it makes me think that the people she wants to dine with might expect not to pay.

          1. re: pollymerase

            I'm with you on this, pollym. Totally sounds like you're a guest.

          2. re: tzurriz

            That was similar to how I phrased things, though it was a "pick one" with two dinners and two lunches, spread out over Metro Denver. Most assumed that we would pick up the tabs. In the end, we did, but that was not our intention.

            I would have thought that if we were buying, the invitation would have been more in line with, "We are hosting two dinners and two lunches, and ask that you join us, at the most convenient location, and meal. Our treat!"

            However, perceptions and reality were not in alignment for us.


      2. "Would you like to get together for dinner?"

        If someone asked me in that way, I would in no way think they were inviting (paying).

        1. In my group of friends, an invitation to dinner out means you're hosting and you are paying, so unless the custom is different for you, I'd say "Dutch treat" or something like that. But if your friends do this often and everyone understands that people pay their own way, you probably don't need to worry.

          19 Replies
          1. re: Isolda

            I've always found this topic so fascinating. I'm honestly curious to know if you ever just make an off-hand comment to a friend like, 'want to go grab a bite to eat tonight?' and not mean it as 'I'm inviting you out for dinner?' I mean that quite honestly. I'm starting to wonder if whenever I have proposed getting together to eat somewhere if people were always expecting me to pay. I've certainly never expected someone else to pay for me in those situations in which they proposed getting together to eat/drink.

            1. re: pollymerase

              I really don't think that they were expecting you to pick up the check! We eat out a lot with different couples and unless one of us specifies that we are taking the other couple out for a special occasion or to return an invitation no one would expect the other couple to pick up the check. Some of these responses seem pretty weird. If I suggest going to a specific restaurant that means I am suggesting that I am picking up the tab? No way.

              1. re: Mother of four

                i think when its a dinner with couples its much easier to assume that the inviter will not always be paying for the invitees dinner. when it is two single though (especially of opposite sexes).... much harder to tell

                1. re: mattstolz

                  Like a date??? I'm of the older generation if I was asked out by a male he was expected to pick up the check. What goes on now, I have no idea!

              2. re: pollymerase

                Oh, sure. In the example you cite, things are a lot more casual, and we'd each pay our own way. But in the OP's case, it sounds as if she's thinking of a more formal invitation, or perhaps I misunderstood. And to clarify, our friends are all generally in the same socioeconomic category, so if someone invites you to dinner with them, they usually intend to pay, although there's certainly a lot of bill grabbing at the end of the meal. And if it's several couples, then we usually split the bill.

                1. re: Isolda

                  Yes, this exactly, Isolda. I wasn't asking about situations with close friends. I was talking about perhaps a business colleague or someone you don't know very well.

                  The question is pretty simple... is there a certain wording that clearly establishes that you are being asked (or asking someone) to dinner but that it's dutch treat? Treating someone to dinner is easy.... "Hey, I want to take you out for dinner, my treat." We do this with friends all the time. We also eat out with friends and dutch treat is understood. But those are good friends. That's why in this case, we had a laugh with this couple about treating us... because they are good friends and it was unexpected (to be treated). Jockying for the bill was a little awkward... with the waiter involved, too. The husband said, "No, we asked you to dinner!" and then the conversation just organically turned to how to word invitations to make it clear either way. Making it clear that you are treating seemed to be pretty easy (even though the husbands did not manage to communicate this for this particular dinner LOL!)

                  I know with the economy the way it is, some would like to go to a meal with others, but can't swing the bill for everyone. It would be REALLY uncomfortable if the other party assumed they were being treated and then that to NOT be the case once they are at the restaurant. During this conversation with our (close) friends we agreed that we really were not sure how you would word it to make it clear to less familiar people that you want company, but not treat. I don't think anyone would want to be in an awkward situation on either side of this situation with someone that you don't know so well.

                  1. re: velochic

                    "It would be nice to get together for dinner. What do you think?"

                    Maybe throw in something like "...at a place we could agree on where we could each order food each likes for themselves while we continue our interesting discussions from today..."

                    1. re: velochic

                      "I know with the economy the way it is, some would like to go to a meal with others, but can't swing the bill for everyone."
                      With due respect, that is an interesting way of perceiving the situation. You're saying that the folks doing the asking out - due to economic hard times - cannot afford the expectation of paying for other fellow diners that they've asked out. But the diners being asked out are put into a position of having to incur the expense of a meal out on the town that they'd previously not planned for, despite, as you say, difficult economic times... If I as the 'asker' am benefiting (freely) by the pleasure of the company of pleasant fellow diners, why is the 'askee' benefiting (at a cost) for the pleasure of your company? I know they are simply paying for the food that they've selected, but as I said, a minute before your asking them out, they had no expectation of an unplanned dinner out... Just askin'...

                        1. re: silence9

                          Like Karen said, those being invited can say, "Oh, I appreciate the invitation, but it's not in the budget right now. Thank you, though." At which point, the person doing the inviting could say, "Well, perhaps some other time." or they could say, "Oh, I'd like you to be my guest." If this kind of interaction happened, then clear lines would be drawn without any discomfort on anyone's part, however, they don't usually happen. Unfortunately assumptions are often made and they are sometimes wrong. It would be nice to not have any misunderstanding from the start, but perhaps (and this is what I eventually concluded from this thread) there is not an easy way to avoid that without being comfortable enough with the other party to discuss it further. Even a carefully worded invitation can be misinterpreted and there is no particular wording, other than being blunt, that is universally accepted to understand "dutch treat" or "our treat". Personally, when we invite, we plan to pay. When we are invited, we plan to pay for ourselves, and absolutely would pay for the others if the occasion called for it). If you read further, you'll find out that the situation arose from the latter and was just part of a friendly discussion.

