A Simple Guide to Splitting the Check

Going out to dinner and drinks with friends is fun. But splitting the check at the end can sometimes get complicated — which is no fun for anyone.

Group of people ordering food in deli

If everybody shares everything, or orders similarly, it’s common to divide the cost of the meal equally and tip evenly. But when one friend has the prime rib and three drinks, while another has water and a salad, an even split is far from fair. While most people will understand this, if drinking is involved, math can get fuzzy and details may get overlooked.

Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure nobody feels cheated (not even your server) whether you’re out to brunch or celebrating your bestie’s birthday.

Female server serving food to couple at restaurant table

Request Separate Checks

The best and easiest solution is to tell your server — before you order — that you want separate checks. Even if the restaurant can’t accommodate your request, you’re making clear to everyone else at the table that you intend to pay only for your portion of the meal and tip.

If you forget to request separate checks up front, just ask before it’s time to pay. Many restaurants are easily set up to divide a bill, and all it takes is the push of a few buttons on their end. Some can even split the cost of shared dishes and appetizers among various checks. While it can be annoying, especially on a busy night, it often benefits a server to break up the bill because diners requesting separate checks can (and should!) round up their tips, meaning more take-home pay for wait staff.

If your server can’t divide your bill, he may still be willing to run multiple cards. Of course, this is easier if you’ve already decided to pay equal amounts.

Waiter typing on digital tablet

Take Advantage of Apps

If separate checks aren’t an option, and you don’t want to doodle on a napkin, there are plenty of apps (beyond the built-in calculator) that will do the math for you. Some make it easy by letting you snap a picture of your receipt so friends can claim the items they ordered, while others let you enter each dish and even split up individual items — which can be especially helpful if everyone wants to pay for what they ordered plus, say, an equal portion of a birthday girl’s dinner and drinks.

Whether you’re dividing the bill equally, or everyone’s paying separate amounts, if you have a credit card that gives you cash back or rewards you for dining out, offer to put the meal on your card. Then your friends can give you cash, or use a mobile payment app to send you their portion of the bill.

Check In Before You Check Out

If you’re the one who’s taken charge of splitting the check, a good rule of thumb is to do a quick informal survey with everyone at the table to make sure no one feels cheated before handing over the cash or card(s). Your dining companions will appreciate the check-in, and more often than not, people aren’t going to worry about a few bucks here and there. And you won’t have to worry about resentments down the line.

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