Posted by: Shannon @ A Dash of Sparkle | September 25, 2007

“Who Had the Soup?” – Dining Etiquette


We’ve all been in the awkward situation when you’re dining with a group of people, the bill comes and the drama begins. Do we separate? Equally divide? Factor out the alcohol? What about the tip? What did you order again? What was a beautiful meal and friendly discussion gets heated with people throwing accusations of being cheap, or overcharging each other. Suddenly your social occasion becomes “the moment we stopped being friends with so-and-so”.

You’re probably shaking your head in agreement after reading the above situation, because it really does happen to everyone if not repeatedly, than at least once. So why the huge drama? Because the rules of etiquette around this issue are a bit cloudy. The New York Times Diner’s Journal explored this issue and opened up a discussion between peers in an article yesterday in order to establish some basic guidelines of etiquette around bill time when dining in groups. Having been a waitress in fine dining restaurants, I think this is a CRITICAL issue to address before you even place your order, but here are some other suggestions:

  • Always assume that if you’re dining in a group of more than 6 people (3 couples), that the check is going to be divided evenly among everyone.
  • Take into account any significant ($15 or more) price differences in orders. If someone only orders soup and everyone else orders 2-3 courses, it’s not fair to make them pay the same.
  • If there were a couple people not drinking alcohol while the rest of the group was, separate the beverage total to take this into account and don’t overcharge the non-drinkers (you might need them to be your DD later)
  • If it’s family style (many dishes ordered and shared among everyone) know that you’re splitting it evenly and don’t make the argument that you only ate a little. That’s tacky and you’ll never be invited out again.
  • If you know you’re going to ask for a separate check, tell the server before you order so that the process is simplified later.
  • Finally, do not, I repeat, DO NOT, wait until the end of your meal to say that you want separate checks for everyone at the table. This is a HUGE inconvenience for your serving staff, and traditionally parties over six are grouped together on one bill and a service charge of 18% is applied AUTOMATICALLY. Don’t be that group that takes up an inordinate amount of time and is so rude as to assume this is okay. It’s not.


  1. […] here to read Author Ralph Crane Comments […]

  2. I would like to see a continuation of the topic

  3. exellent article

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