Suppose you have just enjoyed a delightful meal with some wonderful friends. How can you manage events, so that you can pay the bill without making your dinner companions feel awkward about it?
Nothing can spoil a lovely evening than a tussle over who gets to pay the bill. Look around any restaurant, as the servers deliver dinner checks to each table. Even from across the room, you can find the folks who protest half-heartedly about paying or being paid for. Insincerity is simple to spot!
The gracious host is anything but insincere. If you truly intend to pay, you can afford to be discreet about it.
If you have planned and purposed to finance the meal, then you can exercise a bit of planning, discretion, and intrigue to orchestrate this.
You have several options, which are all perfectly acceptable in polite company:
The Gracious Host
If you initiated the dinner out, and you invited the others to join you, then you are likely the intended host. If so, make it clear to your guests, right from the start, that you will be picking up the tab.
The Private Payer
If you wish to grab the check secretly, you can politely excuse yourself from the table towards the end of the meal. Away from the table, find your server. Arrange to pay the check, or simply hand him or her your credit card. By the time he comes to your table for your signature, the deal will be done.
The Direct Dealer
When the server arrives at the table with the check, you can certainly offer to pay. Expect a gentle argument, if your guests are gracious as well. Be prepared to either pay or concede, knowing that it may be more courteous to concede than to continue an argument.
The Party Sharer
You might offer to pay the tip, or allow your fellow diners to do so, if they insist in participating in the funding of the meal somehow.
Some restaurants may generate separate bills for the bar and the dining room. In such cases, it may be perfectly acceptable for parties to split these. One person might offer to cover the bar tab, while another might pick up the meal.
If you are attending a ticketed event afterwards (a sports game, movie, show, etc.), then one party may pay for dinner, and another may pick up the tickets, the parking fees, or another cost.
The Dutch Treat
In recent years, if has become quite acceptable for friends to split the cost of a restaurant bill. Some may split this evenly, while others will pull out their calculators and determine exactly what each participant must pay. (Most cell phones now have calculators, and this truly does happen.)
If your group has decided ahead of time to do this, then it may be completely alright. However, it is considered quite tacky to suggest this AFTER the meal has ended and the bill has arrived.
A more polite and friendly way to handle this would be to take turns paying for dinners, if you often dine together. Sometimes, a few couples will go out together regularly, and this may be their custom.
The main point is this: Dining out is a social event, and you will likely want to foster a continuing friendship with your fellow diners. For that reason, courtesy, graciousness, and personal class are central.