Manner Matters: How to Curb an Over-Orderer

Lunch at Sanur

What if a friend always orders way too much food? [Photo: Robyn Lee]

Dear Molly,

I have a friend who is wonderful but always, always insists on ordering too much food to share at a restaurant. If four dishes would be enough, she orders eight. If entrees would get everyone in the table stuffed, she insists on adding an extra round of appetizers, too. Of course, the (sizable) check is split at the end of the night. Is there any way to go out with her and not end up overfull and out of cash?

Best, Justin Entree

Dear Justin,

This is a common phenomenon these days, perhaps because so many restaurants insist that the menu's made of up 'small plates for sharing' and nobody knows quite what counts as a meal. I recently found myself dining with a friend who ordered pretty much everything on the menu "just to try it" and overloaded our table with plates and glasses and bowls and half-eaten everything. How you can avoid being stuffed and broke when you dine with this friend? It's simple: speak up.

I assume you've tried the, "Why don't we start with these 4 dishes and see how it goes" approach? If not, try to manage the ordering by insisting on starting small and ordering more food if you're still hungry. You could even mention something along the lines of "The last couple times we haven't finished what we ordered, and that stings the bank account, you know?" The trick there is to keep it in the first person plural, implicating yourself in the past over-ordering.

If that doesn't work, consider saying, "I know you like to try lots of dishes, but I just can't eat that much...Do you mind if we each get our own check?"

No judgment. Just facts and a simple, nicely phrased request.

I know lots of people are fundamentally against separate checks. In general, I'm with them, but there are times when it's the best solution. Yes, it is a bit of extra work for the server, so tip accordingly, but splitting one check into two isn't an unreasonable request.

Be aware, however, that once you make this proclamation, you do not, I'm afraid, get to taste any of the dishes you aren't paying for. If you only want to pay for what you order, you need only to eat what you order.

More Manner Matters

Ask Us!

We love receiving your etiquette-related questions. Do you have a dining-related pickle (and not the delicious kind that indicates you are in a good deli)? Email [email protected].