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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.

                    3. Have you tried telling your server at the beginning of the meal that you would like separate checks? I find that if they know ahead of time for a small table, they will put the meals on two or three separate checks as things are ordered (most POS systems make it really easy for the server to do this.)

                      It is different if you are with a bigger party, in that case I am totally with GHG in thowing in just enough to cover your tab and tip. When we go out for work I make sure to have cash and change so I don't get stuck with a larger portion than I owe because I only have $20's.

                      1. You need to speak up first. Expecting others to notice how many glasses of wine you have obviously isn't working out for you. If you don't think splitting is fair, then put down enough for your share and let the others work out the tab as they see fit.

                        1. Well I'm not sure what type of money we're talking about here, but in my experience the lighter eaters and drinkers (of which I'm one as well) is a difference of maybe $20-50. Which can add up. But to me this falls in the category of 'don't sweat the small stuff'. If you're going out to eat with friends it should be about a fun time and enjoying the company, not how much it costs. Assuming you can afford it, who cares if it's equal? Friendship should be about generousity of spirit and sharing good times and not about money.

                          Of course on the flip side, your friends should also notice you don't eat and drink as much, and good friends will offer to pick up the tab every few times or insist you contribute less. However, if you are in a financial bind, you should be honest with them and decline the invitations or just let them know times are tough and would they mind if you pitched in a little less since you didn't eat as much.

                          Personally I don't think there is a way to broach it without someone being uncomfortable. For the record my opinion is only for dining with friend situations. Family and work dinners are seperate issues and have their own rules.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: timxph

                            In etiquette outside the family or work situations, where there is a choice between options that each involve discomfort, the nod typically goes to the option that involves discomfiting the greater or more powerful rather than the lesser or less powerful.

                            1. re: Karl S

                              I concur. However, in my opinion, friends should be viewed as equals, assuming they all are in relatively the same financial situation.. i.e. able to afford eating out. I don't see it as some class system more powerful v less. They are friends.

                              But I also think good etiquette dicatates the friends who order more insist the op pay less or offer to pick up the tab every now and then. They shouldn't have to ask to pay less. However, if they feel taken advantage of, or feels someone is purposely using the system, then they should speak up or find new friends.

                              Ultimately to me going out with friends should be about a good time period and if the social norm in the group is to split evenly, just roll with it.

                              1. re: timxph

                                Disagree completely. In my circle of friends we always split the check evenly, but if one person obviously eats much less because he/she is on a diet, feeling poorly or whatever, I think it would be extremely rude of us to allow them to pay an equal share.

                          2. I concur with the speak up in front crowd. When I wore a younger man's clothes, my motor cycle 'friends' and I would pull up to some joint and imbibe. I was, at that time, on the wagon for some dumb reason, My tab for a diet Coke would pale insignificant to the volumns of adult beverages my companions would consume.

                            My solution was a separate tab to be paid at delivery, and when the wait staff would decline that, I would go to the bar, and buy my own. Problem avoided, notwithstanding chiding and abuse from the remaining crowd.

                            1. When I go out with friends we usually pass around the check and everyone tallies up their order. One person usually calculates the tax & tip and this amount is usually split evenly and everyone just adds that onto their individual total. I don't think I've ever been out to a meal where everything was split evening. If your friends are not comfortable doing this then I would ask for a separate check.

                              1. this is a common situation for me, especially because i usually have at most one drink with my meal, less than most others. when i order i simply say to the server: "i will be using a credit/debit card today so a separate check for me will be easiest." (obviously you cannot then pay with cash.)

                                this is great if you feel it is gauche - for the record, i do not - because you don't need to discuss it with your fellow diners. it is a request you make of the business as a customer. a nice corollary is that if any other diners say something to you about your request, then the "gauche" shoe will be on the other foot. your request inconveniences none of them and is inherently fair.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: ta0126

                                  I agree with this and I think it could be less awkward than grabbing the bill and calculating your share - although I have absolutely no problem with doing that either, this is less confrontational. You can if you like make a vague excuse to the group that you may have to leave early and want to make sure your share is covered.

                                  1. re: ta0126

                                    That is a brilliant way to handle it. I like how it takes care of the issue up front so there isn't any uncomfortable lingering when the check hits the table.

