The More The Merrier (Until The Check Arrives): Tips For Stress-Free Group Dining

It's all a fun group outing until the check comes out

Once a few folks get the notion to dine out group-style, a party of three can easily balloon to ten or twelve folks before the bread basket is placed on the table. In fact, I am a fan of the good times and great fellowship that come along with the occasional dinner party at a restaurant.  Smiles and giggles typically abound...until the check comes. *insert theme song to ‘Jaws’ here* Folks begin to whip out calculators, haggle over who had the last appetizer and start tossing any combination of cash and credit cards at the poor server. Come now. We can do better.

With a bit of pre-planning, everyone can walk away from the table without feeling that a bank teller should have tagged along to handle everyones’ transactions.

1. Assign an enthusiastic and communicative point-person to make the reservation and liaise with the restaurant. There is a lot to be said about streamlined communications.

2. Read reviews from peer-centric based websites like Yelp and Eater to determine if there is any feedback about others’ group dining experiences. Ultimately, go with your gut.

3. Determine if the restaurant (and more casual ones actually do) will split the group’s check per diner.

4. Inquire about the restaurant’s seating policy. Will guests be seated upon arrival or must the entire party be present? As an aside, reservations are made to be kept. Always strive to honor the meeting time.

5. Should it be an option, consider working with the restaurant to create a prix fixe menu with a flat cost per diner. 

6. After your reservation is made, send a group email to all members of the party outlining the location, seating policy, reservation time and what method of payment the group will use. If only one check is an option, it is a good idea for someone to discreetly collect everyone’s cash payments for reconciliation or simply place the balance on a pre-determined group diner’s credit card.

7. In instances where reimbursement to a fellow diner is required, technology has made it easy for immediate peer-to-peer payment via smart phones and smart tablets. Consider apps such as Square or PayPal. Remember to include any fees!

Focusing on the small details before arriving to a group dinner will give you more time to focus on more important things: friends, family and cocktails. Cheers!

Shameeka Ayers is an Atlanta-based lifestyle blogger and author who dispenses entertaining, shelter and food & wine anecdotes and advice via her alter ego, The Broke Socialite. She also produces a national tour of curated dessert-tasting experiences, Sugar Coma Events™.  Her first novella, Instantly: How Quickly I Realized I Hate My Job will be released in Summer 2012.