                          1. re: velochic

                            Hi.. Yup, I do read every reply on a thread before chiming in with my two cents. I was just replying to the OP's original post which proposed a different scenario than what she later revealed to be the case (why that was necessary in the first place, I have no idea)... As for KarenDW's reply above yours, of course the 'askee' can always "just say no". It simply seemed important that the "asker" be aware that the same rough economic times that prevent them from treating others, also applies to the 'askee' who may or may not have budgeted for an unexpected meal at a resto. It would seem to be an assumption to think that treating four other 'guests/invitees' is more economically difficult than a couple straining to pay for their own 'unplanned' dinner. Like comparing my toothache to someome else's migraine headache. Pain is pain... That said, I appreciate your well-considered reply, Velochic...

                            1. re: silence9

                              I am the OP. In my original post I gave no "scenario". At the time it didn't seem necessary.

                              1. re: velochic

                                You said: "In my original post I gave no "scenario".
                                From your original post:
                                "...to ask people to join you for dinner so that it's understood that you are requesting their company, but not necessarily offering to foot their bill?"
                                The operative word above is "you", as in _you_ are requesting one thing and not the other. That's the scenario as I understood it. You were, in essense asking the forum how _you_ could accomplish this. That's the way it was read, anyway...

                                1. re: silence9

                                  Ah, I see what you're saying now.

                                  1. re: velochic

                                    Thanks. I didn't mean to be pedantic. I understand your points better now, too. Peace...

                    2. re: pollymerase

                      This has been my feeling, as well. I cannot recall any meal out, where I assumed that someone else would be paying, and if they started to pick up the tab, I would immediately offer a card to pay for my share, or even more. That is just how I am.

                      Still, with simple invitations, my friends though otherwise. My bad.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        My thoughts, exactly, Hunt. I would NEVER go to dinner in any circumstance expecting someone else will pay, no matter who invited who or how the invitation is worded. Obviously, things are done differently in the US, but here people generally expect to pay their own way when accepting an invitation to dinner out.

                        1. re: TheHuntress

                          I'm in the US ... if it's not a date, and if the other person hasn't specifically said, I want to take you to dinner, my assumption is that I'm paying. I always have 'entertainment' money budgeted ...

                    3. re: Isolda

                      Yes, specifiy at the beginning that it's Dutch Treat and follow it up with what the average price of a dish or meal at that restaurant costs.
                      Sometimes you can't count on subtle hints like " Let's try out this restaurant!" vs. "Let me take you out for dinner!"
                      But like Isolda says, usually whoever invites, pays. My friends and I take turns, the inviter paying the meal, the guest pays the tip.

                    4. How about something like, "Want to meet for dinner someplace?" Then you can discuss where, so they have a say in the decision. If you invite them someplace specific, they'll probably assume you're treating.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Glencora

                        I agree that "meet" is the key word. "Join" sort of implies you are inviting them ala a paying host. But "We're going to X restaurant tomorrow night. I know you guys like that place too and wondered if you wanted to meet us there." I wouldn't think anyone would expect you to pay with that kind of suggestion.

                      2. I'd suggest the restaurant or a few from which to select with their price points (mid-twenties for entrees or $30 prix fixe) with the hope that my indication of the price of the meal was a signal that everyone would be paying their own way (otherwise why would I tell them the cost).

                        1. IMO Clearly hosting:

                          A written mailed invitation

                          If the words celebrate/party/etc. are used

                          If they verbal invitation is followed with "my treat"
                          "I would like to take you to dinner"

                          Clearly not hosting:

                          "Dutch treat"

                          Anything else (Join us? Want to meet for dinner?) I would assume that they aren't paying and prepared to pay for my own meal.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: viperlush

                            Ditto, viperlush.

                            I would add "be my guest" to "my treat" and "I would like to take you to dinner."

                            IMHO clear communication is the key.

                          2. I have never been invited to a dinner where I thought the person who invited me would pay. I think it depends what culture you are from.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: dryrain

                              That's what I think. I'm surprised that so many have responded that if asked, they expect to be treated. Nothing wrong with that, must be cultural.
                              I just never assume getting together for dinner out means anything other than everyone paying their own way.
                              Unless it's a party or celebration with invite.

                            2. Unless it was for a special occasion, it would never occur to me that a simple invitation to go out to eat would be considered "hosting. In my social circle (and when I've extended/accepted invitations from acquaintances) it's always assumed such a meal would be Dutch.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: LeoLioness

                                i think what you say is likely the average. Culture, group and social norms then dictate what deviates from this typical or generalizable situation.

                                If a friend says to me:

                                "Want to grab some lunch"
                                "Want to join me for dinner"
                                "Let's get something to eat"

                                or anything remotely close to that, it seems presumptuous and extremely risky to assume the other person may be treating . Adding a clause at the end of the sentence, like "it's my treat", "it's on me", or something like that, establishes the person intends or desires to fit the bill. Or, as someone stated above, stating something like "i would like to take you out to dinner" would suffice. I think most people believe social (US) etiquette requires us to not assume another person is treating unless it is explicit.

                                Of course, as i said earlier, other norms may override what i think is the logical thought process outlined directly above. Family, bosses (i.e. obvious power differentials in the relationship) and dates also may deviate from the common standard.

                                To directly answer the OP's question, I would assume the person you are inviting may have some expectations that you are treating (because of previously established norms or, let's face it because sometimes we meet people like this, that person may not have much tact). I would add a "dutch treat" to the sentence. Or make the invitation as ordinary as possible - or, better yet, word it such that the person doesnt feel obligated to join - obligation may implicitly compel the person to believe that since he's going out of his way to join you for dinner, then you better treat. Careful wording connoting equality - "lets get dinner together" i think would suffice.

