Avoid Bill-Splitting Headaches

By Gwendolyn Beck October 17, 2009 04:32 AM
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Avoid Bill-Splitting Headaches

My perfect day: waking up with my love, breakfast with the kids, going to the gym and then meeting the girls for lunch! Followed by shopping, and then reservations at the hottest new restaurant in town with my love and our friends! And, on really perfect days, he takes me dancing.

I love joining people for lunches and dinners. Meeting new friends, and sharing food and wine is one of the divine pleasures of life!!! But, when the bill comes it can be a real headache. Do you ever notice it’s always the person who ate and drank the most that grabs the bill and wants to stick you with their cocktails?

In this time of recession, unemployment and general conservation, splitting the bill is a delicate process. Don’t be the person your friends get mad at as the consequences can be dire: you might not be asked back, or worse, you might blow your budget!!!

Here are some general guidelines of etiquette for splitting the bill:

If you ate and drank the most – DO NOT grab the bill and split it equally. Look, you know who you are. Always offer to contribute more!! Are you the couple who had $100 worth of champagne and everyone else drank bar wine? Be kind to your fellow diners….

Separate Checks. Most of the time it’s appropriate to ask for separate checks. Jesse Bennas, well known Aspen Food and Beverage Manager, says it is completely proper, but ALWAYS tell the waiter in advance that you will be splitting the check. Technology has advanced to the point that it’s very simple for the waiter or waitress to divide the bill but they do need to keep track of who orders what. This works especially well if multiple children are involved in the meal (and we LOVE them to be involved!)

Equal Bill. If everyone ordered equally, ask the waiter to do the simple math and calculate the amount everyone owes. Plus a generous tip of 15 – 20%, of course.

Mathematical Genius. If someone in the crowd is obviously good at math, ask them to do the bill, but be sure they haven’t had too many drinks – I once watched two multi-millionaire investment bankers make massive errors dividing the bill after two bottles of wine (each).

Calculating the tip. It should be 15 – 20 percent. To calculate this very quickly, take the amount of the bill and move the decimal point over one space to the left and double it. So, if the bill is $123.69 – 10% is 12.36 so 20% would be 24.72. Leaving somewhere between $20–$25 would be appropriate. Always be generous – waiting tables is hard work and they usually deserve every penny they make! I worked my way through college as a bartender – did you?

Money is Money! While it’s helpful to the waitress to leave the tip in cash – any form of payment works!! Debit card, credit card, dollars, Euros in some places, bills, coins or watches…. Just be sure to pay before you leave!

“I don’t know her and I don’t want to pay for her.” Ladies, don’t stick a fellow you don’t know with the bill. Even if it is your best friend’s brother who is a billionaire – ALWAYS offer to pay your share! A date is a different issue, but if it’s not a date you need to pony up the dollars or euro or yen…

My favorite restaurant is Elio’s on the Upper East Side in Manhattan – what’s yours? Let’s get a group together and have dinner soon. Separate checks please!

Lots of Love, Gwendolyn


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