Written by Mary Luz Mejia
Tuesday, July 31st, 2018
It all starts out innocently enough: a few friends or colleagues get together for dinner. Maybe one of you orders a few drinks, another drinks water and eats a salad, and someone else in your party chooses a multi-course experience. And then the bill arrives. Someone in your party, definitely not the salad eater, suggests, “Let's just split it evenly!" What's a group to do?
You can go high-tech and opt for an app to help with bill splitting, or you can take the sage advice of Toronto-based etiquette expert Pat Stonehouse, who shared her top tips on dealing with a variety of tricky bill-splitting situations. If you're with long-time friends that you dine with frequently and you agree to split the bill evenly, be prepared to pay for some items that were more expensive than what you had. "Roll with it," suggests Stonehouse, as it's part and parcel of dining out in a group. And if they're truly friends who respect you, they'll pick up some of the "extras" the next time, thereby giving your pocketbook a bit of a break too.
If however, one or more people in your group frequently end up not paying their fair share, Stonehouse says the only thing to do is to speak up. She suggests you might say something like, "It's fine with me to split the bill, but I think the rest of the group should pay for the tip because I feel that everyone had much more than I did." However you choose to phrase it, the idea is to address the situation in an equitable, courteous manner. The other fail-safe option is to ask the server to split your table's bill per person, before anyone places their order.
Here are a couple of common scenarios and some suggestions for how to deal with them:
Scenario 1: One of your dining companions is notorious for not including the tax and the tip on their portion of the bill, hoping perhaps that others will cover that for them. Stonehouse advises you politely say something like this: "We need a little more from you to square off this bill because I think you've overlooked something here. We need to include the tax and tip on our meal." This, explains Stonehouse, is why restaurants automatically add a tip once a group hits a certain number. "It happens more than you'd think." Remain pleasant, calm and carry on.
Scenario 2: You only ate one dish and consumed no alcohol. How should the bill be split between the group? Stonehouse advises you to wait until the end of the meal at which point you look at the bill, and add up what you've consumed, plus the tax and a 15-20% tip. "Everyone's financial situation is different and some people cannot afford an expensive lunch or dinner. We should be respectful of that and not take advantage of others when dining out," Stonehouse says.