The One Thing You Should Tell Your Waiter ASAP

Want your dinner to go as smoothly as possible? Your waiter wants that, too! Here's one thing you absolutely need to tell your server right away.

When you go out to dinner with a group, you’re probably pretty distracted with ordering drinks, reading the menu and catching up with friends. But take a moment to alert your waiter to one important thing: whether or not you want to split the check.

Experts say these dining etiquette rules are passe: do you agree?

Why to Split a Check First Thing

Many people assume that the time to discuss payment is after the waiter presents you with a bill—but that’s actually rude to the server, and can create more work for them. Why? As you place orders for food and drinks, your waiter tallies them up in a POS, or point of sale, system. If your waiter doesn’t know you’re splitting the bill, they’ll enter the entire table onto a single tab—they’ll then have to go through and separate every item, requiring both manual overrides and the need to remember who ordered what.

Let your server know immediately that you’re going to split a bill, and they can create separate tabs for each person: easy peasy.

Never order these items at a restaurant.

Don’t Switch Seats!

Most waiters enter orders for split checks by seat number, so it’s best to keep your seat once you’ve started ordering. Otherwise, your bill may be incorrect.

Guests often make these dinner party etiquette mistakes.

Know the Policy

Plus, some restaurants only allow tables to split the bill among a certain number of credit cards. Your waiter will let you know if that’s the case, giving the table a chance to talk over payment logistics before someone orders the lobster and someone else just has a side salad.

Remember to Tip

Finally, do remember to tip fairly when splitting a bill! If you’re picking up your own tab, tip normally (15-20%). If your group was very large, the server will often have to do more legwork than usual to keep up, so tipping at least 20% is good etiquette. Also, if your large group hung out to visit, holding the table, it’s also courteous to give a larger tip, since your waiter may have missed out on serving additional customers.

Next time you’re out to dinner, don’t wait until you already have the bill in hand to mention that you’re splitting it two or three or 10 ways. Your waiter will appreciate it, and you’ll be able to wrap up the evening much more smoothly.

Kelsey Rae Dimberg
A former in-house editor at Taste of Home, Kelsey now writes, cooks and travels from her home base of Chicago. After going gluten-free over a decade ago, Kelsey turned to home cooking and baking as a way to recreate her favorite foods. Her specialties include gluten-free sourdough bread, pizza and pastry. When not wrangling her toddler, she enjoys reading, watching old movies and writing. Her debut novel, Girl in the Rearview Mirror, was published by William Morrow in 2019, and her second is forthcoming.