The Finance Blogger


Dividing up Group Restaurant Bills

Dividing up Group Restaurant BillsHave you ever been in this position? A group of you go to the restaurant to have a nice meal and the restaurant does not want to give you individual bills? This has happened to us on several occasions and it really bugs me when this happens. There are so many issues with this situation and invariably someone leaves being upset, because the bill does not get divided up properly. Dividing up group restaurant bills can be contentious.

We have encountered this situation several times, once in a foreign country and another in the US, with different outcomes and both had situations were people who are supposed friend got taken advantage of.

Dividing up Group Restaurant Bills

Here is a list of some of the issues and why you might want to avoid them if you can:

  • Restaurant wants to charge a 15% to 20% tip automatically regardless of service. We have seen this happened and often the service is not even good. In fact it can be down right bad if a server or waitress gets flustered.
  • Some people order expensive meals , while others order expensive meals. Some want to split the meal equally while others want the exact split. Problems all around calculating the tip, the amount, the tax etc
  • Some people do not leave enough to cover their share either because they are cheap or because they just made a mistake. There can be a lot of frustration in this situation on both sides.
  • If there is a dispute with the restaurant or between patrons, how do you resolve it and who goes away upset. You can be sure that the restaurant will get what they feel they deserve, otherwise they just call the police.

Examples of Bad situations in Dividing up Restaurant Meals

This example was a combination of a bad waitress and some unethical people. The waitress only kept a tally of what everyone ordered, so for example if our group ordered 5 salads she recorded 5 salads and no who ordered them. The same approach was used for all of the other items as well.

When it came time to pay, we told the waitress what we had ordered, she tick the number off and the person paid their share. Well when the last person came a long there were items ordered but not ticked off which they had not had. The waitress and the restaurant wanted to be paid or they were calling the police. Of course the members of our group had all scattered and it was left up to the last person to pay up.

Moral of the story is never let yourself get into this situation in the first place and never be the last one to pay.

A second example happened to us recently. There was a group of 11 of us, each person ordering something different with no clear decision on how we were going to pay at the end. i.e. divide equally or figure out what each owed at the end. One guy even said to me we will likely divide equally so don’t go cheap, implying that we would not get our money’s worth.

We ended up figuring out what each person owed, however some people left early without seeing the bill and not knowing what the tax was and the tip was. This is a situation were the tip was automatic at 18% , not 10% or 15%. the service we received as not worth 10%, but who is going to argue when you are part of a large group? So did the people who left early leave enough? No one really knows.

We ended up being $20 short so two couples just through in $10 each with a look of frustration on their faces.

Why does this happen so often?

How to Avoid these Uncomfortable Situations

We think it is easy to avoid, it just takes a bit of planning, organization and negotiation.

Organization – it is hard to organize a group, but someone needs to ask before you get into the restaurant, how everyone intends to pay for their meal.  Split equally or calculate individually.

Planning – Bring a pen to use to do the calculations, ask for the bill before anyone leaves, make sure you have everyone’s money before they leave and a clear description of what everyone ordered.

Negotiation – If you are concerned about the tip, the auto inclusion of the tip, negotiate with the restaurant ahead of time for individual bills, or a fixed % for the tip. If you are a group of 10 or more the restaurant does not want to turn away potentially a large income from a group like that so they will negotiate and they will make sure they give you good service. It takes someone to lead the group and do the negotiation.

If you have comments on our post, please feel free to add them. If you have had this experience or something similar , leave a comment for our readers to learn from.

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