                              2. "Feel like going out tonight?" My friends would never think that I meant I would be paying the bill.

                                1. If the invitation involves "we'd like to take you out to dinner", or "come for my birthday dinner", etc then I presume the inviter is paying for the invitee. If it's "want to get together Friday", "we're going to X tonight if you'd like to join us" or the like then I presume we are joining them for their company and not their wallet.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: gourmanda

                                    Good choice of terms/words. Wish that I had been more exacting, when I asked if my friends could meet us for lunch/dinner.

                                    No longer have the verbiage of the invitation now (back in 1998), but it was along the lines of "We will be in town for X days, and have chosen two restaurants for lunch, and two for dinner, over those days. We would love for you to join us, plus other friends to talk about life, and how it's changed, over the last few months."

                                    Should have said that we were having meals, and if they could join us, and pay for their meals, we'd love to see them.

                                    Still, I could afford to pay, so all was not lost, but I was a bit blind-sided, that most thought that I was hosting them. Fortunately, we only had about 30 friends, so the total of all bills was only about US $ 3000 for all four meals, including wines.

                                    Did a mini-version last week, and only met with four friends for two dinners. In those cases, I paid, and intended to do so. In each case, I had to fight a bit, to do so.

                                    Also, one couple had picked us up at the airport, on a previous trip, and had the full dinner ready for us, in our hotel room. I provided the wines, but they were our "limo," and picked up the tab for dinner. I owed it to them, but still had to fight to pay.


                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I think if you chose the restaurants and invited your friends to join you there would have been an expectation that you were hosting, particularly if your friends know that you can afford to pay and think they might be insulting you by trying to pay for their own meals.

                                      If you didn't intend to host the email should go something like "We will be in town from X to Y and would love to see you, plus other friends to talk about life, and how it's changed, over the last few months. We would like to go to A and B for lunch, C and D for dinner, but we are open to other suggestions".

                                  2. There is no circumstance at all in which I'd assume someone else was paying.
                                    Is this an American thing?

                                    10 Replies
                                    1. re: Peg

                                      I'm American (33, female) and I don't assume someone else is paying, I assume I'M paying if I do the inviting.

                                      If it's a very close friend, sister, etc., we usually split the bill.

                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                        If I have to foot the bill for you one more time...

                                      2. re: Peg

                                        Dunno if it's American, but I'd never assume, either. The only time I feel the need to explain is if it is our kids!! Love em to pieces, but they can still feel a little entitlement!! And most times we do treat, but we have tight $$ times too.

                                        1. re: Nanzi

                                          What's nice is that occasionally our kids actually do pick up the check. And you know what, we let them! Heck, they are all making a very nice living! Really nice to have adult kids! :)

                                        2. re: Peg

                                          I'm with Peg - is this an American thing? No-one that I know would ever consider an eating-out invitation to be the initiator's treat. The default assumption would be that everyone pays for themselves.

                                          1. re: Billy33

                                            I doubt it is "an American thing". (...and by "American" I suppose you mean USAmerican?).

                                            I grew up with distinct British & Chinese influences and I can assure you that if someone INVITED me or my parents to dinner it would be as a guest, i.e. the HOST inviting me/us would be expected to pay. Again, it's in the language that is used. See any number of posts elsewhere in this thread.

                                            Maybe it's IS more generational after all, this different interpretation. How old are you and Peg?

                                            1. re: huiray

                                              I'm late 40's.
                                              Very, very late.

                                          2. re: Peg

                                            American here. I would never assume the other person was paying. Especially if it was another dude.

                                            1. re: Peg

                                              I never assume someone else is paying unless they say that point blank.

                                            2. I'm actually very surprised. I've been asking people to dinner for years and no one has ever assumed I'm paying save for if it's their birthday. The same is true when I've been invited; I've never assumed (save for first dates).

                                              3 Replies
                                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                  If any of my friends actually assumed so then we can't be as good friends as I thought or they would have said something.

                                                  1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                                    I don't just mean friends. I mean acquaintances, colleagues, etc. Those are the people I've found usually pay for one another.

                                              1. I agree with what many others have said - it depends entirely on the norms of your social group, and your relationship with the person you're inviting. Among my friends, the standard is to split the check, and we only treat others on special occasions (i.e. birthday girl/guy never pays for their own dinner).

                                                If I were concerned my dining companion may expect me to treat, then I would go with "let's go to _____ for dinner..."

                                                1. Among my friends, I don't think it would be assumed that the person doing the inviting would be paying unless specificed. If you have a specific place in mind you could give an estimate of the cost per person.

                                                  1. If there's a group, you can say, "A few of us are getting together for dinner if you'd like to join us." I wonder if this is an age thing. I always expect to split the bill. My mom said people splitting the bill makes her uncomfortable.

                                                    1. I wonder if it is a generational thing. If my parents go out to eat with another couple they have always assumed that whoever did the inviting is paying, unless it is a large group. At the same time they were always prepared to pay their share.

                                                      Among my friends dutch treat is always assumed unless someone specifies that it is their treat. When we know that someone has been hit with unexpected expenses, car in the shop, child returns home, hours cut at work, etc. we usually make sure to let the person know that they are being hosted.

                                                      There should be no compunction about being specific about payment, but it does seem easier when you are offering to pay. In these economic times when virtually everyone is a bit strapped for cash, just be up-front if it is a shared expense meal. If things aren't clear, don't accept the invitation if you can't afford it.

                                                      I have never seen a situation where the person doing the inviting didn't expect to at least cover their own share.

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                        I must be your parents' generation. If I ask you to join me for dinner (or any other meal) I assume I'm hosting and paying, likewise if you are my generation and ask me to join you. If one of my nieces, nephews, etc suggests that I join them for a meal out, you can be sure that Uncle B is picking up the check. I work for myself, so am not involved in officemates going to lunch or after work drinks, but when I was it was always dutch treat unless someone was being feted on their birthday or retirement.