                                    1. re: ta0126

                                      hmm... as brought up by a few people, my solution only works in separate order situations (individual entree, wine by the glass). it's not appropriate for a shared liquor or family style food situation.

                                      1. re: ta0126

                                        I think the assumption us that anyone who wants to do this has to be pretty circumspect about what they order or accept as far as sharing. It's possible to order your own glass of wine and say 'no thank you' to the oysters & caviar. Someone who wants to be a bit more relaxed about sharing also has to be so at bill time. If you're continually eating out with people and at places that really exceed your comfort level, it's time to start suggesting different restaurants or declining invites.

                                    2. Asking for separate checks at the outset can be awkward in some settings, and can become fuzzy when bottles of wine are shared, sometimes unequally.

                                      The best solution in my experiences is for the one(s) who clearly consumed a higher proportion of the F&B cost to volunteer that they owe more, and should take the lead to determine how much more, and pony up first. Any mildly alert and cognitive person knows when this is him. Problems arise only when this person sits there and does nothing, and by his inaction is expecting to be subsidized.

                                      1. Ive had the same issues -- cash has worked well for me!

                                        1. It's easier than you think. Be the one to ask for the check, grab it first, add up your stuff kinda loudly, 'let's see my wine was $6, my entree was $15 so that's $21, tax is $1.50, service $4, so that's 26.50 for my portion'. Put $27 on the table and pass the check over to the others. If their remainder of the bill is way higher than yours that's for them to resolve with each other.

                                          I agree with monkey, bring cash in small denominations so you're not left trying to scrabble around for change.

                                          1. This is always rough. Even more problematic, most people do not carry enough cash anymore. Everyone wants to charge the whole meal on their credit card to get the miles/cash back/free back massager/blah blah blah..... No shame. So I am most annoyed by people coming to a group outing with no cash, which simply means paying is difficult.

                                            Interestingly, as I get older with friends who have more $$$, they are stingier with paying their fair share, or treating occasionally, or wanting to put all the miles on their credit card etc...

                                            In general, I think alcohol should be placed on a separate bill, and that those who imbibe should split that separately. Alcohol charges often surpass food in inequities, in many of our party outings. I drink, and have no problem with that.

                                            We also have problems that often people arrive/leave at different times during an evening. Rude, yes, but it happens with busy lives. So if you are one of the unlucky ones left at the end of an evening, it's funny how suddenly you are $100 short trying to cover the check. No one calculates their portion of tax/tip correctly. Or if you are "covering the birthday girl/boy's dinner", no one remembers to include that.

                                            So these days I try to avoid large group outings. $50-100 is too much to throw around for me. The day I am rich and famous, and can afford to treat others .... then maybe I'll go out to dinner with friends more often. My last dinner outing with such a group I paid $60 at a tapas place for one appetizer and a beer. My punishment for waiting until the end of the birthday part to leave, and having to drive myself home (so minimal drinking).

                                            1. This can be totally awkward. One possibility is to have a figure in your mind of what you owe including tax and tip, round up generously to be sure, and then when the bill arrives, throw in your $20 or $30 or $40 and say, "here guys, I know this more than covers my share." Or when the check lands, say "Mind if I just throw in money for what I ordered?" No one can reasonably say no to that, because it would be the equivalent of admitting they want you to pay part of their meal.

                                              Oh, and having lots of different bills in your wallet helps make this MUCH easier, since you don't want to start telling the server to put different amounts on different credit cards.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: MiriamWoodstock

                                                This is fine if everyone is equally honest and generous. Not fine if they are not and the throw-ins don't cover the tab.

                                                1. re: Harters

                                                  Like you Harters, I would regularly go out with a group of people after certain social events. If someone had to leave early, they would hand their money off to someone else. Well, at the end of the evening we were always short of money. Some of us would chip in to make sure the waiter got a decent tip but others would just disappear. We kind of knew who the cheapskates were but usually let it slide because they were barely scraping by--but we were still annoyed.

                                                  1. re: escondido123

                                                    I work with a woman who is the epitome of being a cheap stiff. She nearly always leaves early and is notorious for either leaving nothing while later claiming that she thought a higher up was picking up the whole tab, or only leaving a few bucks. She's the type that will pass on ordering her own apps or dessert but then oggle the food when it appears waiting for an invitation to try some. When a group app or dessert is discussed and ordered she'll typically say she's not interested, but then will eat more than anyone else and not chip in as she didn't order it.

