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Another splitting the bill question

I may regret starting this thread, but I am truly curious about how you all handle this situation, i.e. what's your tipping point (tipping as in tipping over to the other side, not compensation for providing service)? I start with the premise that when a group of friends dines together, there is a certain point where the disparity among how much various guests ate and drank makes splitting the bill evenly unfair. The question is, where is that point?

Exhibit A: Last week I dined with a group of 10 at a casual, not very expensive restaurant. We ordered a number of dishes to share plus individual entrees. Multiple bottles of wine were also consumed; usually I can drink wine with the best of them but on this night I chose not to indulge. One other friend wasn't drinking either. Bill came, and someone added the tip and then divided by 10 and said it was $66 each. I did some quick math and figured my share, including my relatively low-priced entree and a generous allocation for the shared dishes plus tax and tip was more like $40. I waited a moment to see if the other non-drinker would say something, or if someone else would say "you know, maybe the two who didn't have any wine should pay a little less" [a role I have taken more than once in the past], and when neither of those things happened, I paid my $66 and moved on with the evening. Thinking about it later, on the one hand, it was only $26, which hardly broke my budget. On the other hand, I did pay about 60% more than my "fair share."

Exhibit B: A few weeks earlier, at a more upscale restaurant with a large and interesting wine list, dining with two other friends. I wanted white wine, so I had two glasses in the $10 range. Other two ordered a bottle of red that I wasn't familiar with plus a couple extra glasses after the bottle was gone. Apps and entrees ordered all around. Bill came and I saw that the bottle of wine was $160. Friend then divided the bill by 3, but I objected since I hadn't had any more than a small taste of the expensive wine, and he quickly agreed and recalculated our shares. I felt of twinge of "ugh, am I being a cheapskate?" but I recovered pretty quickly, figuring that paying for wine I didn't order or drink would have added about $60 to my tab, and that was more than I was willing to swallow, so to speak, in the name of not making waves.

So after those very long winded stories, back to my original question - what's your tipping point? Assuming you're not from the school of "life is too short - I split the bill evenly no matter what," at one point do you feel compelled to say something?

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  1. In short, I would object to paying for anything I didn't consume. I've luckily never been in the situation where anyone I've dined with have tried to split the bill so unfairly. The most I ever come across is if maybe I'm dining with one other person and their entree is a few bucks more than mine. I will in that case split the bill evenly, as half of that is practically nothing, but never as much as what the 2 scenarios you presented were. I do find that very unfair, but like I said, so would everyone else in my circle that I dine with, so it's never really been a problem for me.

    1. There is no simple answer, much less a right one, in these situations.

      Personally. I've been on both ends of the bargain - i.e., paying more than my fair share of food/drink and paying less than my fair share.

      But as time has passed I've just come to accept the fact that when dining out with friends in a group setting and the bill is going to be split "evenly" (that's an ironic term, isn't it?) I'm paying as much for the food that I've consumed as I am for the company that I am consuming that food in.

      In other words, whatever premium I might pay I just consider it the price of sharing a good meal with good company.

      Food is always better among friends and I guess I'm ok paying extra for that.

      5 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        I really like your point about paying in part for the company. Otherwise we'd all just dine out alone, right?

        1. re: cookie monster


          Or just eat take-out.

          You'd probably never be on the short-end of a split bill, but then your life would probably be infinitely less interesting and fulfilling.

        2. re: ipsedixit

          Excellent answer and I agree completely.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            For the most part, I completely agree with what you are saying.

            However... your response also begs the question: Are you not good company, as well? Why should you have to "pay" for good company if you are, in return, good company for your friends? There does come a point where a person may feel that they are being taken advantage of in order to pad the bill for those that indulged. Paying equally does not have to mean each person pays the same (yes, ironic). Still, I see your point. A very good point, I might add. I'd not be inclined to dine out with those that did this repeatedly, though. They would no longer be good company nor good friends.

            If it all evens out in the end, though, over the years... the more the merrier! And avoiding the headache of multiple checks or doing math in one's head would make the whole thing all the more enjoyable. Unfortunately, you often have that one person that seems to always come out ahead in these group situations.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              I'm totally with you ipse. Fortunately with my circle of friends, none of us add up what the other orders, but I think we're all sort of respectful not to ridiculously over order when the bill is obviously being split (unless I were hosting, I wouldn't think of ordering foie gras with a glass of Chateau Yquem or Beluga caviar with a vintage champagne). We just split the bill and figure that all will balance out in the end. Now we do have some friends who do not drink. When we dine with them, I always ask for the alcohol to be put on a separate check and pay for that separately.

            2. The crowd I run with shares and splits everything equally all the time. Sometimes you come out ahead, sometimes you don't. No on takes advantage, so there's no problem. If you feel there is inequity in your group, either make it known or don't go out. When someone is in the mood to splurge, make the ground rules to request a separate check for the expensive bottle of wine or liquor.

              3 Replies
              1. re: fourunder

                That's a good suggestion about the separate check for alcohol. I truly don't think anyone in my group takes advantage of these situations - I'd be shocked if that was the case. More like they're just not paying attention, especially as the wine and cocktails start flowing. . .

                1. re: fourunder

                  The friends/family we very occasionally go out to dinner with all seem to understand intuitively that 'complicating' things by some one wanting to order say an expensive bottle of wine is going to end up being a pain in the butt later trying to sit there and debate who owes what.
                  We all keep it simple.
                  We'll all agree that everyone chip in thirty bucks each for instance. Everyone has a brain and can figure out how not to personally go over that amount. when ordering the meal and drinks. Always seems to work out.