                                                        Basically, If I ask (INVITE) you to join me, then I pay. If I state in conversation that I'm having dinner at XXX tonite at 8 and you ask to join me, we each pay our own way. You have invoited yourself to share my company.

                                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                                          Yes, it must be a generational thing. Our friends are all late 40s to early 60s.

                                                          1. re: Isolda

                                                            I agree, in a broad sense. (I am of that age bracket) If someone said "Please join us for dinner at xxx" I would assume they intend to pay (unless I specifically knew they were not the paying type). Ditto if I said "Would you like to join me for dinner" or "Please join me for lunch..." or "Please come to dinner with me at yyy..." - I am intending to pay for all.

                                                            I would tend to interpret the phrase "How about getting together at xxx to get some dinner, or would you prefer some other place..." to mean going dutch.

                                                          2. re: bagelman01

                                                            "...but when I was it was always dutch treat unless someone was being feted on their birthday or retirement."
                                                            A young fella at my former work place once set up a lunch, inviting people in the group to join him and go out to lunch on the occasion of his birthday. E-invitations from him through the networked calendar. Folks accepted, went as a group to the restaurant he invited folks to. When the check came he just sat back and waited. After a brief awkward pause our boss picked up the check and said that well, he guessed we (the rest of the group) was taking the inviter out for his birthday and divided the bill amongst the group sans the inviter.

                                                            Dunno, but I felt ripped off - I did feel that since he invited, he should have paid, and it felt like a scam to me. The critical phrasing, in any case, is "I invite you out to lunch/dinner...".

                                                            In my view, a casual affair in the work place to celebrate someone's birthday should be set up by colleagues/friends of the birthday person (or retiree, award winner, etc) along the lines of "Johnny's birthday is this Thursday, let's take him out to lunch, would you like to join in..." etc. If the boss initiates it, care should be taken by him to extend it to everyone under him in turn when their respective birthdays come up!

                                                            If I invited folks - whether work colleagues or not - to join me for dinner or lunch to celebrate my birthday, in my mind I was hosting and fully intended to pay for all. Even when I was growing up any "birthday dinners" I and my folks/parents were invited to were always the treat of the inviter/birthday person. Alternatively perhaps an invite would be extended by so-and-so to celebrate their parent's birthday, that sort of thing. One brought a present, but one did not "split the bill".

                                                        2. This came up with one of my friends recently. Her hubby had fractured his hip so she had been at home a lot doing chores and running errands and helping him etc. A girlfriend called her about 3 weeks into the hip fracture and said, 'oh poor you stuck at home so much I must take you out for dinner, I'll pick you up at 8 tomorrow.'
                                                          The friend arrived with no restaurant planned or any clue where to go. They eventually went to a local restaurant and the other woman told my friend when they got there that she had already eaten so she would just have a glass of wine!! This caused my friend a lot of embarrassment as she didn't want to eat while being watched so she just ordered an appetizer and small salad. The other woman helped herself to the food anyhow!
                                                          When the check came the other woman picked it up and said to my friend 'it's $xx each'.

                                                          Now wouldn't you expect the other woman to pay since she was the one that did the inviting?

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: smartie

                                                            Now that's a whole different situation. My friends and I always split the check (except for birthdays, when the group chips in for the celebrant's meal). But if I was stuck in the house for weeks and a friend called and said "I must take you out for dinner," I would naturally assume it was her treat.

                                                            And if that friend had already eaten? Bizzare.

                                                          2. I am over 60. We have friends from South America. I asked them once if they wanted to go out for dinner, and she said only if we weren't "inviting" them. That is the term they used for being asked out with the inviter paying. In general, I just ask folks if they want to get together for dinner and let's agree on a restaurant. But then none of us are shy about making it clear they it's everybody pays for themselves. (I do remember when I was in my 20s going out for a special dinner where I was very careful what I ordered being on a very tight budget while others ordered bottles of champagne and then being expected to pony up my "fair share." Got much clearer on this after that.)

                                                            1. Oh Velochic- can't believe I never noticed you here. I guess its good to know your attitude and approach is consistent between sites!

                                                              Why can't you just say "Do you want to go to dinner soon? Be fun to catch up. Any interest in trying out XYZ?"

                                                              1. A lot depends on your circle. My ex-BIL's group always made a big to-do about who would pay. Most of that was for show since it seemed to rotate fairly evenly.

                                                                My parents (70's-80's) used to alternate with friends. Now that things are tighter their group seems most comfortable with split checks.

                                                                In my circle it has always been known that it's Dutch treat unless specified as "my treat".

                                                                When I'm asking someone newish to join me and I'm unsure how they will interpret the request I usually use humor to make a potentially sticky situation smoother. Something like:

                                                                "Well, I have good news and bad news...the bad news is my lottery ticket didn't come in - the good news is we'd love for you to join us at XYZ Friday if you can swing your portion!"

                                                                They laugh (I'm fortunate to have gracious friends) and everyone is immediately on the same page with no worries!

                                                                1. I'll explain a little about what happened. We were actually on the receiving end. The wording was, "Would you like to join us for dinner at XYZ tomorrow night?" We took that as an invitation to join them, but that they weren't hosting (i.e. dutch treat). It was a husband to husband invitation and us wives are better friends, so I don't think there would have be an miscommunication if she and I had talked. She would have just said, "Hey we want to treat you to a night out.". Dh assumed that we were not guests, but just joining them and paying our own way. When he told me about the invite, it sounded like that to me, as well, since we've done this before. We enjoy their company greatly, so when they are free and we don't have plans, we like to get a chance to get together with them. It's not usually in a restaurant, though, but cards and dessert at our house, so it's not a regular occurrence.

