I love dining out. I don’t love those odd times when the bill arrives and the mood turns from celebratory to anxious.
The most often accepted rule is an equal split of the total (including gratuity) between the group. If it’s a matter of a few glasses of wine, or which appetizer was a few dollars more, it’s simply not worth the quibble. It’s tacky. And if you dine out with that same group often or occasionally, it will all come out in the wash anyways.
If you’re in a situation where you purposefully ordered very lightly and you suspect your total is considerably less than the shared amount, chime in with a solution (“I ordered lightly tonight so here is $20 for the salad and tea, and $5 towards the tip – is this ok?”).
Likewise if you indulged in a meal that was considerably more expensive than everyone else’s, kick in more and remember to adjust your tip contribution as well.
If you find yourself in this uncomfortable position often, take a look at your dining options. Perhaps your tastes run a bit richer than your friends’ and they feel a bit pinched. Try a more affordable dinner out and see if the same situation presents.
In any case, here are some good-to-knows for when the cheque hits the table:
* Swing by the bank machine and break up large bills before meeting up so you have enough cash to cover your meal and gratuity
* As soon as menus hit the table, establish how the bill is to be divided so there is no confusion or surprises when the cheque arrives
* Even if you didn’t order that cheesy appetizer or creamy dessert, if you partook in its deliciousness, you should help pay for it
* If you are putting cash down on the table for your portion, always over estimate rather than put down ‘just enough’ — and always add gratuity
* If you can’t afford the circuit of high-end restaurants that your friends are choosing, suggest going somewhere better suited to your budget (or offer to host chez you)
* If it’s a special occasion, its kind and thoughtful for the rest to group to contribute more so the special person’s meal (or most of it) is looked after
* Never ever make a fuss over a few dollars. Save it for when there’s a big discrepancy**
** a big discrepancy is not $10-15. It’s on the $30-50 scale.