Dining Etiquette: Splitting the Bill

Photo Credit: The Economic Times

Photo Credit: The Economic Times

After a wonderful meal with great company, there is no worse way to finish the dining out experience than having confusion over the bill. No matter the circumstance, a business meal, a group of friends, or a celebration in honor of someone, this type of confusion can always make attendees feel uncomfortable (click to watch). In order to avoid any awkward moments, here are my tips for splitting the bill:

  1. Splitting the Bill Can be a Touchy Subject – The following are important to keep in mind as you plan group meals.
    • People do not want to “get stuck” paying for the expensive meals, additional appetizers, or alcoholic beverages of others when they do not consume the same. Not everyone can afford the same thing.
      • Food for Thought: When the bill is split evenly between people who did not actually order things costing the same amount, those who are charged more often deduct from the tip. This is not fair to the servers.
    • If going out as couples, it is often easiest to split the total as an even amount per couple; however, keep the first bullet point in mind!
    • Bringing cash (and a variety of bill amounts) when you know you will be splitting the bill is a good idea. You do not want to owe anyone money after the fact or be responsible for holding up paying.
    • For those who are comfortable with digital payment methods, consider using the apps like Venmo and PayPal.
  2. If You Plan to Split the Bill – Always make the plan known ahead of time!
    • If you are the organizer for a group get together, but you are not the host, you should let attendees know ahead of time the bill will be split. After receiving the R.s.v.p. list, send a confirmation note to all attendees including “reminders” and stating the plan for the bill.
      • For example: “A request to split the total for brunch as individual bills has been made of the restaurant. Brunch will be divided by what you order, not split evenly among everyone, in order to be fair to all. Thank you for understanding!”
    • If you make a reservation for a larger number of people, call the restaurant and ask if separate checks for a large group is possible. Also, ask if gratuity is added for a group of your size. Some establishments are unable to do separate checks; therefore, it is important to let your attendees know in advance if paying in cash will be necessary.
      • For example: “Please bring cash for dinner. We have been told splitting the check between so many credit cards is not possible; therefore, having cash will make it much easier for us to divide the cost ourselves.”
    • Always tell your server you wish to split the bill when he/she first greets you. This way, when you order, your server can enter your drinks and meals as separate checks.
      • It is very frustrating for servers to receive a joint bill back that says, “Put $25.51 on the red card, $34.22 on the blue card, etc..”
  3. Ultimately, Who is Responsible for the Bill?
    • Typically, if your boss/manager is present and extended the invite then it is his/her responsibility to cover the bill.
    • Similarly, with client lunches/dinners or interviews that take place over a meal, the hosting business is responsible for the bill.
    • If you are hosting a meal out for friends, family, etc., the cost of the meal and gratuity is your responsibility. Think of it as hosting at your home – You do not ask guests to pay for their meal in your home when you host; therefore, you should not expect them to pay when you extend the invitation to join you out for a meal.
    • If you are out to celebrate a special occasion for someone (birthday, promotion, etc.), it is customary that his/her bill is covered by the other people at the table. As a guest, be prepared to split the honoree’s tab – bringing cash helps!
    • If you are asked to evenly split a bill for a group whose meals are clearly not equal in cost, speak up in a polite manner. Simply saying, “Excuse me, everyone did not order equal amounts and I think it would be unfair to expect each other to make up for our portions. May we split the bill based on our meals?”

No matter your age or the setting, splitting the bill can always be a difficult situation to navigate. I hope these tips help you find a solution easily and relieve you of some dining out anxiety in the future!

Happy dining!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

American versus Continental Dining Style

In conjunction with my post from last week, I am expanding on the topic of “Dining American or European/Continental Style?” As I pointed out previously, there are some basic differences between the two styles. Today, I am expanding on these differences and breaking down the key components to each style!

  1. Holding Your Silverware
    • American Style: You switch your fork and knife between hands so the utensil being used is in the dominant hand. For example, if you are right handed, you switch the fork to your left hand so you can cut with your right hand. Once you cut a piece of food, you switch the fork back to your right hand and take the food to your mouth with the fork in your right hand.
    • European/Continental Style: You keep the fork in your left hand with the tines facing down and your index finger on the back of the fork. Your knife is held in your right hand with the blade facing down and your index finger extended along the back of it. Once you cut a piece of food, you keep the fork face down and your wrist flat as you bring the food to your mouth.
  2. Hand Placement
    • American Style: Your wrists/hands do not touch the table.
    • European/Continental Style: Wrists always remain on the edge of and above the table, both when you are eating and when you are resting.
  3. Silverware Placement
    • American Style: The resting position is the fork, tines facing up, in the 4 o’clock position and the knife resting along the top corner of your plate. Once finished, place your knife, with the blade facing towards you, next to your fork, tines facing up, both in the 4 o’clock position on the plate. This signals to the server you are finished.
    • European/Continental Style: The resting position is in the middle of the plate as if you simply placed the silverware down exactly as you were holding them. The knife blade faces towards you in the 4 o’clock position and the fork tines face down over top of the knife in the 8 o’clock position. Once finished, place your knife, with the blade facing towards you, and fork, with the tines facing down, in the 4 o’clock position on the plate. This signals to the server you are finished.
  4. Eating Dessert (my favorite!)
    • American Style: Typically dessert is served with either a fork or a spoon. If you are given both, you may choose which utensil you prefer.
    • European/Continental Style: A fork and spoon (rarely a knife) are used. Hold the fork in your left hand and the spoon in your right hand and proceed to eat in the same manner as your main course (detailed above).
  5. Commonalities
    • In both styles, you cut one bite of food at a time. Put that piece in your mouth then cut the next.
    • The side of your fork should not be used to cut something.
    • Always use your knife (not your fingers!) to get a piece of food onto your fork.
    • Do not place your elbows or forearms on the table.
    • Same rules for your napkin! Place your napkin neatly on your chair if you will be returning to the table. Place the napkin neatly on the table if you are finished and exiting the table.