                                                    At an international conference last year she arranged a dinner at a fairly nice restaurant for a former boss of hers who was one of the invited speakers. The check came as one bill and many people had left and not thrown in enough money so she ended up being stuck paying the few hundred dollar difference. She's whined about it numerous times and every time I can't help but think of the karmic justice.

                                              2. - Ask for separate checks at the beginning of the meal when you order.
                                                - Order what you want and eat/drink what you order.

                                                Nowadays, in most restaurants, they have P.O.S. system that will make things easier to either split bills into even (and sometimes not even) shares, and have individual bills.

                                                IT IS NOT GAUCHE OR OFFENSIVE TO DO SO.

                                                1. sometimes, when friends are splitting bottles of wine and sharing apps, etc, and still want to keep the accounting to a min at the end, separate checks don't make that much sense.

                                                  consider running one food tab and one drinks tab. ask the server to add on ***your group's agreed on percentage tip*** to each. for the drinks, it can go round robin amongst close friends-- each enthusiastic drinker taking turns "treating" and "being treated"-- which is a nice way to do it, or, the heavier drinkers split the drinks tab & tip. the one-glass of wine or temperate tea-total-types abstain from the bev tab.

                                                  everybody who eats anything splits the food tab. the light eater/drinker types can shaddup because their drinks are covered by the drinkers on the bev tab. the heavy drinkers can shaddup because the light eaters are paying for part of their meal. the server is taken care of adequately, which often does not happen when a number of people throw what they *think* they should owe into the middle of the table at the end of the night. barring one person ordering whole lobster dinners and not sharing, this tends to be a more equitable and relaxed arrangement over the long haul, nobody has cause to build up resentment.

                                                  *** when dining w friends i don't mind giving up a little control and throwing a few bucks at a splurge-y appetizer which someone else ordered but i tasted, paying a little more for service for my group to be catered to, etc. it is better to be generous, and value the friendships and time together over the money spent. perhaps this would not work with people who want to itemize with precision every single thing, but too much accounting at the end of the night can be a bummer, esp if people's math is off or a group is short on tip money. quibbling about who drank 10% more wine or ate 15% more crab dip, and therefore owes an extra $1.80, plus taxes, plus tip (hold on, tip before, or after tax!) is the kind of stupid crap that ruins friendships.

                                                  1. I just was out with girlfriends last night where this issue arose--wish I had seen this thread before going out. I don't mind splitting a bill equally if the participants are eating and drinking at roughly the same level (i.e., similar number of drinks, apps, dessert or not, etc.). However, I don't want to pay for someone's pricey bottle of wine when I am not drinking and I don't want to pay for someone else's lobster or king crab legs unless I have invited them out to do so intentionally.

                                                    As is often the case, the woman who ordered a pricey bottle of wine, an app, a bowl of soup and the most expensive dessert along with her lobster tail, was the first one who said let's just split the tab five ways. I must have had my "WTF" look on my face because she paused for a moment and then said, "Oh yeah, you didn't have anything to drink...." etc. She had the good sense to call the waitress back and ask for separate bills. The waitress was even able to split the app so that is showed up on each bill as "1/5 of xxx."

                                                    I didn't need to have that level of precision but was happy that the restaurant was so accommodating. In the past I may have felt uncomfortable about not just settling up at the table on one bill but I've long gotten over that. As it was, my tab for 1/5 of an app and my main was $45.00 before tip. No beverages, either. I am guessing that if I had been in for 1/5 of the total tab, my total would have been anywhere from 50-75% higher.

                                                    On the flip side of the issue, I went to lunch with 8 other people, all of whom seemed prepared to pay with cash. We settled up with $$ leftover and it didn't seem like anyone felt like they were being put upon. More than the money, however, was the attitude involved. Everyone was happy to pay their own way and didn't expect others to cover them. I think that is the part that irked me the most about my dinner scenario. As mentioned elsewhere above, it isn't always the total $$ that matters.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: jlhinwa

                                                      More than the money, however, was the attitude involved. Everyone was happy to pay their own way and didn't expect others to cover them.
                                                      ~~~~~~~~~
                                                      indeed. i was out for a reunion dinner with old friends last spring, and they all ate & drank much more than i did. it was something of a shared plate situation so figuring out anything other than an even split on the food for the 6 of us would have been confusing. in the interest of keeping it simple (and because i had such a wonderful time that i honestly didn't care much about saving a few bucks), i tossed enough cash on the table to cover my share had we split the bill equally among us. *two* of my friends immediately jumped on it, said it was ridiculous for me to put so much in when i had consumed less than they all had, and insisted on giving some of it back to me.