                                                                  At the meal there was some awkwardness because we expected to pay our portion, but at the point the check arrived, it was evident that they wanted to treat us. It was no big deal and these are good friends. But I was wondering if there is a way to word things (for future reference both on the giving and receiving end of invitations) that makes it obvious. In this situation we were with great friends and we laughed about it and thanked them for a wonderful meal, but it got me thinking if there is a certain wording that makes it dutch treat or hosted. Thanks for your thoughts.

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: velochic

                                                                    if there are no established group specific norms, i think you just have to make it explicit.

                                                                    "Hey we want to treat you to a night out."
                                                                    "Would you like to join us for dinner at XYZ tomorrow night? It's on us."
                                                                    "Would you like to be my guest for dinner"

                                                                    as far as i know, there are no less explicit or more veiled statements or words that would convey that a person is hosting/treating - at least any that are more or less universal.

                                                                    1. re: majordanby

                                                                      I think it's easy to make it clear you will be paying for someone else, I think the OP is asking how you word the opposite--when you will not be paying but want their company.

                                                                      1. re: escondido123

                                                                        Tell them to bring their wallets...

                                                                        1. re: escondido123

                                                                          Unless someone uses the language majordanby suggests, I assume the check will be divided equally among everyone dining out.

                                                                          If you're dining with someone you eat out with regularly, sometimes taking turns to pick up the check is the norm. If you're on a first date usually a gentleman will pick up the check (after he has planned the date . . . be it coffee, brunch, dinner, etc.).

                                                                    2. How about........

                                                                      I'm going out to dinner and I'd like you to come.....but I'm not paying for you.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. Tough one. I'm not from the US so some of the customs are foreign to me. To give you an example. I have been invited for a birthday party dinner and in my country the birthday boy or girl is responsible to foot the bill. Here I found out on several occasions, that when you are invited you pay your own meal. It is as foreign to me as paying for incoming calls lol. Where I am from you only pay for outgoing call the calls you make to another person. But since I bumped my head a few times I learned that if I would say: I am having dinner at x or y. Do you have dinner plans maybe you can accompany me if you don't have other plans. I'll be there around x time and will probably leave around x time. So anytime you want to join the table just give me a buzz. The restaurant is not so expensive so dinner is about x amount per person, just to give you a heads up. Maybe this works for you ! Enjoy the dinner!

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: 7daysinparis

                                                                          I think most 'good friends' either figure out quickly that their peers they dine out with either take turns paying, split the check, or it is clear that someone has offered to host the dinner.
                                                                          For some laughs, check out a few episodes of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm, where in Hollywood apperently, or at least Larry David's version of it, it get's to be a big thing quickly if you regularly meet someone for dinner, and they don't take their turn paying - he can't sleep at night. Very funny stuff.
                                                                          I have worked as a marketing rep, and in my world doing that job, EVERYONE assusmed that the marketing person would 'expense' any meal/drinks get together, no matte whether I invited them or they asked to get together!
                                                                          I get that. I think in business, the person working to gain business pays, but for friends, these things should be easier. I appreciate when someone offers to host, or pick up the check, but never assume that is the case unless they stated it that way.
                                                                          Some of this thread is really a commentary on the lack of manners, etiquette, and the common failure to use the English language properly (not casting any particular aspertions of course), but it is funny how CLEAR it is in some of the other's posters comments when the language is clear that the inviter is hosting at a resto, and how casual use of language can quickly cause assumptions. People hear things all kinds of ways if we are not explicit - but polite - in our use of words.
                                                                          Oh, and of course we all know what assuming makes out of you and me:)

                                                                          1. re: gingershelley

                                                                            Excellent post, gingershelley.

                                                                            I agree re: manners, civility, etc. No wonder so many people are writing etiquette books!

                                                                        2. So how about us chowhounds come up with a term. Somehow asking someone to go for a Dutch Lunch or a Dutch Dinner doesn't sound politically correct. People are going to think they are being invited for Bread and Herring, maybe some Edam or Gouda on the side? No, that doesn't work. A split meal? A shared meal? Neither of those quite hit the mark either. Humm... would you like to have a divided check breakfast with me? Nope, thats not right. OK, I know we have some extrordinarily bright people in here, what do you all have to say?

                                                                          1. Okay, here's my brainstorm: "Would you like to meet us at the Fabulous Restaurant Thursday evening? They're happy to write separate checks, or we could just split the bill." It seems like it does the job, but I don't know how graceful it is.

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                                                                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                Thanks KM! I always enjoy your posts, and now feel like I've given something back. Happy new year!

                                                                            1. What a great thread. I wish that I knew the answer.

                                                                              We had moved from Denver to Phoenix, and then were returning for a business trip. We had two days and nights open, so we contacted many friends, and offered two dinners, and two lunches, to coordinate with their schedules.

                                                                              Most assumed that we would be paying for their meals, though not all. Some complained that with only four options, we had not offered enough options.

                                                                              Almost everything that could go wrong, did. We ended up paying the full bill for about 30, spread over four meals, but then had to hear that we should have offered another half-dozen options, regarding times, and locations.

                                                                              That was the last time that we even tried.

                                                                              Cannot wait to see what others have to offer, as I obviously need to learn a thing, or two.


                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                Wow, that's just an awful story all the way around! No good deed goes unpunished, huh?

                                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                  Thanks, Bill Hunt. A good reminder on how to be a gracious guest.

                                                                                  . . .or enjoy the company if you're dining out with a group where the restaurant is not your choice or a favorite.

                                                                                  PS Did you get any handwritten thank you notes?

