This is actually a rewrite — years later — of something I wrote in July 2007, about splitting the bill in large dinner parties. I thought the original was lost in one of my blog moves, but I just found it under a different title (see Being The Bank: The Only Way To Stop Restaurant Squabbling (original)), after writing this replacement. So this isn’t actually the original, but just a short summary of the method I described at the time.
There are various theories about how a restaurant tab should be paid. Some maintain that it should simply be divided after a tips is added. Others think that each should calculate exactly what they owe, based on what was ordered, and individually add a tip. And of course there are other variants. Not to mention that fact that someone has to add everything up, make sure it all adds up, and start getting more if the pot is short.
As a side note, the restaurant doesn’t want to make 12 credit cards slips, one for each at the table. They’d like to add an obligatory 18% on a large bill, and have one person pay it.
After hundreds or thousands of meals with large groups, I have opted toward a system that I call Being The Bank. In this approach, the following takes place:
- One member of the party agrees to be the ‘Bank’, meaning they will pay the bill at the end, and receive others contributions to the pot. However, the Bank will not check individual contributions, but only the total. The system is anonymous in this regard.
- Dinner members are told in advance that this method will be used, and are advised to bring cash to make it simple.
- At the end of the meal, each diner will pay into the pot what they feel is appropriate, based on whatever method of calculation, such as ‘divide by N’ or ‘pay for what I ordered’.
- The Bank collects the pot, pays the bill, and either has a surplus or a loss on the pot.
My experience has been good using the technique. First of all, there is no squabbling. No one is arguing about who drank more or eat more oysters. There is no battle between the veggies and the carnivores, or the dessert eaters and the appetizer lovers. I have attending a number of parties where things were really ugly. Once, in Tel Aviv, party members were leaving, having not contributed to the wine tab, and the owner threatened to call the cops.
On the financial side, I usually come out a hair ahead, and it averages out for me because I dine out in large groups a lot. And I get the frequent flyer miles by using my credit card.
At any rate, I’d rather spend the last phase of a dinner party chatting, and digesting, and not arguing about the tip.
Note: at a later date I had read a piece on Bistromathics (see here), which led me to start calling this Bistronomics (bistro + economics), instead of Being The Bank.
And one additional note: A post by Stephanie Booth about her views on the subject.