                                                      that's precisely what i do when i think someone else is overpaying, and i appreciated the karmic return.

                                                    2. Find new friends. If we're out with friends and it looks like we've eaten/drank “close" to the same amount money-wise, we usually split the check - sometimes we spend an extra buck or two, sometimes the other couple does. I figure, with friends, it works out in the end. If I/wife ordered a couple drinks plus a high priced entree and someone or another couple ordered "light", I would insist that we paid our share and your friends should be doing the same without your asking. It might be anything from someone saying "I'll get the tip" to actually doing some math to figure out who owes what if we have a very large group where everyone may have had very different items (price-wise).
                                                      Bottom line is that your dinner companions should recognize that your part of the bill should be a lot less and I think the proper etiquette would be for them to ensure someone does not get screwed – however it gets figured out. I’m baffled by these threads where someone orders and drinks expensive bottles of wine, gets the double lobster and then announces “let’s split the check”. Who are these people and why does anyone hang out with them?

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: bobbert

                                                        I couldn't agree with you more. I'm probably overly generous, but if this were happening to me, I'd find new friends!

                                                        1. re: bobbert

                                                          Sometimes it's a work situation and you can't help dining with people. Last year I was away for a workshop and we were typically expected to eat together. One of the faculty members decided on eating at the nicest restaurant in town (not horribly expensive, but still much more than I felt comfortable spending as a grad student). I and a few others ordered very conservatively, while several of the more financially comfortable ordered several glasses of wine, apps, desserts, etc. We asked for separate checks, but were told that they could not do it. The faculty member that wanted to go to the restaurant then decided we would just split it equally.

                                                          A very long and uncomfortable situation followed where we tried to throw in only what we owed plus extra in cash, but things just could not get resolved. Finally one of the faculty members got fed up, grabbed all the cash off the table, threw down her credit card and said she'd put it all on her card but that she wasn't going to leave a tip because the whole situation was ridiculous and had ruined her meal and wasted her time. Her logic was that if we had received separate checks, this would not have happened. We protested and said that 1) that wasn't fair to the server and 2) we all had left very large tips that were going to go in her pocket if she took all the cash but didn't leave a tip. She didn't seem to comprehend this, or was simply too stubborn. I was out of cash because I had kept putting more and more in the pot when things couldn't get settled so I have no idea if the server got stiffed. It was a terrible, terrible situation.

                                                          1. re: pollymerase

                                                            That's terrible! I can't believe your profs are so totally oblivious to the difference in finances. I mean they *know* what you make, right? I hate it when scientists live up the stereotypes about social skills (I'm guessing by your handle these are geneticists or some such).
                                                            Congats btw on sticking to your guns by not throwing in more.

                                                            1. re: julesrules

                                                              I wonder what field... I mean, yeah, there are jerks everywhere, but -- well, most of our friends are academics (most of them profs), and whenever we hang out with grad students / go to dinner with them, it is almost an unspoken rule that we'll either cover them as a group, or expect them to put in next to nothing.

                                                              1. re: julesrules

                                                                Yes, jules, I'm in the basic sciences and molecular biology is a large part of what we do. Lingua, I find it really depends on the person. Most (but not all) faculty members will either pick up all or most of the check or in the least be mindful of where we are dining/drinking. This was the first time I had experienced such a situation and I was rather surprised by the whole thing. I was actually so worked up about it that when I met up with my adviser immediately after leaving the restaurant, the first thing he did was buy me two beers.

                                                                1. re: pollymerase

                                                                  Well, at least your advisor's a nice one '-)

                                                              2. re: pollymerase

                                                                Wow, that is just awful. What a horrible thing to do to the server and how uncomfortable for the rest of the party.

                                                            2. Golfers are a special breed. In my 40 years of eating and drinking after golf around the country and elsewhere,with from 3-15 others, often extravagantly, I customarily am relegated to reconciling the check as the quant guy. Often the pile of cash we toss in would pay the bill twice over, and I scramble to return some to the most egregious offenders while leaving a generous tip.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                I don't golf but that is usually what happens when I'm out with friends. Maybe that's why I'm so baffled by those who think it's ok for their friends to pick up a good portion of their tab.

