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do you share a gift certificate at a restaurant?

some really good friends ( a couple) asked: do you want to go to dinner at blah-blah blah restaurant? we have a gift certificate for $50.
so we said yes.
they ordered $50 worth of food. we ordere a little less than $50. imagine our surprise when separate checks were requested and the $50 gift certificate was applied only to their dinner and we were on our own.
were we wrong to assume that the gift certificate would be applied to entire bill? we've known this couple for over 30 years and we are very good friends. this was the first time for this and we were completely caught off guard.
whenever i invite anyone to join me and i say i have a gift certificate my intentiion is to share the ceritificate and split the bill.
so what is the proper etiquette (if there is such a thing in a situation like this)? do you share? or not? especiallly if you've mentioned the gift ceritficate. would you even consider dining in a group setting then whipping out the gift certificate to pay for your own ticket?

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  1. Extremely wrong in my book. Whenever you invite someone to a restaurant giving the impression that you will at least pay part of the bill, not doing so is extremely rude.

    11 Replies
    1. re: nocharge

      < Whenever you invite someone to a restaurant giving the impression that you will at least pay part of the bill>

      That is the sticky point. Did they give the impression? They will certainly say no.

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        I have absolutely no problem with couples going out either splitting the bill or getting separate checks. But if a gift certificate was mentioned initially as part of the proposition of going out for dinner, I think there is an implicit assumption that the benefits of the certificate would be shared.

        1. re: nocharge

          I've encountered this before.........................

          I don't agree that "if a gift certificate was mentioned initially as part of the proposition of going out for dinner, I think there is an implicit assumption that the benefits of the certificate would be shared."

          In our experience, stating that a gifct certificate was received explains only the reason for choice of restaurant.

          Sometimes the other couple shares, sometomes they don't. BUT if we are not invited to be someone's guests I always plan on paying for everything we order.

          1. re: bagelman01

            I can't for my life imagine myself telling a friend "Let's have dinner at restaurant XYZ! I've got a gift certificate!" if I didn't intend to share it.

            1. re: nocharge

              I think some people just go absent minded. In hindsight, it may not make a lot of senses, but people often say thing that they don't really mean, like "Oh, I didn't mean that"

              While these two friends should have been more careful, this is far from the worst. I have said things which are worse than this (unintentionally).

              1. re: nocharge

                you might not do this, but it has happened to us a number if times, 2 different friends couples and my brother and SIL. Bro and SIL always request separate checks and will use the cert on their check. SIL will often call and confirm that we're eating out and ask if we have any coupons for the restaurant they've chosen.

                1. re: nocharge

                  I posted earlier on this thread, but something just occurred that causes me to post again......................

                  My 25yo daughter went out with friends to a 'dive' pub/bar in a nearby town for wings. She informed me this morning that they had the best wings (30 varieties) she had ever had.
                  I asked her if she'd be going back in the next 6 weeks before she returns to life working aboard a cruise ship and she said yes. I then asked if she'd use Restaurant.com gift certificates if I gave them to her. When she worked as a server in a landside restaurant she always bitched when customers used these, as it required a manager to call in and get a validation and users often didn't tip on the certificate saved amount.

                  I don't buy from restaurant.com, but regularly receive bonus dollars to spend there as promotions.

                  Daughter said after reading the certificates I printed that she would use them BUT must tell her friends in advance that she had the cert and would be using it towards her bill. I asked why?

                  She told me the certificates ony allow one per table and she wouldn't want to pull one out of her pocketbook at the end of the meal and have a tablemate say they intended to use one. An advance announcement (not an offer to share) avoids problems at check time.

                  So, a different take on the subject from a different generation.

                  BTW>>>>>>>>>>>>she was thrilled I just printed out $200 of restaurant.com certificates for assorted places that will cover her weekend dining out until she leaves for the ship.

                  Daddy's a hero and didn't have to spend any cash

                2. re: bagelman01

                  "In our experience, stating that a gifct certificate was received explains only the reason for choice of restaurant."

                  thank you. i am learning that this was most likely the reason the GC was mentioned, and the confusion was on our part. :-)

            2. re: nocharge

              i wouldn't say it was a formal invitation. it was do you want to go to dinner with us kind of invitation. the restaurant is a well known chain.

              1. re: nocharge

                But in what way did the friends give the impression that they would cover part of the bill?
                Surely it is just as rude to go out with friends and assume they will pay part of the bill when they've never said so?

                1. re: Billy33

                  I don't have a problem with having separate checks. Nor do I care how the other party pays, whether it's by cash, credit card, gift certificates, personal checks, etc. However, if someone mentions having a gift certificate when instigating a restaurant visit, to me it would lend me to believe that there would be a willingness to share it. Otherwise, don't bring it up and when the separate checks arrive, we all pay them in our own ways. Mentioning a gift certificate when instigating a restaurant visit and not sharing it is strictly for the people who are the Neanderthals of social etiquette.

              2. <whenever i invite anyone to join me and i say i have a gift certificate my intentiion is to share the ceritificate>

                Hmm, there isn't a rule and it really depends on the culture of the people you are with. I would assume that the gift certificate would be equally spread into the two bills (more or less).

                <do you share?>

                I would share, and if I don't want to share, then I won't invite you.

                13 Replies
                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  I thought about this some more. I can only imagine that your friends did this without full consideration.

                  In many other cases, a declaration of coupon or gift certificate does not imply sharing. If I have a $50 Williams Sonoma gift card, and I said to my friend: "Hey I have a $50 gift card from Williams Sonoma. Do you want to go shop together?", most people would not assume that my gift card will be used to toward their purchase. Same thing for a $50 oil change or $50 video game certificate....etc.

                  I can only assume this is how your friends were thinking about this restaurant certificate. Yet, there is something unique about dining and eating out. Based on my experience, an open announcement of a restaurant coupon or gift certificate means that the discount will be shared by all participants..

                  What really surprised me is that the couple did this to you. This means both of them did not see anything inappropriate. All it takes is for one of them to say "Hey, honey. Let's use this certificate toward our total bill", but I guess that didn't happen.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    unless if they always have separate checks in the group...then it's simply another dinner out.

                    1. re: fourunder

                      yes, that makes sense. the GC made it a different situation for me, but apparently not for my friends.

                      1. re: ritabwh

                        A point of note on a similar situation....I'm rarely given any restaurant certificates...but I am prone to having access to many Golf Fee certificates....l generally use them with family first, then friends...I will always throw the certificate in for the group...it could be for 1,2,3 or 4 players. If it's only for one, the foursome is reduced to 3 green fees and the total is split four ways..a foursome would be free to all...and so on. I have one friend though, that is always on the receiving end of my generosity...but when he has the same type voucher....he only uses them for himself. I've know the guy for decades and I have other friends who are the same. All I can do is laugh.

                        1. re: ritabwh

                          otoh - if they hadn't mentioned the gift card when suggesting the restaurant and then pulled it out when the separate checks came. I'd be a wee bit irritated thinking oh so That's why they wanted to come here..:-)

                          1. re: miss_belle

                            yes, dammed if they do and dammed if they don't. it was a no win situation.

                            1. re: ritabwh

                              Yes, I agree with missbelle and you. Damned if they do, and damned if they don't.

                              However, I think it is probably a bit worse that they mentioned it. Just because it gives the other person (you and your spouse) the wrong impression for a longer period of time.

                              The magnitude of the damning is different.

                              It is one thing not to give candy to a a baby. It is another thing to give the candy to a baby, and then take it away.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                They could have made it more okay if they had said something like, "we have a gift certificate that we would like to use so do you mind if we go to restaurant x?" To me, that would have upfront explained their reason for their choice. I have had friends do that before (to Olive Garden...groan...they know my dislike of chain restaurants) and by them explaining the GC up front, I understood why they selected that particular location.

                                1. re: jlhinwa

                                  Your friends are well verse in the art of conversation and communication.


                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    CK, yes they are. They are wonderful friends in just about every way except where they like to eat. Our daughters are BFF's and we all go to Portland (live near Seattle) every February for a school tournament. Portland has amazing food options and all they want to do is go to Red Robin, McDonald's, Olive Garden, etc. All I want to do is try new fun places that we don't have at home. And because my daughter wants to be with her friend, we do a lot of compromising. To be fair, they have compromised as well, and seemed to even like the Grilled Cheese Grill we dragged them to last year. :-) It was just a food truck, with an old school bus as an eating area. Totally cool, with amazing grilled cheese sandwiches. They thought it was sketchy and were waiting for someone to fall ill after eating. Sigh...

                                    1. re: jlhinwa

                                      You know. I think that is true. What I am saying is that many people believe that franchise and chain restaurants like Red Robin and McDonald and Olive Garden are more safe -- food being more clean.

                                      It may or may not be true. I don't know.