                  1. re: Puffin3

                    Maybe not, but to me deciding upfront how much each person is chipping in, seems like a recipe for letting any "shortage" result in undertipping.

                2. I don't think there is any specific point. It depends on your personal disposition plus how generous you can afford to be plus your friends' tendency to reciprocate in terms of generosity. And those things can change as you go through life. When you are a poor grad student, you might care a lot more about a $20 "unfairness" than the first year you make $1M in income.

                  1. Of course these situations depend on where someone is in life. In my 20s, whenever there was a group, either friends or co-workers, the bill was always split by what each person ate and drank. After marriage, the groups were usually smaller and we would trade who picked up the tab, usually one couple would pay the bill and the other couple would pay the tip. I don't recall paying a large extra part of the bill where I felt I had paid too much more than my share.

                    Also, I never have understood the idea of splitting the bill equally where there is an obvious disparity in how much each person had consumed. I have been the one to apeak up about the disparity for others in the past, but it has not come up recently.

                    1. I don't necessarily mind funneling a little more on occasion but if the tab gets expensive because of too many alcoholic beverages or desserts that I don't eat, I either portion my expense out since I don't drink alcohol and rarely order or even eat desserts, or I just pay whatever but let everyone know that they're relegated to the tip. I have no issue with this.

                      1. Unless there is an established convention among all the guests (by prior practice) - or express agreement before dining - that the bill will be split evenly, the default is that every tub is on its own bottom: each person pays for what he or she consumed.

                        1. We always ask for a separate check for the wine if we order an expensive bottle even if we share (I don't mean they drink half the bottle lol!) glass. Now with our hockey "family" we order by the number on the kids jersey and get separate checks - of course we're not talking about upscale restaurants with them more like sports bars.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Linda VH

                            I agree separate checks seems to be the best way to go. To avoid any confusion once you're there, call ahead to see if it's a problem. It sure solves all the problems mentioned here.

                          2. I am from the school of "life is too short - I split the bill evenly no matter what".

                            And it used to piss me off considerably when eating with colleagues who insisted in only paying for what they had ordered. Only they never seemed to actually pay for what they had ordered, leaving the "even splitters" with more to pay. Several of my colleagues were, indeed, tight-arsed no-marks! I used to hate attending leaving/celebration dinners.

                            1. "Assuming you're not from the school of "life is too short - I split the bill evenly no matter what," at one point do you feel compelled to say something?"

                              I'm from that school and its never been worth it for me to worry about whether I paid too much or not enough. I can't remember a time when I've gotten together with a group of my friends and done otherwise except for those times when someone suddenly decides its time for credit card roulette to decide who picks up the tab. Last time that happened, I won or err, did I lose? That was an ouch. But like Ipse said, I'm out to have dinner with my friends, not to worry about if I got shafted. But if someone from the group said that was unfair b/c s/he hadn't had a drink/dessert/apps, I would have no problem with tthat person paying a lesser share as long as s/he did the math for everyone then. Its just not one of the things I worry about.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Bkeats

                                If they did the math silently. Nothing worse then ending a meal with drawn out figuring out conversation of who owes what

                              2. Most of my friends are all of the understanding that when we go out it's split equally, we split the check not hairs.

                                However I will tell you this much, I'm a drinker a big drinker, and I'm an eater, a big eater. If we are going out with certain family or friends I will gauge my appetite for both booze and food to the crowd. If need be I'll only have a cocktail or two during the course of the night and if everyone is ordering the chicken, I'm not going to order a porterhouse.

                                While I have been blessed that I can indulge, albeit over indulge, I am conscious of my company and would NEVER look for them to have to financially contribute to my over indulging.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: jrvedivici

                                  That's an interesting perspective. I'm realizing that without really thinking about it I tend to do the same, i.e. moderate my ordering, when I'm with friends who I know are on a much tighter budget than I am, as I don't want them to feel awkward about having to pay for my indulgences. I also have a friend like you, with bigger appetites for food and drink than the average person (and expensive tastes - lobster, foie gras, single malt Scotch), and his startegy is to say up front yes, I'm ordering what I want but don't worry, I also intend to pay for it.

                                2. I have a friend who if she feels she had to pay more than a couple bucks she will call you out (type of girl who wants all her pennies back too). It does get annoying as many of us have had her to our place for dinner (with no reciprocation) but considering she is good company for the most part we just deal with it.
                                  I luckily have never been in the situation where I thought I have paid more than my fair share but if it was me I think I would just grin and bear it and re evaluate (cost of company) for next time.

                                  1. Here's the answer: your feelings are valid. When you're feeling uncomfortable about something, you have a right to communicate it.

                                    You don't sound like the person who wants to take out the calculator at the end of the meal. Now THAT is being a "cheapskate." But paying for wine and other high end items you didn't order or touch? Hmm... that sounds very reasonable to say something like: "Guys, I hate to be this way, but I didn't really touch the wine..."

                                    Your friends will get it right away and recalculate like they did in Exhibit B without being offended. YOU surely wouldn't consider a friend of yours speaking up about this kind of thing, a "cheapskate," right? Of course not. So just give yourself that much kindness and openly communicate.

                                    Your friends are probably so busy they just didn't notice that you didn't touch the wine, etc.

                                    4 Replies
                                      1. re: EarlyBird

                                        This. Especially the part where your friends probably don't notice. I feel like in this scenario, the "other people" often are characterized as selfish, wine-guzzling jerks who are forcing their friends to finance their steak and rare scotch.

                                        When likely, they aren't paying attention to what everyone else is ordering with a dollar sign in mind, and are just enjoying their meal. Give your friends some credit!