To help explain these details further and give you a visual, here is an informative video by Kimberly Law.

Now you know the basics to be successful in both an American and a European/Continental dining style! If you have any questions about what I discuss here or on another topic, please comment here or contact me!

Happy Dining!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

8 Foundational Dining Etiquette Tips

This week, I am covering dining etiquette! This is a vast topic and can be broken into many posts so today, I am highlighting what I think are the foundational pieces of dining etiquette. Even though “dining etiquette” may feel like a formal topic, a lot of these tips can be used in everyday circumstances such as client luncheons or dinners, going out for a date, dinner with a significant other’s family, and many other settings! Here are my 8 Foundational Dining Etiquette Tips:

  1. Arriving at the Table and Being Seated
    • Stand to the right of your seat and enter from that side.
    • When everyone arrives at your table, the Host/Hostess invites the table to sit. Allow the Guest of Honor (to the Host/Hostess’ right) to begin sitting first, then the rest of table follows.
    • If everyone has not arrived at your table, but it is time to sit down, allow the evening to proceed as it should.
      • If additional guests join your table, stand to introduce yourself.
    • Anytime a lady excuses herself from the table, the gentlemen should stand as well. The same applies for when she returns.
    • If you have a purse with you, place it under your seat or in your lap if it is small. A purse should not be placed on the table.
  2. Napkin Duty
    • Once seated, remove the napkin from your place setting, but do not unfold it.
    • With the napkin on your lap, unfold it so the main fold is towards you. This prevents crumbs from falling out onto you when you pick-up your napkin.
  3. B – M – W
    • Your Bread is to the left of your plate.
    • Your Meal is directly in front of you.
    • Your Water/Wine is to the right of your plate.
  4. Which piece of silverware do I use?!
    • Work your way from the outside, in.
    • The silverware at the top of your plate is for dessert; do not touch it during the earlier courses. The wait staff should adjust your place setting prior to dessert. If they do not, the fork goes to your left and the knife or spoon goes to your right.
  5. Ah, there are so many glasses!
    • 3 or 4 Course Meal: Work from the bottom, up. The glass(es) closest to you will be for wine during your meal, the next and largest glass is for water, and the small, skinny flute is typically for champagne for toasts and/or dessert drinks.
    • 6 Course Meal: Work diagonally (from right to left), up.
    • If you do not want to be served wine or you do not care for coffee with dessert, simply say “No, thank you.” and place your hand gently over the glass to signal to the waiter not to pour. Turning your glass/cup upside down is not appropriate.
  6. Dining American or European/Continental Style?
    This is actually an entire post of its own (look for another one coming soon!), but a few major points are:

    • American Style: You switch your fork and knife between hands to cut then take the food to your mouth with your fork in the dominant hand. Continental Style: You keep the fork in your left hand and the knife in your right, both facing down, with your wrists against the table.
    • American Style: hands do not touch the table. Continental Style: Wrists always remain on the edge of the table both when you are eating and when you are resting.
    • Both styles: Once finished, place your knife with the blade facing you and fork facing up (American)/down (Continental) in the 4 o’clock position on the plate. This signals to the server you are finished.
    • Both styles: Cut one bite of meat or food at a time. Put that piece in your mouth then cut the next.
  7. Need to leave the table?
    • Simply say, “Please excuse me for a moment.” No one needs to know you are going to use the restroom!
    • Place your napkin neatly on your seat.
    • Exit your chair on the right side and when you return to the table, enter your chair from the right.
  8. At the completion of the meal
    • Place your napkin neatly on the table to signal you are not returning.
    • Exit your seat on the right side.

I hope this breaks down dining etiquette into digestible bits and provides you with the foundational pieces! If you have questions about any of these tips or about another topic, please comment here or contact me. I love hearing from my readers and answering your questions.

Happy Dining!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra