Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Nov 4, 2011 10:38 AM

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!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  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 " 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:
                                " 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).