                                        1. re: LeoLioness

                                          One can hope.

                                          But I will say that over many years, I have certainly observed there are certain people in groups who will imbibe significantly more when the tab is split evenly than when the tab is not split that way.

                                          1. re: LeoLioness

                                            As the OP I have to clarify that I agree 100%. I absolutely do not think that any of my friends do this on purpose to get others to subsidize their indulgences. Much more likely that they're just not paying attention to what others are (or are not) ordering, or whose wine glass is getting refilled more frequently. I'm recalling now that I have one friend who was on a very tight budget for a while, and at group dinners he would say up front something along the lines of "I really wanted to come and enjoy this evening with you all, but I'm watching my wallet these days so I'm just going to order an entree and not drink any wine and ask for a separate check." I admired his forthrightness.

                                        2. My mom and dad would eat out with the same crowd and everyone would order wine and cocktails. My mom didn't drink but she got where she would order lobster.

                                          1. I don't drink, but most of the friends I dine out with do. When I go out to eat, I accept that it might not work out to be precisely even. I'd rather just forget about the imbalance and not create waves. As has been said above, dining out with friends is about more than just the food, and I'm willing to pay for the experience. But each meal is different. If my friends just have a glass of wine, that's one thing. But if they have knocked back two or three $10-15 cocktails each on top of wine, while I'm just having my iced tea, that can really throw the check out of whack. Fortunately, my best friends are usually aware of this, and tell me to only pay for my food, an offer I gratefully accept. But if they don't? Or if I'm with people I don't know so well? I would never complain "This is unfair! I shouldn't have to pay for all your drinks!" However, I have, once or twice in the past, politely and discretely asked, "Would anybody mind if I paid a little less because I didn't have any alcohol?" I have never, to my knowledge, had anybody object.

                                            1. Perhaps there are regional differences in custom, but the simplest solution is to ask for separate checks when dining with a group - after all, the server has to keep up with who ordered what in any event. For the added complexity of sharing a bottle of expensive wine, just make a cash contribution to the person who ordered it if you partake.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: GAcook

                                                I think that is a regional thing (I'm in New England never do it). But I also think it's hard to maneuver in this age of small plate/shared plates restaurants. My friends and I tend to split things (food and wine) instead of only ordering a solo first/second course.

                                                1. re: GAcook

                                                  I've actually been in restaurants before and while dining with a group, not only are they able to give separate checks for everyone's individual entree and drink, they've been able to split up the price of a shared appetizer onto everyone's check. I imagine restaurants like this could also do the same thing with a bottle of wine.

                                                  1. re: GAcook

                                                    This was exactly what I was going to suggest. Unless I am in such a big group (rare) that it has to be on a single bill with an auto-grat as dictated by the restaurant, my friends and I always, always get separate checks. Sometimes with close friends we might do the "I'll get this one, you got it last time" thing, but that's usually with an informal lunch, not a $66 dinner. None of my friends, nor I, have the financial ability to pay for other people's dinners or their expensive drinks. I order conservatively (financially) when out to account for however much I can afford to spend on a dinner out that night, and couldn't safely add to that without getting into trouble in paying other bills. I only have a little bit each month to spend on things like this. I'm not a cheapskate, I just can't afford the fluidity. Since none of my friends can either, it's never an issue, we just all get separate checks.

                                                  2. I have a group of very affluent friends, the amount of the bill for them is a nonissue, and they are prone to indulging themselves while out.
                                                    I am not in that same economic situation, and as a vegetarian who can't have more than two drinks i have paid astonishing amounts for a plate of grilled veggies and glass of wine while we are in a large group.

                                                    What works for me now is when there is a large group of us (aka i will definately be paying $40+ ontop of what i owe for my meal) i discreetly ask the waiter while placing me order "if you could please make a seperate check for me, i may have to leave before the group is finished". Works like a charm and i pay for what i consumed.
                                                    When the group bill comes and my bill comes i just tell the bill splitter that i had my check written seperate, that i was afraid i may have to leave earlier due to early morning/walk the neighbor's dog/pick up my sister/whatever. No one seems to give a $hit, and i no longer resent or dread dinner invites that drain my bank account.

                                                    1. When dining frequently with the same group of friends, we split the bill equally and the variances over time usually work themselves out. When dining with a group one time, if there was a person not drinking or myself, I'd chime in and note that the bill should be adjusted for that person. Works well.

                                                      1. So may we return back to your question..."what's your tipping point".....
                                                        From the above it appears that each person, does have their method or can calculate their approach to this question...for me I have been in numerous scenarios as described.
                                                        Perhaps the most uncomfortable, was with a group of neighbors, and one of the husbands said, I always order way too much when eating out in a group, this way I can try everything I want...obviously selfish...

                                                        Next, we had some real good long time friends, almost like family, and one couple in particular could drink us all under the table, and as far as the food costs were concerned, all ate off the menu, so you knew if one person was eating the chicken or the other the lobster. This couple would order "cocktail after cocktail" at the table, they even had their tab from the bar, they got their early and knocked down a few, transferred to the table tab. Then their reasoning to order a bottle of wine at main course time for them was because it was cheaper to order the bottle than by the glass...So what did I do...I asked the server to make two separate checks, one for the alcohol and one for the food...The "drinker's" were given the bar tab and I received the food tab. I recall them saying that they must have made a mistake with the check. I relayed the bad news, and because they were so drunk, they could not calculate the split. They ended up paying about 3/4 of the bar bill and we all split the food tab.

                                                        That seemed pretty fair and yes there is no correct answer.

