How Do You Pay the Bill at Restaurants?


You know what I'd really like from a restaurant? A prix fixe where I pay beforehand. Because I'm really tired of bumbling over math after dessert and a couple gin fizzes. A recent bill-paying clusterfu—let's just call it an episode—has me wondering if you guys have any suggestions on check paying when groups are involved.

I'm partial to this take on The Awl, which is a pretty simple guide: if you're over 25, split the damn thing evenly and stop complaining. And that's how I tend to go most of the time. Or I'll take an even more passive approach and abdicate any claim to figuring out the bill, with the promise of paying whatever I'm told.

But even that presents problems—figuring out how to split the check is one thing, but the mechanics is quite another. "Do you have cash?" "I only have fifties." (&*$@!) "Can I put it all on my card?" (times three). Honestly, it's enough to make me not dine out as much in large groups. Or only dine out with large groups of oil barons.

I think from now on I'm going to start carrying a just-for-restaurants wallet stocked with singles, fives, and twenties. "Can anyone break a twenty?" Yes, I can, you're welcome. Try it; it may just make you the hero of the hour.

For the smartphone-inclined among you, I've heard of some social payment apps that could also help: the idea is to link your bank account to the app, and you can send payments to people instantly over the phone. So if someone pays for you, you can pay them back instantly.

There's a few out there, but Venmo offers a nice solution to the closed system problem (in which all your friends have to use a system for it to be worthwhile; in short, why MySpace no longer is). You can text anyone a payment and they have 90 days to create a free account and receive it—no further action required.

How about you, Serious Eaters? Is check paying a pain? Do you have any tips to share? And just as important: any check paying horror stories? We love to hear those.