Thursday, August 14, 2008

More Tips: How to Get a Fair Deal When Splitting the Tab with Friends

You want to eat out with your friends, but you don't want to overpay for your portion of the group bill. That's a problem that I wrote about in this post: Ripped Off at Group Dinner: Splitting the Bill? Here are more suggestions, including tips from readers.

  • Stay home: Tell everyone to bring a dish and then have a group meal at a friend's home. If there's no dessert, consider going out for ice cream or coffee. The cost of a dessert-only bill is a lot cheaper than the cost of a restaurant meal.

  • Segregate beverages from meals: If the dining party includes water-only drinkers and high-end wine tasters, consider asking for a separate beverage tap. With this system, the drinkers with expensive tastes would have the burden of splitting the beverage bill and the food-only tab can be fairly divided.

  • Separate bills: If you know that the party includes big eaters with expensive tastes, ask for your own bill.

  • Sub-group bills. In one large group meal, diners were divided into smaller groups, with each group being responsible for their own bill. This system is less of a nightmare for the waiter and creates more accountability. What's more, diners with similar budgets and spending habits can stick together and those with big-ticket appetites can hit the same tab.

Here are great suggestions from the comment section of the original post:

finance girl said...

My approach to group dinners is expect to pay for things you didn't order and expect to pay waaay more than do when it's just you/significant other or you/significant other and another couple (where it's easier to divvy up the bill).

I will never ever ever understand why people who order more expensive things don't pony up their fair share, but they usually don't. We once went out to dinner with a large group and agreed to close out the tab (we had arranged it). We ended up paying $350 over what we had expected! (lots of people obviously hadn't factored in their drinks). sigh, oh well.

Chaucey said...
I'd always pay for my own. If there were some shared side dishes likes breads then I'd make sure to have one of those added to my individual bill.

I don't think it is fair to expect others to subsidise me or vice versa. Some meals, like Yum Cha are better with a split bill, but I'd still pay for my own drinks.

Alicia said...
I had a similar experience as your friend when I went out with a group of old college friends. Now before we even go out in a group, it's stated whether the bill will be split or everyone pays for their own. That way I have some idea what I'm getting into in advance, and can judge if I'm with a big spender group or not.

lulugal11 said...

That is really messed up for those who ordered water and had to pay more.I don't drink alcohol so I always decided before we start to order that my meal is on a separate check. If everyone else wants to split then that is their problem but I always tell the people I am eating with that I want to pay for my own meal so we can tell the waitstaff BEFORE they start to take the order.

This works for me because restaurant portions are so big that I don't even eat an appetizer before the meal.

Make a decision before you start ordering to save the confusion and hurt feelings.

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1 comment:

JoeTaxpayer said...

Depends on the group. If you are trying to be frugal and/or dieting, separate checks may be the way to go. I had a group dinner, 12 people total, and suggested we just divide the bill by 10. That would create a tip with no real math involved. I announced that I really didn't mind if I was out $5-$10 in the deal, I was just sympathizing with a waitress who'd have a tough time with 12 checks. In the end, they stuck to their guns, 12 checks. The waitress told me the lowest was $31, and highest, $38. So in the end, the person or two at 31/32 would have been out $3 if the average came out to $35. Instead we had a waitress who was juggling 12 tabs and had to work far more to serve us. Sometimes common sense neds to prevail.