The quickest way to get a server to cry at the end of a meal with a large group of people is to ask them to split the check individually. Better yet – hand them a stack of debit cards and cash with verbal instructions on how to handle each payment method. When it comes to dining in a large group, no one wants to be the cheap person at the table but it’s equally mood-killing to feel like you’re the table’s drink-buying Santa Claus.
When dining out with a large group, splitting the bill at the end of the meal can be an ordeal (especially since many restaurants don’t want to give everyone an individual bill). It doesn’t have to be though. Here are two check splitting techniques to take the “Wait – I owe what?” confusion out of settling the tab.
Check Splitting Technique 1: Split The Bill Between Everyone Equally
Honestly, there are very few circumstances where I think this is fair to everyone at the table, especially in a large group. If you’re out with friends who usually rotate who picks up the check or you’re out with a group of people who have agreed to equally split the check before the meal, this is definitely the easiest way to split a bill amongst a group of friends. However, this is not generally a fair way of handling things in a large group and I think it should certainly be discussed before everyone orders.
Inevitably, the person on a budget who orders a water and a sandwich gets screwed and ends up paying for part of the steak and bottle of wine the person at the other end of the table enjoyed. Not cool. Although I sometimes go out with people who like to split checks like this and I agree it’s easier, it’s not a fair option and I have seen people almost cry when realizing that their $10 appetizer is going to cost $45.
Simple Check Math: Bill (divided by) number of people at the table = portion of the meal everyone pays for.
Check Splitting Technique 2: Everyone pays for their food and drinks with the tip and tax split equally by everyone
When I’m out with a large group, this is how I prefer to split the bill and everyone seems to be happy with how this works out. To avoid confusion, appoint one person at the table to handle this.
For starters, add the tip (20% of the check or whatever the pre-added gratuity is) and the total tax on the check together. Then divide it amongst the people at the table. This total is going to be added to everyone’s individual check. It’s not a perfect system, but the difference between tax and tip on individual tabs is maybe $1. If you’re hanging out with people complaining over $1, you may need new friends. Just sayin’.
To get each person’s individual bill, tally up what they ordered and then add the tax and tip charge. Generally, I like to start with the person on my left and work clockwise around (or down) the table but this isn’t rocket science and the order doesn’t matter. What matters is that you add up that you ordered a coke, a small pizza and those yummy breadsticks and someone else ordered the philly cheesesteak and two Blue Moons. As you mark off what each person ordered, collect their method of payment. Preferrably, a credit or debit card because that just makes everything easier.
On the back of the check, write everyone’s last name (as it appears on their credit card) and note the portion of the bill they’re paying for next to their name. If they’re paying in cash, I still do this and make a note that they gave me cash (for my own sense of sanity).
After every item on the check has been accounted for, add up each person’s total to make sure it equals the entire check.
PRO TIP: Download the Billr App from the iTunes store. I just discovered it and it’s pretty amazing. Basically, it does exactly what I just described without anyone having to do any math. It is super, super quick and easy. Plus it’s visually appealing (not fugly at all). I’ll be using it from here on out.
Make Your Waitress Happy
In the interest of your time and keeping your waitress from crying, be as organized as possible when giving her back the check. I tend to give the server the credit cards in the order they are listed on the check breakdown and hand over a neatly stacked pile of cash. Not only is this just a polite thing to do, the server will be able to process everyone’s payment much, much quicker this way.