Group Dining Etiquette

Whether we like it or not, eating out in groups is an inevitable circumstance. It happens when we have reunions, birthday celebrations, or happy hour after work. For many, the experience is rather pleasant. If you know everyone in the group, there is hardly an uncomfortable discussion about how the bill will be handled. In fact, if you’ve known the friends for years, it probably doesn’t much matter because as often as you eat out together, it sort of evens out. But, what about those times when you hardly know anyone? What happens when you ordered only one $8 drink and someone suggests you split the bill evenly sticking you with a $30 bill? It is difficult to be frugal when you’re thrown in with the bunch.

I often wonder, is it impolite to speak up? Thinking the best of people, my guess would be that splitting evenly is simply easier. The truth remains that someone is often left paying far more than they bargained for and if they didn’t bring cash, there is no easy way out of it.

What do you do?

I don’t know the right answer. I just know the advice I would give which would be not to pay exceedingly more than you bargained for, especially when you may not have it. Imagine that same scenario happening once a week at happy hour for a whole year. That would be roughly an extra $1000 lost! Let’s not get carried away, though.

I’ve come up with a few simple solutions and I’d like to hear from you, the readers which route you would choose. I think in life most things are about balance. I believe we can use our best judgment and know there are times when it’s best to just pay up and not to bother looking back at the overspending. Other times still, speaking up can prevent hard feelings later.

Group Dining Solutions

1. Bring cash. When dividing evenly is suggested, offer what you would fairly be charged included tax and group gratuity.

2. Provided that you know all of the guests, quietly tell the person who may not have put in enough cash that they may have miscalculated. Offer them a second chance to look over the bill and help them calculate accurately.

3. Be the money organizer. Offer to help everyone calculate tax and tip for their portion of the bill.

4. Ask the waiter or waitress if separate checks are possible, and if not if the group can be broken into smaller groups of 4 or 5.

5. Opt out. You may not be able to justify missing a friend’s birthday party– or so you would think. If the group setting just won’t work for your budget, offer to meet them for dessert or coffee another day. Another option is to drop by and socialize briefly without ordering dinner.

I realize that money matters often make for awkward situations. I too have felt this when dining out in a large group. Part of maturity is learning how to use tact to respectfully speak up when something is not right. It may be about more than just principle when it comes to overpaying on a dinner tab.

Comment below and let me know what you think!



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