                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                    Hey, just ask me to go next time...I could use a free dinner LOLOLOL! Sorry it turned out into such a schmozzle for you. Completely completely wrong IMHO...

                                                                                  2. I must admit that I'm amazed by this thread. We have dinner with friends regularly...sometimes at home, but also often at restaurants. I don't recall ever being in a situation (over many years) when there was any discomfort, ambiguity, or confusion as to whether the dinner was hosted or Dutch. Sometimes we simply call or email friends and say that it's been a long time since we've seen each other, and would you like to go out for dinner with us. In this situation, I think it's obvious that it's going to be Dutch. On other occasions we'll say "we'd like to celebrate your birthday, anniversary or whatever" or "we'd like to take you to to our new favorite pizza joint" and it seems obvious that we're treating. On the other hand when we're taken out, we almost never assume that we're being hosted, and will always at least offer to pay our share. Maybe we're just lucky to be surrounded by overly gracious friends or perhaps it's because we never assume anything, but in our circle (and we're nowhere near being in the 1%) it's more often than not, a fight over who will pay.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: josephnl

                                                                                      Your friends are the same as ours in that respect. Some of what is being said is very strange to me.

                                                                                    2. About a month ago I was invited to join a couple for dinner at a very nice restaurant. I re-read the e-mail exchange about where we were going, the time, the day, etc. Nothing was ever explicit but I got the impression the couple intended to host. I was prepared to pay, but the husband was ready with his credit card at the end of the meal, I asked if I could help, but was politely declined. Except among close friends with established patterns it can be hard to read the clues.

                                                                                      1. Never thought this was such an issue, been doing it for decades. Unless specifically stated that either the otherpeople or paying or we state we will pay, going out to dinner and inviting people on the weekend has always been a split the bill by the number of couples.

                                                                                        this has been very enlightening

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                                                                                        1. re: RichWhite

                                                                                          Agree completely. and also never thought this was an issue. When we get together with friends at a restaurant for dinner, it's irrelevant among our friends as to who initiated the suggestion. We always split the bill. It's totally different if I specifically "invite" friends out for dinner to celebrate their birthday or anniversary. In this instance it's understood that I will be the host. It's still gracious and polite for the invitees to offer to pay their share...which of course, I would always refuse.

                                                                                          1. re: josephnl

                                                                                            It seems the discussion is not about close friends, with whom you already have an established pattern. When getting together with friends, of course it's already understood. I think the question is more about new acquaintances, those you know professionally, but not personally, and people with whom there is no established pattern.

                                                                                            Interesting discussion.

                                                                                        2. This is quite a topic and I've been reading all the threads regarding it.

                                                                                          In the end, if you are concerned about the issue - regardless of expectations of others, since you can't control those - you will have to explicitly state the evening will be Dutch.

                                                                                          I have no idea the "proper" way to do this in a formal invitation situation. In a casual email type invitation it would be easy enough to say "We wanted to get together with you for dinner and thought XYZ would be a fun place for a Dutch Treat evening."

                                                                                          When one is worried about potential awkward situations the only way to nip them in the bud is to address them directly ahead of time before the situation becomes awkward. If you're not "grown up" enough to be that direct then you have to be prepared to deal with the back end consequences.

                                                                                          i wouldn't be offended or turned off in the least from that type of invitation and would just brush it off as "well of course, that is what I would have expected anyway" . . . . .

                                                                                          On a side note: I love that all these threads seem to have originated with a post from the Manhattan board. Who knew New Yorkers were so shy about stating what was on their mind :D

                                                                                          1. I guess I've never come across this problem before. I always assume that everyone will be paying their own way, unless it is made very clear in the invitation e.g. "Let me treat you to dinner.", "I want to take you out for your birthday.", "Shall we go to x restaurant tonight, my treat?", etc.

                                                                                            I think the easiest thing is to always assume you are paying for your meal and take a card or cash as necessary. That way the worst that can happen is the other party says something like "Don't be silly, we'll get this.". On the other hand, if you assume you don't need to take money you can end up with a very red face. Plus IMO it's tacky to ever assume you will get something for free.

                                                                                            1. OK, having a ton of Dutch friends, they resent the term "lets go Dutch". Seriously? There are better ways to phrase this:
                                                                                              "Sam and I are going to try the restaurant down the street on Friday. Wanna check it out with us?"
                                                                                              "Sam and I would like to take you and Annie out for dinner on Friday. We'd like to take you to that new restaurant down the street".
                                                                                              I can't imagine that asking friends if they want to check out a restaurant means that you're footing the bill. Crazy to me. And just not done in our circle. If we want to take someone out, we say it. Everything else is meant as an invitation but not as a free dinner for the askee.
                                                                                              After reading all these threads, I'm actually afraid to ask someone to check out a restaurant as it seems that just by asking (and needing to make a reservation, meaning an RSVP) you are officially hosting and footing the bill. Crazy...

                                                                                              1. I think asking someone to join me for dinner implies I'm footing the bill. If I didn't intend to foot the bill I would ask if they were interested in meeting me for dinner. But it really depends on the context, if it's one individual there will always be an expectation, or possible expectation, that the inviter is paying, if it's couples or a group it's a lot easier ("We're going to X tonight, are you interested?")

                                                                                                1. A couple of days ago I got an e-mail invitation for dinner. The sender was explicit about the price range of the restaurant, a nice clear indication that the sender was not hosting.

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                                                                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                    Yes, that works. We had friends who used to come and spend a week with us every year and we all agreed to get it out there and up front in the beginning: we go Dutch in all restaurants. But a single invitation "won't you join us" SOUNDS like an invitation.

                                                                                                  2. Let's get together for dinner. They will ask "When?" They will ask "Where?" Make the plans.
                                                                                                    I can't see how or why anyone would ever think they were going out for a free meal.

