Flavor of the Week: Paying the Restaurant Bill


Many things can go awry in a restaurant. But suddenly, I’ve found myself living in a world where “Check, please!” is more of a death sentence than one’s salad arriving with dressing not on the side. Oh, the horror.

It’s even come to a point where, at the start of a meal out with ten friends on Friday night, I begin to dread what will happen to us two hours in the future. There, we will be presented with one slip of thin parchment that sends a blissful Shabbat meal into the fiery depths of Hell/Hell’s Kitchen (depending on where you are). As the maitre d’ seats us and I use the foresight of That’s So Raven, I wonder why we decided to go out to eat in the first place.

There are certain truths and strategies to paying the bill when you’re out with a group of people. Here is what I’ve learned thus far from my adventures in fine dining:

1. There is the token “bill-payer” in every group of friends. When the check comes, you give it right to her, and she is in charge of a) telling everyone how much they owe, including tip and tax, and b) giving back change to those who ugh only brought a twenty sorry!! She’s appointed to this position because she was always better at math than the rest of you. The actual math skill involved in paying the bill has become somewhat obsolete – we all use our iPhone calculators to figure that shit out, anyway. Regardless, she is still the only one willing and able to magically figure it out whatsoever. Especially change. Giving back change is the worst. (Shoutout to my homegirl Caryn.)

2. There is always the cash vs. card issue. The girl mentioned in #1 is going OK WHO’S PAYING IN CASH? WHO’S PAYING IN CARD? And then someone who has no idea what she’s doing, usually me, is like “Can we all pay in cash or can we all pay in card?” If you’re all paying with card, do you need to label each card with a Post-it clarifying how much it should be charged? Did you bring Post-its with you to the restaurant in anticipation of this happening? (That is the real question.) And is #1 good enough at her job to figure out how you can pay with cash AND card AND how you’re going to leave the tip? (Mine is. Muahaha.)

3. Is there a specific reason as to why we don’t ask for separate bills from the start? Especially if more than four payers are involved? I understand how high-maintenance we are, but we don’t ask for extra plates because we’re fine with eating off each other’s. Can that compensate? If your party is of four or less, paying with one bill should be manageable. If you’re a party of eight but you’re really just four couples, then one bill should still be manageable. But ten lonely single hags?

There are certain ways to avoid the chronic problems of bottomless brunching with twenty of your closest friends. Bring someone’s parents along so that nobody has to pay. Ask for separate bills from the start. If that’s rude, then ask to be seated alone – pretend you don’t know each other, Walter White and Lydia style – so that you can avoid asking for separate bills but push your tables together when the waitress isn’t looking, like we did with our beds at sleepaway camp. Also, plan ahead – make sure you incorporate a solid 15 minutes of “figuring out the check time” before calling your Uber to GTHOOT (get the hell out of there).

I simply cannot fathom the stress involved in a meal in which one is trying to food-stagram and pay a check with a large amount of people simultaneously. That’s just a lot to put on someone’s plate, dontchya think?

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