Dining out in a group has its intricacies. Should we order plates for the table or should everyone just get their own entree? Is there enough room, or will latecomers be too cramped in the banquette? Can we put in our drink order now, or should we wait for the ones who are always late? These are all important questions, but at the end of the meal, the most critical question presents itself: How are we splitting the bill?
In simpler times, everyone just threw in some cash for the total plus tip, and as long as the right denominations were on hand, it worked out great. Nowadays, if you’re anything like me or my friends, no one ever has cash on them. We haven’t for years.
Technology has shifted the burden of this mental math problem for us. Though some may not like it, the fact of the matter is that there are enough digital payment splitting options out there that your group should not be asking your server to split the bill more than two ways, at most. Requesting that they split the check five ways (even if it’s an even split) is just not okay, and in many cases, the restaurant will not allow it beyond a certain number of cards.
I recently went on a bachelorette trip with eight other women, and we dined out often on the trip. The mere thought of asking a server to split our large bill, or to keep track of eight different checks at one table, fills me with a deep shame. Thankfully, everyone at the table used either Zelle, Venmo, or Cash App to reimburse the people who put their cards down for the meal. We always put two cards down so that no one’s account had to carry the entire load, and the 50/50 split was easy enough for the restaurant to handle, too.
In addition to these payment apps that allow people to send money to each other directly, there are also apps like Splitwise, which is designed for situations like my bachelorette weekend. Users share and split expenses among group participants without having to go through the awkwardness of making sure everyone chipped in their fair share. Splitwise helps tally how much each person has paid for which excursions, and even lets you split costs like gas money.
This is how it ought to work when dining out. The amount of juggling and multitasking servers do, especially when dealing with large groups, is comparable to a spinning plate act. Now that technology makes it so easy, why not handle the cost sharing on your end instead of putting it on the server during a busy shift? It ends up being smoother for all involved.
The one and only exception to this would be your off-the-grid friends. I have a friend who is not a user of any of the aforementioned payment apps, nor can he be found on most social media platforms. He consistently only pays back his debts in cash. Ah, so retro, so vintage. We’ll leave him be.