                                                        1. Last week I was at a bar/restaurant with my two brothers, one SIL, and a brother's buddy. We ate and had beers. SIL does not drink. The buddy had 4 beers, my brother with wife had 3 beers (Coors Light for both, ugh). My oldest brother had 3 Belgian beers. I had one dark Belgian beer (quality over quantity) that was on special that day. We got separate checks. The funny thing is, my oldest brother got sticker shock when his bill came, his 3 pints were 6 bucks each. That might not sound like much for NYC, but it is high for Minnesota.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                            But it was fare to all in attendance...Yes?

                                                            1. re: PHREDDY

                                                              It worked out for me, I got outa there for 20 bucks. (25% tip)

                                                          2. Yeah, the thing is, ipse's got this one covered. Lest anyone simply think that I am merely attempting to compound the implicit notion suggested by the appellation through my own authority to the dogmatic issuance, I only suggest that "I AM Z".

                                                            Bottom line, if you're going to deem someone worth breakin' bread with, they're likewise worth a couple extra pieces of coin. Sometimes, they may surprise you with generosity and, sometimes, you may feel the urge to hand the waiter your credit card on the way to "powder your nose", so that a check, and the ensuing awkwardness, never arrives. Ask the Pharoes how the "take it with you" thing worked out.*

                                                            *Please note, none of the foregoing applies to dinner with deep-pocketed clients. In such situation, one should always order the most expensive things on the menu - regardless of preference, allergies, or level of intoxication. As coffee arrives, grab the phone in your pocket, glance at it, stand, and say, "Shit. I'm sorry. This is really, REALLY important to US. I gotta get back to the office."

                                                            Start speaking into the phone as you head for the door. Stop abruptly and glance back at the table while reaching into your suit jacket. Shout slightly into the phone, "Those assholes!", then turn back to the senior most member of your client's delegation and say, "You guys 'cool'? I'll call you as soon as I get this worked out."

                                                            Stopping for a nightcap on your way home is optional, but don't forget to bill the client for your time at dinner, the subsequent "phone conferences", and call to leave a voice mail around six the next morning stating, "Well, it took most of the night, but we finally got that one worked out. Sorry I had to leave so quickly last night.

                                                            "I need to get home for a shower and change of clothes. I'll tell you all about it Thursday at Eleven Madison. Looking forward to it!"

                                                            9 Replies
                                                            1. re: MGZ

                                                              Do you think this will work when I make a "plumbing repair " call at your house?....

                                                              After all you are the "deep pocketed client"...right?

                                                              1. re: PHREDDY

                                                                Shame on you trying to take advantage of a man my age. I'll have you know, my wife sewed my pockets shut when I retired - damned if there's not still a few bucks left in a couple of 'em.

                                                                1. re: MGZ

                                                                  I think I might be older than you!

                                                                  1. re: PHREDDY

                                                                    So, now you admit that you see my youthfulness and lack of experience as something to prey upon? For shame, PHREDDY, for shame!

                                                                    1. re: MGZ

                                                                      60...and you? ( not talking about the % you tip)

                                                                      1. re: PHREDDY

                                                                        Ah, Hell, my friend, I've lived enough lives to know a few things.

                                                                        I'm older than the wind and too young to keep time. I own a couple sports jackets from the 80s and a tie I just bought to bury a friend.

                                                                        The thing is age, is beyond my purview, but wisdom is a noble pursuit. I've earned my tastes in food, company, cars, etc., and would be happy to stand by 'em, as well as, cover the tab and the tip if ever we cross paths.

                                                                        1. re: MGZ

                                                                          MGZ....Only if we can split the check!!!!!

                                                                          1. re: PHREDDY

                                                                            You're on. We'll go fifty/fifty, with the condition that any other 'hounds who can make it merely tell us they'd like to come and offer to pool for the tip? Given who the hosts are, I bet they'd go in for your sixty percent.

                                                                            1. re: MGZ

                                                                              We should set something up...
                                                                              Pick a date with enough wiggle room for others to join in...

                                                            2. I am usually the guy at the heavy end of the bill: an extra course, drank more wine etc. I say 'I think I owe more than you do. Shall we figure it out exactly, or do you want to split the bill and I'll get the tip?' If I go overboard on the wine selection, I will ask for a separate bev bill, at the time I order, but still share.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: mwhitmore

                                                                This is fine as long as you are reasonably sure that the tip will at least close-to make up for the difference in consumption. Otherwise it can seem like "hey, do you want to be a stickler (PITA) or do you just want me to get away with not quite paying my share?"

                                                                1. re: DGresh

                                                                  I try to pay a bit more than my share. I'm happy for somebody to be the math guy, as long as it's not me at the end of the meal.

                                                              2. As soon as you share dishes you muddle the billing. If you don't want to share a check then only order for yourself and ask for separate checks. The only other thing that could have been done was to ask the server for a separate check for the liquor and let those that drank figure that part out for themselves.

                                                                1. my most embarrsing experince with this is when my biodad surprised me at at an event with my popa an mom...trying to be civil my poppa asked him to join us for dinner...he ordered an appertizer and didnt share he ate off my plate. when the bill came he said "I'll get it" of course he knew my grandfather would say no and and my grand father said " Get the tip" I looked and he only tipped on His meal! I knew my grandfather would flip so I took care of it.....

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                    I hope you look at situation as not something directed towards you. It is just so unfortunate that some people have a serious disconnect to reality in these situations, even if it is your dad.....Obviously your quick thinking, remediated a very awkward scenario.

                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                      I don't understand why separate checks is like a bad word and considered such a burden on the staff even with a group of 10.

