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The Fine Art of Settling a Restaurant Bill

When it comes to restaurant manners, few things cause more confusion than the awkward question of who should take care of the bill. This is somewhat understandable because many etiquette rules come from a time when things were very different, e.g. women then had no income which meant they lacked the means to pay anyway. However, the world has changed and etiquette must follow suit. Although the general principle is “whoever invites, pays”, we know that this is not always true and initiating a night out doesn’t mean paying for everyone. In this blog, we will cover all possible scenarios and help you determine whether you should make the gesture or not.

Restaurant etiquette: Who should pay at the end of a meal

1. First date
A gentleman should always pay on the first couple of dates. In fact, you may be surprised to hear that, in this confusing age of apps and “friend-zones”, many women use the bill to decipher the situation: if you insist on paying, it’s a date and, if you split the bill, it’s not.

2. With your partner or spouse
As relationships evolve, couples find a pattern that works for them. Some split the bill and others take turns, unless it’s a special occasion when one wants to treat the other. When couples move in together, they usually simplify things with a joint bank account.

3. Double date
The bill should be divided among couples, not individuals. Should a couple then wish to split the cost, they can arrange this in private. If, however, there are single people in a company that consists mostly of couples, the bill should be split among individuals and then you can instruct the waiter whether you will pay thus or as a couple. Never exclude single people from paying, as they may find this patronising.

4. With the family
Parents will want to pay for their children, even when they’re adults with a good job. A gentleman will never deny them the pleasure but will always offer to reciprocate with a nice meal or evening out. The same applies to in-laws. Siblings should split the bill or take turns to treat each other.

5. With friends
Always split the bill evenly but suggest that people who chose cheaper options or drank less alcohol should pay less. When splitting evenly, it is important that no one selects the most extravagantly expensive plate on the menu but, whoever does, should insist on paying more. Among close friends, it is acceptable to take turns treating each other.

6. Business meals
It’s very difficult to come up with a universal rule because, often, the matter of settling the bill is a consolidation of the dynamics in a business relationship. However, the general rule is that whoever extended the invitation is the host and must pay. In case of meals that seal business deals, whoever is perceived as the client must be treated to the meal.

We hope this blog will help you feel more confident next time the bill arrives! Don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter and be the first to know when we upload a new blog with etiquette advice and useful styling tips!