When was the last time someone in your party asked for a separate restaurant check? Well, it's still done every day, but it's a pain for the servers, and some restaurants won't do it at all. Splitting the check by each person handing over his or her credit card is much more common now, but be warned that some eateries don't like to do this either, and some have a rule against it, especially if several cards are involved. Here is a guide to dealing with the sticky situations that can arise when dining out with others.
• If you must have separate checks, tell your waitperson before the order is placed.
• If the restaurant doesn't do separate checks or allow splitting the bill on multiple cards, one person can pay the bill and the others can pay him or her back.
• Be gracious if your group agrees to split the bill. Don't worry about the amount you owe being unfair or unequal, even if you have dined lightly compared to the others in the group. However, if one person has gone overboard in ordering the most expensive dishes and/or wines on the menu, he or she should offer to pay more, or at least pay the tip. If he or she does not, don't feel bad about bringing it up.
• Don't try to avoid paying. When the bill comes, pony up. This goes for both sexes!
• If children are involved, their parents should pay for them.
• Each person in the group must share in splitting a bill. This means that if a couple is dining with a third person the bill should be split three ways, not two.
• If you've hosting a business lunch or dinner, it's your duty to foot the bill.
• For social events in restaurants, such as birthday parties, make it clear beforehand whether one person is picking up the entire bill or the guests are expected to pay their share as a gift to the birthday boy or girl.
Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (Lisagrotts.com), certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on Twitter.com/LisaGrotts and Facebook.com/LisaGrotts.