                                                                                                    1. Unless you are offering to share your table in a crowded cafeteria, I can't imagine "Please join me for dinner" NOT sounding you are the paying host. What in the world are you going to say, "and bring money"?

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                                                                                                      1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                        I usually say...do you want to go out to dinner?...where?....I've never had it infefered that I'm paying, but that's my circle. If I'm inviting, I say, I'd like to take you out to dinner. Unless it's made very clear that the other person is treating, I always assume I'm paying my way.

                                                                                                        1. re: katy1

                                                                                                          Yet Querencia's example:
                                                                                                          "I can't imagine "Please join me for dinner" NOT sounding you are the paying host."
                                                                                                          is still true to me.

                                                                                                          What would YOU infer if someone said that phrase to you?

                                                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                                                            I would never assume that I'm being treated unless I'm specifically invited out to celebrate my birthday, anniversary, promotion, etc. Amongst my friends there is rarely any ambiguity re this...it's usually something like "We'd like to take you out to celebrate your...". Even when it's obvious that we're being treated, I'll always offer to pay my share.

                                                                                                            1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                              Regarding birthdays... http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8158...

                                                                                                              I think you and I would have very mixed signals and would have difficulty merging together in a social sense with respect to dining out. :-)

                                                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                I personally have never asked anyone out to celebrate my birthday (luckily, I'm usually invited), but if I invited anyone out to celebrate anything, I'd expect to pick up the check.

                                                                                                                I honestly find this entire thread puzzling. Perhaps it's generational, perhaps regional or something else...but when I go out for dinner with friends (whch I do very often) there never seems to be any confusion or ambiguity as to who is paying. We always assume that the check will be divided, unless the invitation is worded something like "We want to take you out to celebrate...", in which case it seems clear that it's a treat (although I always at least offer to pay my share).

                                                                                                                1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                  recently invited friends to dinner and i picked up the tab for all four of us (approx. $300). Then 2 weeks later we were invited to her birthday (just the same 2 couples total) and I made the sad mistake of thinking this was a return invite. When we arrived at a similar upscale restaurant, they selected the food ...again Im thinking "no problemo, its their tab". Well check arrives and birthday girl leaves for restroom ...date asks for 1/2 the check....
                                                                                                                  This is my own darn fault....so never again. Lesson learned

                                                                                                      2. This thread has been really helpful. I have a different situation at work that has come up recently along the same lines. I work for a large company, many different departments - each team has it's own quirks. Mine is that my boss is extremely thrifty. I have a manager working for me celebrating 20 years with the company in 2 weeks, and I have a budget to pay for a gift for her, and her lunch only. However, I know it would be important for her to celebrate with the team that she manages so I have set up a surprise luncheon and emailed the 10 people who work for her...and I said in the email: I am taking X for lunch and would really like it if you would be able to join us to celebrate her 20 years. I included the menu from the restaurant. Problem is, department to department in our company....a milestone like this could be completely ignored or celebrated all expenses paid for everyone because everyone's budget is up to their dept head. So the wording on this was really tricky and I don't know whether I got it right or not. Very awkward.

                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: thewiff

                                                                                                          If you're not paying for the other ten, I think you'd better clarify that in another email. From what you've written I would expect that you are paying for yourself, X and any of the 10 people you emailed.

                                                                                                          1. re: thewiff

                                                                                                            I remember leaving one temporary place of employment (worked at one branch for a couple of months), and the custom with my employer was to have a farewell luncheon for departing members. My luncheon was nice, reasonable restaurant (as in, my lunch bill was less than $15) but what I've never encountered was as the guest, being presented with a bill to pay for my own lunch! I thought since it was a farewell luncheon for me as I was leaving, my work group would actually buy me lunch! I paid up, but was a little taken aback. I'd worked at a number of branches temporarily, and never been asked to pay for my own farewell luncheon as a guest!
                                                                                                            Live and learn!

                                                                                                          2. we've been invited out by a financial advisor (who is making money off our hard-earned savings) and we were in a nice hotel dining area, ate decent food, a few beverages too, and then he says --- well, i must go now (it was evening, all understandable that he has to go home at some point!) ... and he stands up and says "you've got this?" (as in the bill) and leaves.

                                                                                                            Did not even offer ... all in a rush so it wasn't dealt with properly at all.

                                                                                                            i will NEVER forget his move. He's full of charm and smarm but definitely tacky! Very awkward.

                                                                                                            He'd better be extra careful with the returns he's making on our $$

                                                                                                            i would think if i was asking my clients to a meeting, i would be covering it.

                                                                                                            and as a client, i would reciprocate at some point in some way. Like by hiring them / recommending them / hosting them at my golf club or other venue.
                                                                                                            the social thing - usually anyone we dine with offers to pay a share - and we "argue" over it and it all sorts out in the end. I think that unless it's a wedding or other celebration with formal invites - one should always be prepared and not feel put-out by having to pay one's share.

                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: Georgia Strait

                                                                                                              Why is this person still your FA?

                                                                                                              To invite clients to dinner and then force them by this ruse to pay for his dinner is such anti-social behavior as to question his fitness of character.

                                                                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                Indeed. I would seriously look for another financial advisor. Talk to the coordinator for the investment firm you are dealing with, if there is such a person, or the equivalent. You really need to change advisors. If the firm you are dealing with is any good you should be able to do so.

                                                                                                              2. re: Georgia Strait

                                                                                                                Georgia, sounds to me as if this friendly financial advisor is simply checking you out on how "aggressive" he can be with his fees. Time to bail!

                                                                                                              3. Just faced this issue ten minutes ago. A new restaurant has opened it town and I emailed half a dozen folks to say why don't we meet there and have a drink/app. I was going to use the term "Dutch Treat" but my husband thought our German and Chilean friends might not know what that meant. So I said "It will be pay your own way which allows each of us to eat and/or drink what suits us." I think that is pretty clear, no?

