Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How to spoil a meal with friends

Periodically, I will dine out with a mixed group of friends or coworkers. Some in the group may be couples, some singles, sometimes we have parents with children. Some people order a lot, some a little, some add on wine or drinks.

All goes well – until the check comes. Then the Great Debate over splitting the bill begins.

Some say the check should be split evenly among all diners. Others will suggest that those who ordered more – or less – should pay commensurately. And, when kids are present, there's always some uncertainty about whether kids should count the same as adults.

Inevitably, people throw cash at some poor person who gets stuck with tallying everyone’s share and trying to make it equitable. Some people obviously contribute too much – no one wants to look cheap.  Inevitably, someone feels like they’ve been treated unfairly.

All in all, it’s a sour and untidy way to end an otherwise pleasant outing.

It seems to me there’s an obvious solution: separate checks (requested, of course, before ordering). But whenever I bring this up, someone shoots down the idea. “It’s SO much more work for the server,” they say.

Well, yes, it IS more work – but doing work for the customer is the server’s job.  Should we take our orders to the kitchen and retrieve our own dishes, too? 

An unfortunate consequence of all this is that it makes me less enthusiastic about dining out in the first place. And I've found others who feel the same.

This seems like a negative for everyone – restaurants get less business, servers get fewer tips, and people get fewer opportunities to meet up with friends – but it seems like we've become boxed in by our reluctance to ask for separate checks.

I'd like to hear from others on this. Do you ever request separate checks?  If you work as a server, are you bothered by such requests? Is there another way to handle these situations? Please put your comments in the box below.

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