                                      Anyway, it does take some level of courage to walk into "a hole in the wall" restaurant. I actually enjoy these following ones. They are good, and they are charming:

                                      Jot Em Down (One of my favorite BBQ joint in Georgia):


                                      Afghan Kabob and Grill:


                                      Dim Sum Garden:


                                      Actually, Dim Sum Garden has fully upgraded now about 6 months ago. Business was very good for years, so they finally moved two blocks down:


                                      <They thought it was sketchy and were waiting for someone to fall ill after eating>

                                      They thought they were going to die indirectly by your hands. :)

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        Your point is a good one...many people think that chains are safer than local joints, especially ones that look a little divish. Or divey. And that may be true because I know from my high school days working at McD's that chains have volumes of manuals on how to do everything and passing the franchise and health inspection tests are a big deal.

                                        Mr jlhinwa is a very adventurous traveler...there is no place he won't go when we are on vacation and if it looks a little dangerous, that is more interesting to him. But he is scared of food trucks and hole in the wall restaurants because he is sure he is going to get sick. Probably he is really afraid they are going to sneak some meat into his vegetarian meal, haha. On the other hand, I value my physical safety a great deal and am very cautious about going places that might get me mugged or worse, but I am happy to take a chance on street vendors, food trucks, and hole in the walls. It is a happy adventure and so far, I haven't gotten really sick from any of it.

                                        Those look like some fun places! Here's the GCG in Portland. I am thinking I need to return next month! https://www.google.com/search?q=grill...

                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      great asnwer chemical. if didn't intend to share, i wouldn't invite me, and wouldn't mention the GC. that is how i see it too. i guess my friends just had a much more casual outlook on this.

                    3. I would have been surprised. If they were going to use the g.c. to pay for their share of the bill that's one thing, but to mention it upon making the dinner plans, to me, implies that you will all get a "discount" on the meal.

                      1. If they mentioned the gift certificate when arranging dinner, I would assume it was to be used towards the total bill.

                        You've known the couple for 30 years. When you have dined out before were separate checks requested or was it generally an equal split? If the former, I guess I would understand their use of the gc; if the latter, I'd be mildly annoyed.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: gaffk

                          dining out with my friends have always been dutch except for an occasional tug of war over the bill on special occasions. i guesss the mention of the GC made me think the it would be different this time. yes, we were slightly annoyed but more surprised than annoyed.

                          1. re: ritabwh

                            I with you...it's just tacky to bring a gift certificate to dinner with folks you know well & usually go Dutch, and not split the certificate. The smarter thing would have been to use it when they were dining alone.

                        2. I would share....In your case, I would have been surprised, but would not make it an issue and move on. The angst is not worth $25.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: fourunder

                            agreed. it was not the money. it was just my perception of what is "proper". that is why i posted here to get everyone's take on this. and no, i do not judge or base my friendships on "proper". trust me, back in 1974, we lived in a situation that i am sure the movie, Animal House was patterned after. :-))

                          2. I'm with you. If they didn't intend to apply the GC to your table's total tab, there was no reason for them to mention having it. I wouldn't make an issue of it with them, but it WOULD be a black mark against them that I would keep in mind as the friendship moves along. It often happens that when a relationship or friendship sours, we realize, in hindsight, that we'd ignored red flags all along. Better to lower your expectations of and confidence in the friendship, so you won't be caught offguard if something later happens to make it untenable.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: greygarious

                              naw, they are really good friends. when i was moving to seattle, i stayed with them for a week while i was wrapping up my household packing. they took care of my dog for 2 months while i looked for a new home in seattle.

                            2. It did sound like they intended to share the gc, but maybe they said it as an explanation of why they were going to that particular restaurant and didn't think about how it might sound to you. You said they are really good friends. It's not worth losing the friendship over.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: MrsJonesey

                                mrsJ, your explanation makes complete sense now. this incident occured some some years ago. a casual conversation with my sister reminded me of this incident. we have known this couple since 1974, and there was aboslutley no reason at all to bring this up to them after the fact. money is not the issue. my friends are very down-to-earth, everyday kind of people. in some ways they are not very sophisticated in emily post school of etiquette or social manners.
                                i asked what the CHers would think of this in terms of etiquette because sometimes i am accused of being overly concerned about social etiquette. y'know, things like thank you cards, hostess gifts, RSVPing as requested, no belching at the table, stuff like that. :-)

                                1. re: ritabwh

                                  You say that this happened "some years ago" but you are again thinking about it, from which it's reasonable to infer that the incident still rankles you, at least a little.