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                                                                                                                1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                  Of course...we are always dining out with friends and it pretty much always seems obvious if it's a treat or not

                                                                                                                  1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                    Well the point of this thread was trying to figure out how to make it clear when one extends an invitation. Verbally it can feel awkward but I think email makes it a little easier. (For my Chilean friends, they use the term "invite" to mean the person "inviting" is expected to pay. As in, when we stopped standing at a taco stand in Rosarita and her husband ordered and then reached for his wallet, she turned to me and said "He's inviting us, put your money away." A different way of addressing the issue.

                                                                                                                2. For me the most critical thing is clear understanding, so whatever it takes, that's what I say. But NEVER rude! Misunderstandings are sooooo easy! I try hard to avoid them.

                                                                                                                  1. This is so very much after your posting - but I just came upon it because I am in this very situation. Maybe it could help someone else? My husband and I want to meet some people that we don't know really well at a restaurant. We don't wish to pay for everyone, just meet and enjoy the food while sharing the expense. Not wanting to risk offending, we struggled over the wording, and this is what we finally came up with:
                                                                                                                    "We have included a link to the restaurant so that you can see the menu., etc. If the food sounds interesting to you, the prices are to your liking, and the drive to and from is something you'd consider, let's see if we can get together." That was the most tactful way we could think to express this very awkward situation - especially when you don't really know the people too well.

                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: MakeMyDay

                                                                                                                      How about just saying....We think this may be a good spot and in our budget range...just so there's not confusion, naturally, we will be paying our own way

                                                                                                                      1. re: fourunder

                                                                                                                        Very clear, indeed - thanks for the additional thought!

                                                                                                                        1. re: MakeMyDay

                                                                                                                          You could also add....but we are certainly open for any suggestions or places you recommend.

                                                                                                                    2. I am astounded by some of the absolute answers to this question. (But then, I was also a little taken aback by many of "The man should always pay for every date.") We live in a very busy world, how on earth does anyone carve out social time with other people without paying hundreds of dollars for the privilege of reaffirming social ties? We work, so we don't always have time to prepare a dinner party. Others don't cook, so they won't invite us over since it is too stressful to cook for us. But they can't suggest meeting us in a restaurant because of cost concerns. So no one winds up meeting anyone. Can't people break bread in peace together without breaking the bank?

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                                                                                                                      1. re: thinks too much

                                                                                                                        This may or may not be practical for yourself but how about meeting for breakfast?
                                                                                                                        A lot of my friends have very busy lives and commitments it's a hellish job trying to meet in the evening. We now meet for breakfast before work every couple of months. We also get to go to restaurants in London that we couldn't afford to go to for dinner.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Paprikaboy

                                                                                                                          Maybe I have offended people unknowingly countless times, but I work on some assumptions that clearly will offend some CHs.
                                                                                                                          1. If I am meeting anyone for drinks, a meal, or other comestibles, with intentions romantic or otherwise, we are going dutch unless someone makes an explicitly grand gesture. Exceptions made for meetings with business clients.
                                                                                                                          2. When I have a party and an unknown number of people will be attending, I announce that it is "bring something to share." I will cook several things to start up the buffet, and have several types of drinks on hand. However, I will often end up with more alcohol than I started with.
                                                                                                                          3. If I am having a set number of people come over, I never ask them to bring anything, but if they ask, I will request that they bring something like an unspecified bottle of wine or dessert. And then I serve it at the dinner.
                                                                                                                          4. Many friends live far away. They have learned to call me to invite themselves to my house when it is convenient for them to schlep the 300 miles to my place. As long as it is manageable, I tell them to come. Yep. It is ok to invite yourselves over.

                                                                                                                      2. After reading (and responding) a year ago, and reading the new responses now, a year later, I'm still struck with the same thought... do people still entertain at home? Not dinners or back yard barbecues, but just simple "drop by for a drink" kind of thing. To my way of thinking, it has distinct advantages that restaurants don't, such as better opportunity to get to know everyone because you're not restricted by seating, or if that new couple turns out not to be what you hoped, the disappointment is reduced because there are others to chat with. Is this a tradition that has been "squeezed out" by too-busy lifestyles? Just curious.

                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                          Nope, there are a lot of people, especially those in urban areas, do not entertain at home, or at least not often. With both spouses working, children to ferry around, etc. you aren't starting out with a spotless house and a full pantry. You don't have the better part of a day to prepare a meal. The housekeeper isn't coming in tomorrow to help you clean up after. I love to have people over. It's a lot of work. Time I often don't have. So very much easier to find an appropriate restaurant for whatever person or group of friends it is.

                                                                                                                          Of course I can already hear the screams of several hounds . . . what do you mean no full pantry, what do you mean my house isn't always spotless, etc. etc. etc.

                                                                                                                          PS, its been bitter cold in Honolulu (mid 60's at night), planning to finally roast that chicken on Sunday.

                                                                                                                        2. When issuing an invitation to someone you don't know well, particularly a business acquaintance, you use formal etiquette, meaning that he (or she) who issues the invitation is the host and therefor pays. Thusly, one invites the guest to participate in an activity one can afford, whether it's coffee, or cocktails, dinner, or just a walk in the park. Hosting the dinner in your home is a way to control the cost. The rules of formal etiquette would require the guest to reciprocate, thus making it "even."

                                                                                                                          Informal get-togethers at commercial establishments among friends generally follow the pattern many have described, wherein everyone assumes it is dutch treat unless the invitation is specific, i.e. "I want to take you out to dinner," or an invitation to a dinner party at someone's home (for which I really hope no one expects the guests to make a payment).