When it Comes to Paying For Dinner…. Don’t Be That Friend.

dinner bill

“A happy meal is when your friend picks up the tab.”

Going out is the social minimum for an extrovert, anxiety in a bottle for an introvert, and a great experience for all parties involved. 99% of the time. Coming together with friends, family, and strangers is best done over a fully attentive dinner, lunch, breakfast, or cocktail. As age progresses, we learn that these experiences are fully enjoyed and engaged in when money isn’t the main focus of the event, and 8 people at the table aren’t telling the server right off the bat to keep all tabs separate and to remind them of the cost of each drink.

 Growing up in a large family who loved nothing more than to spend their discretionary income on joy filled experiences involving family, friends, alcohol, and food, I learned quickly that everybody didn’t have a similar experience earlier in life. Grateful for this, the recurring scenario that would intrigue my thought process every single time we went out was when the check came to the table. With my family and close friends, all of the men would jump for the bill and argue back and forth about who would be paying the tab. Every single time. This was 99% of the time out of respect for each other, friendship, and the experience that was just enjoyed, and after 12 minutes of arguing like an Italian wedding party (although most were majority Irish), the bill would be split among the men at the table and everybody would be content with the experience.

Realizing that this cannot happen on a regular basis when on a tight budget, I urge people to take their focus off of the monetary value of the food and drinks that they ordered and focus on the experience that they are going out for. If a $40 bill is worryful when going out, that money should probably be spent towards something that is a necessity in the short term. Splitting the bill is never an issue if it is agreed upon, and if you are that friend that is really strapped for cash, absolutely no worries. Bring it up to a friend who you are going out with and have them cover your portion. This way, the experience doesn’t get disrupted, you don’t have to worry about the cost for the time being, and as judgemental as the world is, nobody at the table can judge you.

Everybody at the table should be respectful to the wait staff that served you well and tip accordingly. Growing up in Rochester, NY, the city, as well as Utica and Syracuse (within 2 hours of Rochester) were ranked in the top 10 worst tipping cities in the US. This is discouraging, as I would first handedly see friends tipping the average 13.6% for those areas if not less. As somebody who had the opportunity to work in food service for 7 years of my life, I think I speak for all of us when I say that these people have a way of ruining a single mother of 3’s night. I’ve seen a great divide of appreciation over the past 5-6 years. Everybody I have met that works or has worked in food service tips a minimum of 18%. Considering that food service job wages are less than minimum wage due to the fact that they receive tips, these tips help support the current lifestyle they are living (kids, families, drugs, alcohol, etc… who is to judge?). Many people I go out with who have never worked in food service tend to be much less patient and tip 13-16% on the average bill. So a few years ago I made a rule to myself. If I see a friend tip <15% on a bill, I will never be going out with them again. Has it worked out well? Better than a dehumidifying castle in Georgia. I never have to worry about a bad experience when going out for the night.

In closing, make the most of your experiences when going out with friends. Don’t make the night about money, leave a decent tip, and if a friend is in need, quietly and humbly pick up his tab. Karma will come back on either side of the spectrum.


If you have found those friends that can enjoy the experience and won’t leave a shitty tip, here’s a game to enhance your experience and adrenaline after 8 drinks each before you move to the bar. Everybody who is willing to play throws a credit card into a hat at the table. If you don’t have a hat, firstly you have no balding genes in your family or friends group. Bless you. Secondly, improvise with a napkin or basket. Have the server pick out one credit card blindly. This person pays for the bills of all the people playing credit card roulette. Fun? Yes. Daring? Yes. Regretful and depressing when you get stuck with the $300 bill? Yes. All signs point to yes.

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4 comments on “When it Comes to Paying For Dinner…. Don’t Be That Friend.
  1. Shaun Kumar says:

    I don’t agree with your note about tipping. Tipping is, by design, optional and discretionary based on the customer. Each person has their own reasons for tipping as they do – whether it is their personal experience at the table, or how they have been raised to tip, or how informed they are (or how much they feel responsible) about the wages of the servers. How much your friend tips is perhaps not the right barometer for judging them as a person; furthermore, the 15% cutoff seems arbitrary. But it is, again, your personal choice to do so, so more power to you. But remember, only a Sith deals in absolutes.

    • justyn.carll says:

      Well put, as everybody will have a different view on tipping. These views will also change with each experience they have when going out. The article was written on my feelings towards the majority of restaurant visits, experiences, etc. that I have. I would like to know though; in what instances would you tip less than 10% to a server?

      • Shaun Kumar says:

        I was in Europe recently for the holidays, and it was surprisingly liberating to not be ‘guilted into’ tipping the servers as they were getting livable wages through their employer. Even locals rarely tipped more than few euros, regardless of the size of the bill – simply to convey their appreciation of a good service. This is, I believe, the core principle behind tipping and it should not serve as a replacement for the salaries of the servers. It is unfair to the customer that they are responsible for not just paying for the food but also the salaries of the staff (these costs should be factored into the price of the food, or added as a mandatory surcharge). It is also unfair to the other 90% of the restaurant staff (chefs, line cooks, busboys, hosts, etc.) who arguably have a bigger impact on the meal but don’t see any portion of the tip (usually). But to answer your question, in the real world we live in, I would only tip less than 10% if I truly had an overall awful experience as a direct result of the action (or inaction) of the staff. Only one such experience sticks out in my head, so this is a rarity.
        Another question to tickle your mind – why is the tip convention a percentage of the bill? Case in point – one person orders a $25 steak, another gets a $10 salad. The effort for the server is the same, yet you would expect a bigger tip for the pricier item. I would argue that the convention for tip should be linear based on the number of guests, rather than price of the check.

        • justyn.carll says:

          Great response, and I agree. The biggest difference over in Europe being the wage that they are being paid compared to servers in the US. Servers usually give a percentage of their tips at the end of the night to bussers, hosts, and bartenders to ensure that there is somewhat of an equal playing field in the front of the house, but your comment on the kitchen staff and employees who do not see a percentage of this is completely on par. This only causes tension between the staff that receives tips and the part that does not.

          A few Bay Area restaurants implemented no-tipping wages and systems in their restaurants about a year ago, and not only are they still going strong, but customers are strongly in support of it. A new restaurant opened up across the street from my apartment in November with the same conditions, and the employees could not be happier with the salary they are being paid, but they greet everybody with a smile and are enthusiastic/delighted to be at work.

          As for your question: It’s a great idea, in theory. With our society being as diverse as it is, this would bring up the common question: What is the proper linear amount to leave on the table? Although this would differ from person to person, it is something that could easily catch on. The current tipping system leaves in place a similarly variable ability for people to leave what they want. I would say that the linear system wouldn’t drastically change the amount that people currently leave on the table, which is why I am excited to see where this no-tipping system will take the restaurant business in the future.

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