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The Right Way to Split a Group Check

BY: Halley Lawrence |Apr 1, 2016

The Right Way to Split a Group Check

Dining out at restaurants with friends is one of life’s simple pleasures, but disagreeing over a split check can turn the experience into a royal pain. We asked Mister Manners (real name: Thomas P. Farley), the nationally renowned etiquette expert behind What Manners Most, for tips on ending end-of-meal awkwardness before it turns dessert into a vengeful food fight.

When should a group tell their server they’ll be splitting a check?

“Definitely put that out up front—that may be something of importance or not to the server. It does start to get complicated. I think we’ve gotten to a point where paying with multiple credit cards is very standard, [but] if you want your own separate check, definitely put that out up front.”

What if I ordered something extra-expensive?

“It’s really important for big eaters/spenders to be mindful of what’s happening at the table. … I think the tip is a nice way to equalize. If one person got an extra dish or nice bottle of wine, they might offer to leave the whole tip. When the receipt arrives, among the group, say ‘Don’t worry about the tip, I got that dessert.’”

What if everyone else is ordering extra appetizers and expensive drinks?

“When you go out with a group on a regular basis and you feel that you’re always paying more for other people’s extravagant orders, I would speak to one of the people in the group that you’re closest with. Say ‘I love going out with everyone, but you know I’m not ordering a lot/not a big drinker, and I feel like I’m getting stuck with the tab. Next time, would you mind speaking up on my behalf?’

If you find that isn’t received well, I’d recommend upping your order so that you feel you’re getting what you pay for. Or think about other ways of getting together with those friends.”

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What’s the minimum percentage groups should tip?

“This is regionally specific. In larger cities such as New York City, 20% has become the new norm and 15% is a little on the low side, especially for fine dining. I would not drop below 15% in any region, however.”

What if someone leaves less than their share of the tip?

“That’s a little bit tricky. I would say there are always scenarios where one friend is more generous than another. Some don’t tip on top of the tax. If a tip is marginally off, like 15% vs. 18%, I wouldn’t worry about it. If it’s below that, maybe the person has done the math wrong—put [the onus] back on yourself by saying ‘Did I do the math right?’ [to draw their attention to their own calculation].”

How to calculate your share without rudely whipping out your abacus?

“With technology, it’s gotten easier than ever to determine who owes what. A lot of the guesswork is gone. If [someone] is not very math-oriented, I would say they should avail themselves of those tools.”

Editor’s note: Check out apps such as Who Owes What and Split My Tab to keep track of exactly how much you owe.

Photo by Andrew Nawrocki, Groupon

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