Dining Etiquette: How Should You Split The Bill?

Life & Love | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 06/25/2014 | 01:30 PM EDT

To split evenly or not...that is the question

One of the most common dilemmas in dining out is when the actual bill comes to the table. Suddenly all parties are left with the task of trying to determine how they should split the bill.

Do you split it evenly or divvy up the cost according to who ordered what?


While the question may seem trivial in nature, quite a few experts and opinionated writers have provided their own analysis on the matter.

In fact, Forbes points out a 2004 academic study called “The Inefficiency of Splitting the Bill,” which stated that there’s a price to pay for insisting that a bill be split based on what each person ordered, even for those who are saving money.

“A part of it could be the mental cost of figuring out one’s share of the bill, and calculating the portion of the tax and tip that apply to that share. Another part would be the social cost of appearing stingy or unfriendly,” the authors concluded.

Generally, some argue it’s better to make everyone pay the same thing even if they didn’t order the same thing.

In an article for Slate.com, writer Troy Patterson concurs. If it’s a date, the one who asks the other person out is supposed to pick up the tab. As for groups of friends, unless someone volunteers to pay for the entire bill, it should be split evenly. Straight down the line.


“Can we all agree to retire the practice of wiggling a finger at the tab to sort out who owes $8 for the garden salad and who owes $11 for the kale Caesar?” Patterson writes.

“...close that calculator app and trust that it will come out even in the long run. This is how friendship operates. Polite society will see that people who abuse this privilege by repeatedly and conspicuously gorging on only the most expensive menu items are no longer invited to come along to dinner. Very polite society will honor an ex-drinker I know: Hanging out with three other friends in a sports bar, he never fails to buy, when it’s his turn: three beers and one ginger ale.”

In a nutshell, while it may not seem fair to split a bill evenly regardless of what you actually ordered, manners and protocol says it’s the only way. So the next time you find yourself reaching for your mobile calculator, drop your phone and simply hand over your bank card. It’ll save you time and it’ll keep you on the right side of etiquette.

(Photo: DreamPictures/Blend Images)

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