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October 10, 2021

How to split the bill when eating out at a restaurant

It’s been a good time all around. The food was delicious, the company entertaining – and then the bill arrives. That often means an awkward moment deciding whether to divide things evenly or whether to add up the cost of each person's meal.

Anyone going out to eat in a large group has to be ready for someone suggesting a simple division of the bill by the number of the people at the table, even though studies suggest that most diners prefer to pay individually for items they had.

What's worse, when groups do end up splitting the bill evenly, there's often some chintzy *%$#@ looking to take advantage by ordering a more expensive, and therefore subsidized, meal. But maybe you're better off ignoring that one.

But then out comes that coupon that's been burning a hole in someone's pocket. Should the dollar value  reduce the entire group bill, or only how much they pay individually?

Does it make any difference if it's a gift card; a Groupon-like voucher that they purchased; or a discount from a previous visit? Yes, says Presh Talwalkar, the mind behind the site Mind Your Decisions.

Here are his suggestions for handling that one.

If you're looking to fly solo, most etiquette experts suggest broaching the subject of separate cheques as early in the evening as possible.

Experienced servers will often ask for you, either when taking orders or when it’s time to settle up, but that’s more about not having to re-key their bills than helping patrons come up with an equitable split of the bill.

Too much hassle? Here's what some people do to minimize the fuss. Better yet, a group of Google employees have applied for a new patent on a process that essentially splits restaurant cheques which, one assumes, is somehow different from the other apps that keep a tally

Or you could just get a professional cheque-splitter to help set everybody straight. Ah, Portlandia -- if only real life was that easy.

How do settle up when out with a group? Separate cheques or even split? How have things worked out?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...