When you go for a meal at a restaurant as a group, paying for food, drinks and a tip is rarely easy. Here are some typical issues that crop up regularly:
- People in the group don’t carry enough cash, meaning you get people wanting to split portions of the bill and pay by card, or people owing money which probably gets forgotten about, especially if you’re on a boozy night out.
- Despite everyone counting out their money carefully, the “pot” is always about £10-15 short. Then someone generously pays the shortfall, but you can tell they are secretly bitter about it.
- Some people prefer to split equally, which is fine if you’ve all had pretty much the same thing, but some people might have not had starters, some people don’t drink… it can get messy!
- People forget what they ordered or how much they drank. This inevitably leads to the more drunk members of the group debating with the more sober members, and no matter how trivial the bill is it never concludes well.
In my opinion, the politics involved in paying a restaurant bill is an unnecessary complication that friends/colleagues can do without. It’s a potential night-out ruiner – especially if it’s a group of girls :p
So what would I do? Well, I believe paying the bill should be a quick, easy and fair. Here is what I think should happen:
1. When you order your food, the information is stored under each person’s name. Shared food can be entered under multiple names.
2. The order is stored on some web based system.
3. When the time comes to pay for the bill, the waiter hands round a device (I’m thinking a tablet) running a special restaurant payment app (which I’m hoping someone will develop!). Each person’s order is listed with a breakdown of cost. Miscallaneous drinks etc can be left unassigned at the time of order and people can assign them to their name when the “payment tablet” is passed round. The app will ideally have the functionally to calculate the tip and split it if the group wishes.
4. Ideally people can pay digitally, via something like Paypal. Alternatively, people download the same restaurant app and the waiter gives a one-time access code so people can see the bill on their smartphones, and pay via their bank account which can be linked to the phone app.
5. Remaining people can pay by cash/card but they will be so jealous of the people that paid via their phones and will download the app for next time ;)