                                                                      A single check often creates a burden on the guests to calculate individual bills, can make a guest feel uneasy about ordering something that is either higher or lower than the average meal and can lead to ill feelings if an even split is not equitable

                                                                      1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                        If you have separate checks for a party of 10 coming into the kitchen that would be 5 separate checks. If it takes between 1-2 mins for the server to input each order into the POS system that's approximately 5-10 minute difference between the kitchen getting the first order vs. the last for the same table, assuming nobody else sent any other orders to the kitchen in between. Lets say the order/ticket sat on the printer 1-2 minutes after they came in, that means there could be 10-20 mins between the time the kitchen see's or starts the first check to the last.

                                                                        Now trying to get your soup or salad out of the kitchen at the same time as the last persons who ticket last hit the kitchen, impossible. Kitchens work in order of when the tickets come off the printer, logistics on separate checks for a party that large is difficult for a busy kitchen.

                                                                        Hope that helps explain one reason why it's frowned upon.

                                                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                            Separate checks are a great concept and does resolve the OP's situation. It does require the server to spend extra time at the POS screen and IMHO their tip should be at least 20% for this time and effort. Timing the input, however, DOES impact how the food comes out. My cheapskate BIL will announce "separate checks!" as we are seated. He always orders first, and get his food first, and inhales it while some of us are still waiting for ours.

                                                                            Here at home, my regular dining companions are a diverse lot - usually dividing the check by the number at the table works out fine, and the alcohol comes on a separate check for the drinkers to divide. But there's a woman in the group who is very specific about what she does NOT owe on these meals. Once at a group dinner she ordered a bottle of wine and offered me a glass, which I accepted and enjoyed. A month later we had lunch together alone and the differences in our entrees was $5 (hers was more). She actually looked at me and said "well you still owe me $5 for that glass of my wine you drank at _____" I just said "Let me get this ..." paid the entire bill, and decided that would be our last meal together.

                                                                            1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                              "Let me get this ..." paid the entire bill, and decided that would be our last meal together.


                                                                              1. re: fourunder

                                                                                To clarify (for fourunder) - I had been dining with this person for several years in many different group configurations. Every. Single. Time. she would act this way. She complains about anything and everything; I've never had a meal with her that she didn't send SOMETHING back. Several other members of our social circle have also begun to avoid her company for this reason.

                                                                                1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                  Thanks for the clarification....but just so there is no confusion....I was applauding you.

                                                                                  I'm pretty tolerant of many concerns.....Cheapness is not one of them and my list is long of those I have written off. At least the person you wrote off did pay for her meal portion in the past. I have a friend I wrote off for this: We had the exact same lunch...Pastrami Sandwich and coffee. The bill was just north of $30. I threw a $20 down....I got no change. It was a repeated offense.

                                                                                  1. re: fourunder

                                                                                    Thanks, fourunder - feeling the love. Im always glad to read here that Im not the only one who really dislikes the end-of-the-meal quibble over "your food was more expensive than mine... yadda x 3". I grew up with a father who always reached for the check as soon as it arrived and wouldn't hear of anyone else paying unless they really insisted. I was taught that this was the most gracious way to be. I have inlaws who will calculate to the penny what they owe; on the rare occasions I dine with them I know it will happen. One night with them at a fast/casual place, I excused myself during dinner, found our server, and slipped him my credit card to cover all our (6) meals. You should have heard them howl! I just said "the bill is paid; you guys can fight over the tip"

                                                                                    1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                      I always let everyone walk ahead of me to the table...and I drag behind to hand the cc to the hostess or whoever is at the desk to give it to the server.

                                                                                      What's comical is I have friends who have seen this routine for decades and still act amazed when the bill arrives for me to sign....with the gratuitous " I'll get it next time "....I'll have to post a query....*When exactly is next time*.

                                                                                      Thanks for sharing.

                                                                                      1. re: fourunder

                                                                                        if you have been doing it for "decades" with the same group I am sure the "I'll get it" it is strictly rhetorical at this point. Next time don't do it and see what happens.

                                                                                  2. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                    Take her to a buffet, set price and she cannot send anything back!

                                                                                2. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                  I'm sorry, life is to short for friends like that. I'm sorry, but I would not consider anyone to be my friend if he were not enough of a sport to consider simply splitting checks evenly when we go out. I will make two exceptions…for people who do not drink, and for people who are less advantaged than we, and cannot afford to dine out at restaurants such as those we frequent. When dining with folks that do not drink, we always ask for alcohol to be on a separate check (to be split by the drinkers). With friends who are more financially challenged than us we either select a restaurant that they feel comfortable going to (and still split the check), find an excuse to treat them (oh…isn't Bill's birthday next week?), or have them to our home for dinner. Going out for dinner and figuring out what everyone owes and doing a full accounting is not in my blood. I just don't do it. I do have one acquaintance (not a true friend) who always asks for a separate check…because he's cheap and although he can easily afford the money, is afraid of being cheated (although he always orders as much as anyone.) So be it.

                                                                                3. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                  1. the server still has to input the food orders as individual items. so no difference there.

                                                                                  2. i've observed that the actual bills aren't generated until the end, and thus this does not affect food coming out.

                                                                                  asking for "separate checks" up front makes it easier for me, the customer.

                                                                                  i don't always do separate checks, but i esp. like them for groups where i am not really close to the people and know their habits (habits of honesty and generosity, vs. el cheapos who don't want to pay their fair share).