                                                              2. I do the "this will cover mine" approach. But since this is an established eating group and it will be a change from the norm, you might have to say something lighthearted when you do that. "I was a light eater tonight so do you guys mind if I just pay my share?". Something like that.

                                                                1. This is a toughie. Obviously if your dining partners are observant enough to notice that you are eating far less than they are, they should initiate the move that you pay less and you should rightfully accept the offer. Unfortunately, I have noticed that others are sometimes not so observant, or else are either too cheap or boorish to do the right thing. I personally would feel uncomfortable suggesting that since I ate or drank less, that I should pay less....but, this is just me. If this were a chronic problem, I would either choose not to eat with these people (they're likely not considerate people)...or perhaps I would very reluctantly explain myself and ask for a separate check.

                                                                  1. Start ordering the most expensive appetizers and a glass of the best wine. Then at least it won't be so unfair. Oh, and if you do like dessert, but don't have enough room for it, order one anyway and then take it home. That should even things out a bit if you're not willing to ask for a separate check.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: escondido123

                                                                      That's how the nuclear arms race with the U.S.S.R. began.

                                                                    2. Lots of good thoughts. What a friend of mine does is simply add up the cost of what they ate and drank plus a generous tip basically puts it on the table. "Here's my share". In the past at least in my experience, ofter one person buys and other hand him/her cash. But now that everything is credit/debit cards people are more apt to get separate bills.

                                                                      With my closer dining friends we just split it up equally and move on but I definitely see your position. If you know these people well then just be up front about it. Or just get a separate check.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: HoosierFoodie

                                                                        That works if the "friend" actually puts the right amount on the table...unfortunately that doesn't always happen and then the last person gets stuck making up the difference.

                                                                      2. i have your solution.

                                                                        dont order anything, and just eat a few bites of everyones. then, when you split, it makes sense that you are paying for a piece of each person's meal, and if you are a small eater, you should get plenty of food.

                                                                        haha but really, i think the easiest solution is just to make sure everyone is OK with separate checks

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: mattstolz

                                                                          Many restaurants will not allow everyone in a larger group to have a separate check. Sometimes, 2 or 3 is the maximum number of checks allowed.

                                                                          1. re: Mother of four

                                                                            Probably it's me, but I sort of feel offended when dining with friends and they ask for a separate check. It says to me, "I'll pay my share, but I don't want to pay a penny more.". As I said, perhaps it's me, but I always pay at least my share...indeed, I often treat for the entire bill, or at least pay more than my share. I'll often contribute a bottle of wine, or buy a round of drinks while waiting to be seated...so when dinng with others who ask for a separate check, I can't help thinking it's cheap. If others at the table order less than we do, we'll always adjust their portion of a split check downward, trying to err on the side of benefiting them. Isn't this what most polite people do?

                                                                            1. re: josephnl

                                                                              What ever works for you. I prefer paying for what I order, not for all the extras that others might order. We know who to split checks with and who not to. I also am more comfortable having my own check as I can order exactly what I want not having to be concerned if it's at the top of the price list on the menu.

                                                                              1. re: josephnl

                                                                                I would say finances make all the difference. If someone has the money to be generous that's great, but not everybody does. I have gone out with others when money was tight for me and ordered accordingly only to be faced with paying a much larger bill than I had planned for, which I don't think is fair.

                                                                                1. re: escondido123

                                                                                  escon, I have dined with folks before where we semi-split the bill ("equally", :::rolleyes:::) but where I thought the contributions from one person (in particular) was the "bare minimum (if that) and I've covered the discrepancy - including what I thought was a better assessment of the prevailing standards for tips for good service - with cash quietly added on to the "check tray" even though I am by no means the richest person in the world. I just didn't want to have a pointed conversation there and wasn't going to be doing these meals with this person on a daily basis anyway.

                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                    Me too. And in the case where I was asked to pay more, I just put it on my credit card and ate Kraft Dinner for awhile.

                                                                                    1. re: escondido123

                                                                                      In my experience with a group larger than 3 or 4, when people at the table just put down "what they owe", the total almost invariably comes up short. Since I would almost never like to see the server coming up short, I usually sneak sufficient into the "kitty" to make up the difference.

