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The Fine Art of Settling a Restaurant Bill

Who picks up the bill? Many behaviours we used to consider polite come from a time when things were very different, e.g. when women had no income, they lacked the means to pay anyway. The world has changed and etiquette must adapt accordingly. Although the general principle is “whoever invites, pays”, this isn’t always true and initiating a night out doesn’t mean paying for everyone. In this blog, we provide a helpful guide on the art, and etiquette, of settling a restaurant bill.

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

1. First date
A gentleman should offer to pay on the first couple of dates. In this confusing time of apps and “friend-zones”, many people assume that, if they’re asked to split the bill, it isn’t really a date after all.

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. When couples move in together, they usually simplify things with a joint bank account.

3. Double date
The bill should be divided between couples. Should a couple then wish to split the cost, they can arrange it in private. If, however, there are single people in a group that consists mostly of couples, it’s courteous to split the bill among individuals and then instruct the waiter if you’re paying for one or two people. Never exclude single people from paying.

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 can split the bill or take turns to treat each other.

5. With friends
Discuss whether everyone is happy to split evenly. It’s polite to offer to pay more if you picked the most expensive option in the menu. Similarly, if someone skipped dessert or alcohol, suggest that they pay less.

6. Business meals
It’s difficult to come up with a universal rule because, often, the matter of settling the bill is a consolidation of power dynamics. The general rule is that whoever extended the invitation is the host and must pay. In case of meals that seal sales, 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! In the meantime, don’t miss our blog on Restaurant Etiquette Tips!