                                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                                    1.) I'm not really sure what you are saying? It takes a couple of minutes to input an order. The server starts with the first couple, it takes 1-2 minutes to input their order. They then send that order to the kitchen, they then open another check for that table, that alone takes 30 seconds to a minute, now input appitizers, soup, salad, entree for 2nd couple, another 1-2 minutes, repeat repeat repeat. The kitchen gets 5 orders over a 10 minute period, assuming nobody else at another terminal sends something between your orders. There is a HUGE difference between a kitchen getting 5 orders for 2 people individually over a 10min span than getting 1 order for 10 people. No comparison between the two.

                                                                                    2.) If you order separate checks from the beginning the check is NEVER generated at the end. The checks are printed at the end, but they are not "generated" at the end, no way, no how, that is incorrect.

                                                                                    It's always the diners discretion if they want separate checks, and the houses obligation to provide them for you. But to think it does not raise difficulties for the house is completely inaccurate.

                                                                                    1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                      Sorry to disagree with you here, and it's been 10 years since I've waited tables, but absolutely separate checks are generated at the end at places I've worked. The order for the entire table goes in as a single order. When it's time to print checks for the table, you go into the POS and select from the list what diner 1 had, diner 2, diner 3, diner 4, etc. and then it prints out a chit for each of them.

                                                                                      1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                        No need to be sorry at all.......what you are describing is also accurate, however that is generally "splitting" a check, at the end of a meal.

                                                                                        What I am describing is "separate checks" starting in the beginning of the meal/order.

                                                                                        It depends on how the POS is set up. What you are describing I would be willing to bet was from more of a chain -or- national restaurant where the tables are all assigned seating numbers as you are saying, seat 1/seat 2/ seat 3 etc.

                                                                                        In smaller or independent restaurants where your floor configuration can change nightly, breaking a 4 top into a two top, two four tops into an 8 top etc. the POS isn't set up for seating positions. The primary way to identify this is when the food runner comes to your table and places your food in front of you -or- comes to your table and say's "Ok who is having the strip steak?"

                                                                                        Again my example was just to explain why it can be a problem for a kitchen.

                                                                                        1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                          so "splitting the check" is no trouble, but "separate checks" is? isn't it better to let the server know up front?

                                                                                          i can't imagine that sending in five orders of two people takes much more time than one order for ten. and i can't see -- unless the kitchen is slammed -- that orders would be sent out in much different time. but, maybe you know better.

                                                                                          so…in conclusion, for ultimate efficiency should i tell the server up front to send in one order, but that we will want to "split" the bill (according to who ordered what) at the end of the meal when it comes to payment?

                                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                                            I was originally trying to explain why separate checks can be a "burden" to a kitchen as scuba had asked. As rockandroller pointed out, there are ways to make it easier depending on the way the POS is set up, which is true, however not always the case depending on the restaurant.

                                                                                            "i can't imagine that sending in five orders of two people takes much more time than one order for ten."
                                                                                            Again, it can make a big difference as stated with the sample time frames above.

                                                                                            "and i can't see -- unless the kitchen is slammed"
                                                                                            Yes, obviously if it's a Monday night and the 10 top is the only table in the restaurant the kitchen should handle it. The examples I was giving was under the premise of a full house, it creates problems.

                                                                                            I'm not saying I know better than anyone. I'm just trying to explain to scuba why a kitchen would find it burdensome, that's all. I do have over 40 years experience in every aspect of restaurant operation. I was literally born into the industry, and am only trying to give one example or explanation.

                                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                                              Splitting the bill (evenly) between 2 or even 3 credit cards seems to me as a consumer, to never be a problem. At the end of a meal with friends, we put down 2 or 3 credit cards and ask for it to be split evenly, and it's never a problem. Indeed, we often ask the server to split it evenly and add 20 or 25% tip, and it's happily done. We just sign and say good night...easy as pie! What's the issue?

                                                                                              1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                "splitting the bill evenly" is not what i was talking about. my reason for asking for separate checks is to pay for what i order.

                                                                                              2. re: alkapal

                                                                                                order entry will be a little bit much. But the bigger issue is if you want all 10 people to get their food at the same time. With most POS systems, there is not an effective way for 5 2tops to be treated as a 10top

                                                                                                1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                                  This question is from someone who has zero restaurant experience. Couldn't the '5-2 POS entry be shown as a single table?

                                                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                                                    A POS is nothing more than a computer so I'm sure there is an almost unlimited way to set it up. Even if you had all 5 couples as 1 table, normally or on most if not all POS I've worked with, you can't have 2 checks open at 1 time. (This requires the server to "close out" a check before walking away and either forget to send the order to the kitchen -or- more importantly someone walking up and altering a check left open)

                                                                                                    So the problem of sending the first check to the kitchen several minutes prior to the last would still remain.

                                                                                                    1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                      I think a simple software fix would make the option I mentioned be a feature that the company selling these systems should include.

                                                                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                                                                        If you look at restaurant POS software, the likes of Aloha, you are looking at standard issues in terms of developing and selling software. Lots of issues beginning with the stuff that is already in place, good or bad, and not everyone in Silicon Valley will necessarily agree on issues regarding technology.

                                                                                                        So issues might include things are that missing from the functionality of your legacy POS system (even though they should arguably have been there).

                                                                                                        But the ability to split a check may involve additional considerations to the particular capabilities of the POS software, including credit-card fees. Then there are issues of fraud detection, etc. And then you have the issues a skill sets. The GM who is running the place may be familiar with some particular POS software and favor it. Not very unusual in the world of software. Just because something is possible in the world of software products doesn't mean it will happen.

                                                                                                        1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                          I understand that sometimes the software features available are not always those desired. I remember attempting to buy custom software for the broadcasting business and hitting roadblocks.