                                                                                2. re: josephnl

                                                                                  jnl, I suspect that some who ask for separate checks have been burned in the past when dining with company less generous and fair-minded than you.

                                                                                  1. re: josephnl

                                                                                    I'll ask for separate checks if I think my portion will be larger than others and they're the type to want to split the bill. I always feel bad if people pay part of my share.

                                                                                  2. re: Mother of four

                                                                                    agree momof4...unless the eatery doesn't offer separate checks&we've run into that.

                                                                                  3. I had a not-unrelated but opposite issue when eating out with the work group when I last in such an environment. I would often order more than the others, on average - maybe an alcoholic drink/cocktail or two more than some others, or an appetizer or soup that others did not get. I would then put more into the final bill, after having kept track of what I ordered and how much they were. The issue was that in large groups it may not have been apparent that I did put in what I assessed to be my true "charge" to the entire bill, other than to the one who was doing the collecting of funds, and I sometimes got the feeling that some folks might have thought I was riding on the largesse of themselves (which was not true). In smaller groups it would be clear(er). When bills were split the issue would not arise, of course.

                                                                                    1. It is poor manners to expect others to pay more than their share. I have been to many group dinners where there were drinkers and lightweights (same rules apply to food). I am pretty good with numbers and just decided that the bar bill would be split by the drinkers and the food bill by all. As one of the drinkers and in the right it rarely got argued.

                                                                                      Seperate checks avoid all of the difficulty and anone who has a problem with it really just wants you to subsidize their meal... they are wrong not you...

                                                                                      Now, if double dating this would never be done, check comes and is split,,,, but before I order any bottles of wine I get sign off on the cost from the other couple

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: dyrewolf

                                                                                        dyrewolf...I strongly disagree with your statement "Seperate checks...anone who has a problem with it really just wants you to subsidize their meal... they are wrong not you."

                                                                                        It is because I always make sure that I am paying at least my share (usually more than my share), that if someone dining with me asks for a separate check that I can't help feeling somewhat slighted. When dining with my friends there is never a question about doing what is fair...if there were, they would not be my friends.

                                                                                        1. re: josephnl

                                                                                          i am sure your waiter/waitress wouldnt mind if you still threw in money above and beyond what you needed to

                                                                                      2. With close friends, I don't think there's a bit wrong with actually calculating what people owe. (I agree that asking for separate checks up front is too much like a business meeting, and depending on your city, libel to make your server behave as through you had just asked them to break a 20 into nickles.) The problem here is likely that many meals involve either too many people or enough shared items to make this an accounting exercise painful enough to ruin an otherwise pleasant evening. That generally means that little eaters/drinkers subsidize the big ones. Very good friends will realize you didn't consume very much and pay extra, asking that you pay less. However, if your friends do not do this, you may have to just grab the check when it comes and say, "Do you all mind if we just pay what we owe?" If they do mind, you may want to reconsider who you are spending time with, or seek venues to enjoy their company outside of a restaurant.

                                                                                        (My partner works with a bunch of men who do this to her at every work gathering (she's the only woman on the staff). She eats a little, they order giant steaks and three martinis, and then act like she's a miser when she asks to pay what she owes. Okay, you can't avoid these people at work, but you can avoid them in life.)

                                                                                        1. As I said earlier, most of the restaurants I go to proactively ask a group "will this be all on one bill?". THAT'S the time to say, "I'd like mine separate, please". And if asked, you can say you are trying to keep better track of your dining out expenses. Easier to do this then.
                                                                                          IF that fails, then ask the waiter discretely for the bill first, do the math,say "this should cover my part, including tip", then hand cash and the bill over to the next person.
                                                                                          Of course, this to me would apply if there is a serious difference between my order and others. I've been in situations where a massive sushi order was made, of which I only had 2 small cucumber rolls, a bowl of soup, and some tea, while the others over-ordered and split the bill evenly. That small snack cost me 50 bucks plus tip. Never again. BUT if we are 3 couples and share wine, and eat about the same stuff (salad, entree, dessert), we'll split.
                                                                                          :)

                                                                                          9 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: freia

                                                                                            Strange, I don't think I've ever been to a restaurant where the server has asked in advance if we want separate checks. Perhaps this is a regional thing, but in southern CA where I reside...or in my pretty extensive travels, I don't recall this ever happening.

