How to: Pay the Bill, in a group (no whining, no cheating!)

So you’re out to dinner with more than just two people. The bill-pay is going to be a pain, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are some tips to make it go a little more smoothly…

  • Ask everyone to bring cash ahead of time. Even if one or two people forget, it’s much easier to use 1 or 2 cards than 5 or 6.
  • With 6 or less people, it’s sometimes appropriate to pay for what you got and not split evenly. This is true when 1) there is a large differential between types of food ordered (for instance, a vegetarian salad v. a steak entree), 2) some people are drinking and others are not, and 3) it is known that someone is legitimately on a tight budget and will be ordering based on dollar amount. With more than 6 people, it’s impossible to do this well.
  • Similarly, with 6 or less people, it may be appropriate to do potions of tax and tip based on what was ordered. In general though, it’s best to just split tax and tip evening among all diners.
  • With more than 6 people, just split everything evenly. Clue everyone into this ahead of time to avoid awkwardness later. (The Awl divides the line at age 25…. I’d propose 23, but sure.)
  • Make sure a fair, tuned-in person is in charge of the bill. This person should be comfortable asking people to throw more money in and not be complacent with just making up the difference.
  • If someone is being treated: Make sure all diners know this ahead of time if it’s not necessarily intuitive. Especially with more than 6 people, divide the total+tip (20% for a group) evenly by # of diners. This is the amount per person (app). Then divide that number by (# of diners – 1). This is the added amount per person (aapp). Each paying person owes app+aapp. Always round up and don’t tell people “$25 or 30 each”….people will round down and there will be a shortage. Just say 30 each, and you’ll just end up with a nicer tip and nobody feeling justifiably overburdened.
  • Tax calculating: move the decimal point left one place. That’s 10%. Double that and you get 20%. Done. If it was really bad, take half of the 10% number and add it to 10%. There’s 15%. Done. Do not use a tip card or phone calculator. It’s poor form.

Did I miss anything? Good luck!

(Last updated 3/30/2011 @ 11:58pm)

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