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How to "split" a check equitably?

I often dine out with friends. I am a small person with a small appetite for both food and drink (e.g., I often order two apps, single glass of wine or only one glass from a shared bottle(s), no dessert) and most of my friends are hearty eaters/drinkers whose meals end up totaling significantly more than mine. So while I understand that the simplest, most gracious thing to do is to split the tab evenly, I often end up spending twice the actual cost of my consumed portion of the meal.

I'd appreciate suggestions for a gentle, inoffensive way to request a more equitable sharing of the tab (I'd wince at the gaucherie of requesting separate checks).

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  1. I don't think theres anything gauche about separate checks.

    1. most of my friends and I pay our shares if we order more than the others. It's just a nice and a right thing to do.
      I don't understand people who think it's ok to split the bill in half even though they ordered more items from the menu. I've dealt with people like that in the past.....interestingly, most of these people were big complainers in general.

      1. Difficult one, in my experience. When I used to dine with work colleagues, I would always favour an equal split, even though I would usually be the only one not drinking alcohol. It never used to happen though, as there'd always be someone saying they didnt want to split evenly as they hadnt had a dessert, or whatever. So, it would end up that the non dessert eaters would throw in whatever they felt was right and the remainder was then equally split. Frankly, I found that a complete pisser.

        1 Reply
        1. you need to be proactive about it. before someone else steps into the accounting role and tells everyone what they "owe" by calculating equal amounts, just lay out your share and say "this should cover mine."

          5 Replies
          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            Either this, or ask the server for separate checks when he/she comes to take the order.

            1. re: Cachetes

              +1 on this.

              When the waiter comes to take the order, tell him it will be different checks. This way, you make it easy for the waiter and there is no misunderstanding.

              This is, of course, a matter of culture. In Quebec, the waiters often assume that the checks are split, or asks. It's the norm here. If there is a large group and one person is paying, then they actually mention to merge the bills before hand.

            2. re: goodhealthgourmet

              That would work, and no one should object, but make sure you've added enough to cover tax and tip.

              1. re: CindyJ

                ALWAYS. i assumed that was implied, but you'd think i would know by now not to make assumptions around here. thanks for the reminder ;)

              2. It's proper etiquette to split the check equally but it's not always equitable. If you find that your friends are taking advantage of how little you eat, or taking it for granted, your friends are inconsiderate. The gentlest most inoffensive way to deal with this is just to order two entrees in addition to your two apps. Have the entrees packed to go and eat them during the week. Maybe it will dawn on them that they usually order much more than you and it's unfair to split the bill equally.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Pookipichu

                  Actually, proper etiquette for going Dutch is that the default is every-tub-on-its-own-bottom (everyone pays for what he or she ordered only) and there needs to be express agreement to split evenly - everyone has to opt in to that - and even so there is a tacit understanding that this means no one is going to take advantage of that by getting an extra course when none else have done so or running up the bar tab, in which even the responsible diner should tally his or her significant excess and put that in the pot before the rest of the bill is split evenly. And everyone should feel empowered to prompt him or her to do so if the gesture is not done unprompted.

                  A presumption of splitting evenly is a chief cause of division within social dining groups, so by definition it's rude.

                  1. re: Karl S

                    We can agree to disagree. If a presumption of splitting the check is rude, you should inform the millions of people who do exactly that. There wouldn't be this thread if you were correct.

                    While I personally think that people should pay for what they've eaten, unless they wish to be generous and pay for or subsidize the meals for others, I know that splitting the check is the generally accepted practice in America.

                    The best solution, according to Miss Manners is to get separate checks. Otherwise, if you are adults, split the bill.

                  2. re: Pookipichu

                    You honestly think that ordering two entrees to take home for a later meal is the "gentlest most inoffensive way to deal with this"? That's about the most passive-aggressive way of going about this I could possibly think of.

                    1. re: linguafood

                      But a WONDERFUL way to get the attention of those clods. In any case, if those clods are likely to keep "splitting equally" any future bills one might reconsider if one wanted to eat out with them anyway or if one cared to keep them as social companions, let alone dining companions.

                      1. re: huiray

                        Righty, because why actually speak up and assert yourself? Better to play victim?

                    2. re: Pookipichu

                      I've never heard of splitting the check evenly regardless of the order as being proper etiquette before.
                      I personally would ask the waiter discretely to hand the combined bill to you, you look at it, do the math, pull out the cash (make sure you have cash, makes it simpler this way) and say "this will cover my part and the tip." Then hand the check over to another, with your money, to sort out the rest.
                      Honestly, most of the restaurants I go to proactively say "will this be separate bills or on one" right of the bat. That's the best time to say "I'd like a separate bill, please". If questioned as to why you're doing things differently, just say you are trying to keep better track of your dining out expenses, New Years Resolution and all.

                      1. re: freia

                        Amongst good friends, at least in my personal circle, we always split the bill and consider this proper etiquette. Now, if one of us orders something extraordinarily expensive (way above what others are ordering...say caviar, truffles, etc.), the person ordering such should, of course, on paying more. With smaller differences in cost, we don't worry about it and assume that it will average out in the long run. The only exception is if one party never drinks alcohol, we put the alcohol on a separate check to be split by the drinkers.