Do you love going out and having dinner with your friends — until the bill comes? One of your pals has ordered three drinks, while your bestie is on their second. When it’s time to close out the tab, the bill is split five ways among all who attend the dinner. But wait. You sipped on a soda all night and now you’re responsible for paying for eight drinks? But what do you do? Do you say something? Do you not come next time?
It’s definitely not an easy situation. Apartment Therapy talked to etiquette experts on four ways to split the bill if you don’t drink and your friends do.
Speak up when the bill arrives.
The short answer to this dilemma is you must speak up. But when doing so, be careful with your tone and words. “Etiquette and good manners ask that we make others around us feel respected and comfortable. Etiquette also demands that we do the same courtesy for ourselves,” says etiquette expert Jennifer Porter.
When the server hands your party the bill, this is your cue. “When dining out with friends that drink and you don’t, simply ask the question when the bill arrives: Are you okay if I carve out my meal portion and you all split the remainder, including beverages?” says Porter.
Offer to pay for the entire bill.
To avoid making a scene and calling attention to yourself, you might suggest putting the entire bill on your credit card. This advice might sound counterintuitive, but it isn’t.
“You could be the one to put the entire meal on your credit card and then individually request reimbursement from everyone else, which would allow you to pay only what you owe,” says Nick Leighton, etiquette expert and host of the podcast “Were You Raised by Wolves?” With apps like Venmo and PayPal, individuals could easily pay you later, and it allows you to be responsible for what you ordered.
There is a built-in risk to this approach. If it is a large party with individuals you don’t know, you may have to chase a payment or potentially be stuck with that person’s portion of the bill.
Hope that one of your friends takes the lead.
If you’re dining with the same set of friends and you consistently don’t order a drink, there is a chance at least one person or two might notice. This will work to your benefit.
Porter says if someone in the group has already recognized the cost disparity, perhaps they might advocate that the bill be split according to drink and food order. “If no one jumps to your aid, be quick, be clear, and make the ask when the bill arrives,” says Porter.
You may have to let go of the idea of splitting the bill by hoping things work out with the food order.
“We all know that group dining results in varied food orders. There is a strong case to be made that a simply split bill is the best policy, as over time it’s likely these things balance out. An extra starter here, a few desserts there — these additional ordered items might often replace the cost of a spendy beverage,” says Porter.
Porter wants non-drinkers to be mindful of this variance and not simply focus on “I’m not a drinker and so I shouldn’t pay for my friends’ habits” — and instead simply be as generous as possible.