                                                                                    2. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                      I am with scubadoo, even though I am cognizant of the extra work that I am giving the waitstaff to maintain the separate checks.

                                                                                      I spent several years as the poor person at the table, constantly minding my budget, drinking water, and dreading the "shall we just split this check evenly"? comments. I often found it easier to have people over to my house where I could feed 8-10 people for less money than my share in going out to eat with the same group! (They would bring their own drinks).

                                                                                      Fast forward to today, when I am on the other end of the table and don't want to tank someone else's monthly budget when we go out together, and I never suggest splitting evenly. If the group is big enough though, I know that someone else will, so sometimes I don't wind up ordering what I want in order to avoid inflating the bill.

                                                                                      1. re: thinks too much

                                                                                        I'll go ahead and splurge on an entree, but never expect an even split if I inflate the bill.

                                                                                  2. Most of the time, the people I go out to eat with order fairly evenly, i.e. everyone gets items of roughly the same value; however, when the check comes, if some people ordered alcohol or the most expensive entrees, that is taken into account when determining who owes how much. There is a natural attention to making the division of the tab equitable. That is the nature of my friends.

                                                                                    I did have an unfortunate experience dining with a group of people I do not know well, who are the long time friends of a friend who was celebrating a birthday. There were about 8 people total. They had organized the dinner. I don't drink, they all do (including the birthday girl, who had recently been having serious consequences of her alcoholism but, unknown to me, had decided she didn't really have a problem). They all ordered multiple drinks and at least one bottle of wine. At the end, the bill was passed around the table for everyone to pitch in their part. I calculated what I owed for my meal and part of the birthdays girl's meal and drinks. When the bill got back to the chief organizer, she announced that there wasn't enough money and looked at me. I threw in some additional cash even though I thought I had already contributed my fair share.

                                                                                    I left a little irritated, but wiser. If invited to dine with this crowd again, I'll pass.

                                                                                    1. There is nothing more depressing when dining out when after enjoying a lovely meal having a tab fight. You want to pick up the check? Fine. Can I leave the tip? Fine. Just stop the frikkin conversation changing the whole dynamic of what was a lovely meal sharing time together.

                                                                                      Many years ago we joined a group of mostly single women on Block Island for an elegant dinner. They were a nickle and dime living single group. So the planner put the tab on her credit card, and then did the math and told each person what they owed. A bit anal? Perhaps, but I am not a single woman on an extremely tight budget that can't afford splitting the bill. It worked for the occasion.

                                                                                      When tossing cash at a group bill, we are most likely to toss in an extra 10 20 or 50.

                                                                                      But please, don't make negotiating the bill the ruination of a lovely time spent together. Don't pull out the calculator at the table. If that's what you need to do then simply go to the powder room and do your math in private. And please round it down do we don't have to pull out our change purses to negotiate pennies dimes and quarters.

                                                                                      1. Exhibit A - hey, we're all friends here - we had food, we had drinks, we had fun - let it go.

                                                                                        Exhibit B - I'll pay for my two $10 glasses, I will not subsidize your enjoyment of that $160 bottle.

                                                                                        1. I had this conversation at a dinner party ( that I hosted) last night.
                                                                                          Bottom line - People who do this to you are being really disrespectful. You have a budget and are trying to keep to it while still enjoying their company. If they have a bigger budget, that is fine. That doesn't mean you should have to stretch yours.
                                                                                          I think the answers below that imply that you should have to pay to enjoy your friends company are ridiculous.
                                                                                          Next time, maybe mention that you are trying to watch your budget so you will only order by the glass (or something similar) so they know what to expect when it comes time to pay the bill.

                                                                                          1. A couple dollars for food here and there isn't bad, but alcohol changes the game.
                                                                                            $26 is too big a price to pay when you didn't indulge at all.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: monavano

                                                                                              agreed - if the only difference is a few bucks more or less for an entrée splitting hairs over the bill seems petty.

                                                                                              The cost of Alcohol is a wild card though and people who choose to consume expensive beverages should expect to pay their share for them.

                                                                                              likewise with things like raw bar and other high dollar items- if I chow down on a platter of oysters and my buddy had nachos I am not going to expect an even split

                                                                                              I rarely run into a "split the check" issue with friends though - usually everyone is vying to pay more than their share.

                                                                                              it comes down to paying attention to your surroundings, the choices your companions are making and having a little class.

                                                                                            2. $26 doesn't break my bank either, but I have friends to whom that amount would be a Big Deal, (but who are also kind and generous). The same group is also big on ordering bottles of wine to share, which I can't drink and usually stick to beer. I guess it comes down to picking your battles, and picking your dining companions.

                                                                                              9 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                                But why does the burdon need to be on the customer? Why should they be uncomfortable? A restaurant is in the business of hospitality. To make their guest feel comfortable. Why are we trying to make the server happy and not the customer? What about the shoe salesman that is showing the 10th pair of shoes to the customer who can't make up their mind? Why do we raise the restaurant employee above the rest?

                                                                                                1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                                  I think there must be something stirring in the male ego...not wanting to look cheap.
                                                                                                  Since my husband passed away, I'm in a lot of restaurants with other women. We always ask for separate checks and never hear a sigh or groan from a server. We are dining in upscale places and it sure doesn't bother me...though I know it would have bothered my husband. Hey, we always knew men and women are different.

                                                                                                  1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                                    Sorry Scubadoo, I don't understand your response? I said nothing about the restaurant employee - I'm perfectly happy to ask for separate checks, but sometimes a friend will say "It's all on one" before I get a chance to ask for them separately. It is the server's job to accommodate the customer, and if splitting the checks creates an extra burden, then it can be made up in a little extra tip $$.

                                                                                                    1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                                      Not really directed at your response but it seems on these boards the food server is held to a higher standard than other employees in the service industry.

                                                                                                  2. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                                    And if it is a big deal, then they may be hesitant to go for a meal where they feel like they are writing a blank check. I've never understood why some people (like ipse and MGZ) think it's somehow a violation of friendship not to want to split the check evenly but not a violation of friendship to force your friends -- who may not want to discuss the details of their financial situation with you -- to subsidize your alcohol consumption.

                                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                      It would require Congressional action to adequately subsidize my alcohol consumption.

                                                                                                      Truth is, though I am generally a very progressive thinker, I still can't help but adhere to certain antiquated notions of "Guy Code".* What can you do? Such is the sometimes incongruous nature of my existence. I told my shrink and she said "It's OK".

                                                                                                      *"A guy doesn't haggle with a buddy over money" is the ostensible root. Which is probably just a simple evolution of the 10th Commandment. The 9th also plays a relevant part in The Code.

                                                                                                      1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                        >>>It would require Congressional action to adequately subsidize my alcohol consumption.<<<

                                                                                                        Love it, MGZ!!

                                                                                                        1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                          Well of course the guy who runs up the tab doesn't want to haggle over the bill!

                                                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                            Clever indeed.

                                                                                                            Nevertheless, since this topic has the legs of a car show model, I'll continue to opine.*

                                                                                                            The thing to keep in mind is, there are really three essentials to avoid when trying to celebrate a meal with company: prolonged, awkward silences or conversations;** inhibitions in ordering and consuming (be they borne out of concern for diet, display, or the finances of other diners); and calculators (this includes calculator watches (remember those goofy-ass things), phones, tablets, etc.).

                                                                                                            Ideally, all checks should really be dealt with in one of two ways - the "Treat" or the "Toss". Normally, the waitress will bring the check and place it in front of the most gregarious gent in the group. His job is to open the fold and announce the total - no more. You trusted the staff to bring you what you've eaten, you trust 'em to get the tally correct too.

                                                                                                            Now, if the Treat is in play, and handled artfully (as detailed in an earlier post), the check will have been deposited with the guy who had already seen to it. And "Thank yous" are in order. If it is in play, and still unresolved, one of the men at the table will extend an arm and announce, "I got this one." Some genial dispute will typically follow, but it is amicably resolved with either an "I'll get the next one" or an "I insist, after all you took care of that thing for me."

                                                                                                            The "Toss" is the less preferred but more democratic way of settling a tab (however, it does prevent being "paid back" for a couple thousand dollars worth of advice/services with a couple hundred bucks of dinner). After the bottom line is announced, one simply tosses his fair share on the table. This is easily calculated by dividing the total by the number of people at the table and tripling that value (your part, your date's part, and the part for the "house"). You always round numbers up for ease of calculation and there is no prohibition against padding the house's take.

                                                                                                            In the end, the Toss usually results in more money on the table than necessary to cover the tab and the tip. It's best left for the staff - they never complain - but, it's also ok, at this point, if someone who felt they overpaid quietly takes back a bit. Given that that someone is probably the dateless guy who ordered only the chicken and nursed his glass of white wine throughout the meal, after having mentioned the diet his expensive gastroenterologist put him on, it's best not to do anything that might have him reaching for his Blackberry and violating the third essential.

                                                                                                            *As alluded to, I'm not aimin' to change any hearts and minds. Merely subjecting you to the reflections of a fellow who's notions of dining out were forged by an era when the only time the word "food" was followed by "ie" was to clarify. E.g., "That salad was nice, but now let's get some real food, i.e., lobsters."

                                                                                                            **Some might argue that there is a fourth thing to avoid - wives and girlfriends at the same table - but, I feel that's simply a logical sub-notion of the awkward conversation notion. That essential also covers the "don't talk about your medical condition/doctor's visit, etc."

                                                                                                    2. In these examples, I think the tipping point is the relative cost of the things that are being ordered. In the first case, it sounds as if everything was more or less in the same range, just some people ordered a little more than others. But a $10 glass of wine is equivalent to a $50 bottle of wine, not a $160 bottle! I think ordering something that is three times as expensive that what other people are ordering and then expecting to split it evenly is past the tipping point.

                                                                                                      1. I just don't dine with people who are unreasonable, or at least not more than once......

                                                                                                        1. Invariably, the very ones who run up the bill are the ones who can afford it but want those of us, who the more wealthy know are in a smaller tax bracket, who can least afford it to pick up part of their bill. I think it is just an 'in your face' tactic and I am going to start meeting these groups after dinner.

                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: etexpat

                                                                                                            If they're assholes, why join them at all?

                                                                                                            1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                              +1! I only dine with good friends and people I like. We split things down the middle and everything seems to work out just fine. Only exception is for non- drinkers, and then I have alcohol put on a separate check which I pay. Easy-peasy!

                                                                                                              1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                That's a really interesting solution -- if there are non-drinkers in the group, have the wine/drinks put on a separate check which is then split equally among the imbibers. The check for food is split equally among all eaters. No quibbling about "My glass of wine cost less than your martini, or your dessert cost more than my salad..." Very fair, IMHO.

                                                                                                                1. re: CindyJ

                                                                                                                  Not fair to the two $5 beer folks who have to pitch in on 3 bottles of wine or a table full of martinis. (I can only drink beer, so this bugs me.) :)

                                                                                                                  1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                                                    So do you want to be right, or do you want be happy (happy, as in "no longer being bugged")?