                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    maybe it rankles me, or maybe it still puzzles me and makes me scratch my head. either way they are still very good friends of mine, no need to "confront". i wondered what the the chowhounders would think of this situation.

                              2. I normally would be splitting the gift certificate like I have done in the past so that everyone gets a bit applied to their bill. But I think this is one thing I normally try to avoid and would only go out with 1 or 2 other people that normally would fight with me for the bill (I am normally the victor in that case so I don't mind at all.)

                                1. It is a little odd that they did this, IMO, but sounds like you are putting this in the overall context of your long-term good friendship and not blowing it out of proportion...nice that you are more bemused about it than upset.

                                  If we have a gift certificate that we plan to use when out for dinner with others, we have it applied to the total bill, then split the remaining bill. If for some reason we didn't want to share the savings of our gift certificate, we would leave it at home and use another time.

                                  While I would be taken back a bit if someone else did what your friends did, I wouldn't be upset. I have learned that even among very good friends, people have very different ideas of what is okay and not okay when it comes out to dining-out etiquette. I get much more uptight about friends who don't tip adequately. :-) Don't worry...not going to start a tipping thread....

                                  1. I agree with the others that if a gift certificate is mentioned when planning the outing, it should be applied to both couples. I also think that this was not an intentional slight by your friends. It was thoughtless, not in the intentional bad thoughtless way, it just did not occur to them that they were doing anything they should not be doing. I would let it go completely.

                                    I don't think a gift certificate should ever be used in a group setting if it is not going to be shared.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: John E.

                                      I think this may have happened like 20 or 30 years ago. She's just going over it now although why I have no idea.:-)

                                        1. re: miss_belle

                                          actually this happend about 10 years ago. a casual conversation with my sister reminded me of the incident and brought to mind the etiquette question i had back when this happened.

                                      1. One of the bars that we go to frequently had Groupon deals. Since you can't apply Groupons to alcohol in MA, it would take a lot of food (more than the 2 of us wanted to eat) to make it worth while. So we would invite friends to go with us. BF would pay for the Groupon (the food), everyone paid for their own alcohol, and occasionally someone would pay for BF's beer. But it was always clear that Groupon was for all of us to share, and we never assumed/expected others would pick up the BF's beer tab.

                                        1. I would not have assumed that they were sharing their gift certificate.

                                          1. I buy groupons occcasionally. When I go out with a friend and I'm using the groupon, I get credit for what I paid but we split the freebie portion. For example, I spent $20 for a $40 certficate. The bill was $100, so $60 after applying certificate. I would only pay $20 while my friend pays $40. In total, I paid $40 because I paid $20 for the certificate.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                              Yeah, that's how we work things out with a Groupon too.

                                            2. They should have said "We are going to XYZ Bistro, want to come with?". There was no reason to mention the gift certificate if they did not intend to share it.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                This - I wouldn't mention the card unless I planned to share it.

                                                1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                  When I have a gift certificate, it's just the two of us going for sure.

                                              2. When I go with friends to a restaurant, we almost always pay for our own share (unless it's a birthday related invite). Because of this, I would have assumed to opposite (that they'd use the gift certificate to cover their share) - and if any was left over, would contribute to mine.

                                                My guess is since it was a well-known chain, they mentioned it in justification for choosing the place (in almost an apologetic way)....

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: The Oracle

                                                  actually these friends really like major chain restaurants. they are not frequent diners. so this would have been a special dinner. i suspect as suggested by others here that yes, they mentioned the GC to explain why this restaurant was chosen because normally they would not have patronized such an "expensive" restaurant. the restaurant was an Outback Steakhouse that opened in coeur d'alene, idaho about 10 years ago. everyone from spokane made the 45 minute drive to taste this famous well known restaurant. :-)

                                                  1. re: ritabwh

                                                    Put in that context, it's not surprising they only applied the gc to themselves.

                                                    1. re: ritabwh

                                                      There was no Outback in Spokane ten years ago?

                                                      I've eaten at Outback twice. The first time was many years ago when I met an old high school buddy there because it was near his hotel. The yuong waiter intriduced himself and sat on the booth next to me to take our order. The second time was with a gift card. The only way I would go back is if I was unfortunate enough to recieve another gift card to Outback.

                                                      1. re: ritabwh

                                                        So they felt the restaurant was so expensive that the only reason they went there was because they had a gift certificate but dragged you along without sharing that gift certificate with you? Well, that's good manners!