                                                                                            1. re: josephnl

                                                                                              In our region, several casual dining rooms automatically separate the bills or ask if the bills should be separated, especially when the group seem to be unrelated. Certainly, at a business lunch gathering, unless one person is obviously hosting, each diner receives his/her own bill.

                                                                                            2. re: freia

                                                                                              I can't remember ever being asked up front if we'll be wanting separate checks. In my experience, we usually split the check evenly; each of us at the table puts in a credit card and the server splits the total among all the cards. That also presents an opportunity to "adjust" the amount paid by someone who, for example, hasn't shared in the wine, or who has ordered something priced significantly lower than the others. Simply let that person total his/her tab without adding a tip, splitting the entire tip among the rest of the table.

                                                                                              That said, there have been times when the check has been passed around the table, with everyone pitching in what they feel they owe, including tax and tip. What happens every time, without fail, is that there is waaaay more in the final tally than there would have been if we'd just added in a 20% tip.

                                                                                              1. re: CindyJ

                                                                                                You and josephni must go to the same kinds of places. [although I wouldn't have thought SE PA and S CA are the same... :-) ]

                                                                                                Like KarenDW, at various places I've been to in the past with large-ish groups of folks the waitperson has asked immediately if it will be separate checks, especially if the group is a group of work colleagues. Not always, and it varies from place to place. I imagine such groups (like ours) do have a "certain look" and I (mentally) commend the waitperson in such cases for picking up on it.

                                                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                                                  I do live in a small town, and although there are fair number of restaurants in town, we have a few favorites that we frequent. Most of our restaurants would fall in the category of "casual fine dining", and the ones we frequent always ask on ordering if this will be one bill or separate bills. When you show up with three for four couples of roughly the same age, I think they assume we would like a choice, which is greatly appreciated. Now in California, I don't recall being asked the question....

                                                                                                  1. re: freia

                                                                                                    freia

                                                                                                    don't ask at the beach restaurant Gladstones 4 Fish on PCH$Sunset cause they'll say no to the request of separate checks. just a heads up.

                                                                                                    1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                      Yowza....I'm sure they have a reason but I really don't know what it would be...any insight?

                                                                                                      1. re: freia

                                                                                                        when our dd worked there she would have said yes to us if we'd brought a clan.
                                                                                                        last time the guy server was just crabby pants. I could have found a manager but it was a manageable 6 way split among friends.

                                                                                                        1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                          Ya, sometimes easier to just manage than get a manager involved, and crabby pants servers just complicate a dining experience IMHO

                                                                                            3. With a large group, there are two ways to do this a bit more fairly:

                                                                                              1) If there isn't a huge difference between the prices, split the thing evenly and suggest that others take care of the tip. Only works if you trust your group to actually do this.
                                                                                              2) Split it up yourself. Be really nice to the waitress. Act like you're doing everyone a favor.

                                                                                              If these are good friends, it works to have a conversation about this. I have some friends who want things split up evenly, and others who figure it will all work out evenly eventually. I fall into the later category, but I don't want to assume someone else falls where I fall.

                                                                                              If it's a work thing, sometimes you need to take the hit. You can always make it up in sneaky ways (why don't you get the cab? Etc.)

                                                                                              1. Three words: Credit Card Roulette. Each person puts their card in, you mix them up and fan them out, and then have the waiter pick one. That person treats.

                                                                                                Works great if you tend to eat out with the same people often; if you do it every time, the law of averages is that it'll work out in the end. You feel like you won the lottery every time your card isn't picked, and when it is you get the satisfaction of treating everyone. Problem solved!

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: monopod

                                                                                                  My lunch group in Texas, usually 7-8 of us, used to hully-gully for the bill every day at the club, until Chuck lost about 5 in a row. He had bad luck.

                                                                                                2. With so many people paying with plastic these days we typically submit our CC's and ask the server to split the total equally. Likewise if our "share" is over or under what anyone else had we'll ask the server to charge us for X, Y, & Z then throw cash in for tip.

                                                                                                  Once the drinks start flowing it's very easy for ordering to get out of hand especially when you're doing small plates. I can't begin to count how many times that the plate has been empty once it's reached me. But not to worry...someone will always order more. C'est la Vie.