Q: How do you say you don’t want to split the bill evenly and prefer to pay individually?
A: Splitting a bill evenly among all diners isn’t a rule required by etiquette. But to avoid disproportionate payouts and hurt feelings, talk openly with your family and friends as early as possible about paying the bill. Asking for separate checks is the most equitable way because people only pay for their share of the bill.
If you’d like separate, itemized checks, request them before anyone has ordered. Asking the server to split up the bill at the end of the meal is an inconsiderate move.
If you did not speak up prior to ordering, find a subtle way to ask your guests to split the bill when it arrives. For example, when the bill is placed on the table, ask your friends how they would like to pay for their meals.
—Jacquelyn Youst, etiquette expert and owner of Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol
A: Generally, I’d advise reading your audience ahead of time. But for me, if it’s a business associate or meeting, I’d make a point to pick up the bill to avoid any confusion over who ordered what.
Although certainly not always ideal, for me, this gesture outweighs the inherent awkwardness of the situation, helps to gracefully boost the existing relationship, and never goes unappreciated. Spending a few extra dollars is a small price to pay versus everyone being in an uncomfortable situation.
However, coming from a hospitality perspective, if your dining partner is adamant about paying individually, there’s nothing wrong, at the start of the meal, with alerting the staff member who is taking care of your party to keep a separate tab. Best to be upfront about these things and avoid the scenario of reviewing the itemized bill at the end. It can be a sticky situation for everyone involved.
—Donnie Madia, Chicago restaurateur and partner at One Off Hospitality