                                                        If it was clear from the outset that there would be separate checks, why bring up the gift certificate at all? I don't care how other people pay the bill, credit cards, cash, personal checks, gift certificates, etc. Wouldn't have mattered to me.

                                                    2. I think it's fine that they didn't share the gift certificate. I personally would, if I had one, or try to to have one for our check and one for the other couple, but I also wouldn't really care if they had one and we didn't. Friends are too dear to get upset over such trivial things.

                                                      1. If you normally go dutch (or split the bill some other way), I wouldn't have assumed they'd share the gift card. However the bill is split, the way each of you pay your share of the bill is up to you. If your friends have a gift card, they can use the gift card and get credit for the amount of the gift card. If they had a Visa gift card (opposed to the restaurant card), they could use that. If they had a company credit card they're allowed to use, they can use that. Not sure why the gift certificate would be any different. If they used a cash back or mileage rewards credit card, should they share the cash back or miles from the dinner?

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: akq

                                                          right. you have an interesting outlook on this. eitherway you are of the "no sharing" camp. :-)

                                                          1. re: ritabwh

                                                            No, I'm in the "not obligated to share" camp. Nothing wrong with sharing, I just wouldn't have assumed or been bent out of shape when the friends didn't "share" the gift card.

                                                            1. re: akq

                                                              heh. l was just more surprised than "bent out of shape" :-)

                                                        2. Only share it if you want to and don't assume the party with the gift certificate will share it with you unless they expressly say it.

                                                          I was in the same situation recently but on the flipside - I had a gift certificate that I fully intended on sharing with my friend. I mentioned that I had a gift certificate when I made the plans with her. When we went to pay I handed over the gift certificate and my friend was really pleasantly surprised that I wanted to share it with her. She was initially resistant because it was my gift voucher and she wanted me to have the full use of it but I prevailed.

                                                          Now, apologies ahead of time if this is a sweeping generalisation, but it seems from the tone of many dining out/inviting/hosting posts on CH that in the States there is large expectation of restaurant bills being split evenly or the host/instigator of the dinner treating the other guests and this seems to end up causing lots of misunderstanding and friction.

                                                          Here in New Zealand, if you go out for dinner, the expectation is that you pay for your own meal and drinks. The only time people just offer to split the bill is if it is very good friends going out; even then you hear people offering to pay more because they ate or drank more than their friends. If it is shared dishes you tweak the amounts if some people have had drinks or extras. It's not offensive or cheap, it's just fair. You queue up at the register, you tell the staff member what you had or how much you'll be paying, and you pay for it. It's also unspoken etiquette that you don't leave the restaurant until the whole group has paid in full just in case there is any shortfall.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. Here are a few points I need clarification on;

                                                            Was the context of their mentioning the gift certificate in referenced when trying to pick a place to go?
                                                            Like after mentioning several possible places did they say; "Oh let's try Alfonso's we have a gift certificate for there" or was it an invitation to join them; "Hey we have a $50. gift certificate for Alfonso's would you guys like to join us"...........

                                                            If you've known the couple 30 years what has the check arrangement been in the past, is it always separate checks?

                                                            You do say "this was the first time for this" but I'm not sure what exactly you are referring too with that. If they didn't invite you....and it was just a suggestion because they had the gift certificate......I guess I could understand it......or if you always have separate checks when you dine together I could understand it, not that I necessarily condone it. I would never do such a thing but I think it depends on those two aspects how upset you can or should be.

                                                            Actually I wouldn't suggest being upset at all......you are friends for 30 years is $25. (your supposed half of the value) worth ruining a 30 year friendship? That's less than a dollar a year of the value of their friendship.

                                                            Next time don't ass-u-me, if it matters that much to you.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: jrvedivici

                                                              Tangential question: what do u do when 2 friends eat out who usually split the bill, and one complained about her meal bringing it to right, but the manager removes it from the bill...... Who pays what, then?

                                                              1. re: BettyannNY

                                                                "2 friends eat out who usually split the bill"

                                                                Why would the fact that one meal is comped change this? What if one person ordered desert and the other didn't, would they not split the bill if it were uneven? Maybe I'm missing the question, but the normally split the bill, so they split it with the comp meal removed, win-win.

                                                                1. re: BettyannNY

                                                                  I wouldn't assume anything. Yes, you would think the right thing to do is include the comped meal in the split but people have different expectations.
                                                                  I'd discuss the situation with the friend. As the person with the fully priced meal I'd offer to pay for it. After all, it's what I expected to do in the first place. Then, if the person with the free meal offers to split it that is just a bonus.