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Splitting the check is no longer restaurant etiquette — in 2024 it's every diner for themself

Group of friends paying check at a restaurant.
Discussions about how to split a restaurant check are blowing up.SrdjanPav
  • Splitting the check is one of the most controversial subjects around group dining.

  • Sentiment in favor of paying for just your own meal has been ramping up lately on TikTok.

  • It seems the even split is falling out of favor and 2024 is becoming the year of individual tabs.

Paying the bill at the end of a meal has long been an elephant in the room around a group dinner table.

Will you split evenly or pay separately? The decision is notorious for stirring debate, even igniting an argument on an episode of "Friends."

Recently, TikTok users have been gaining traction with the idea that people shouldn't feel guilty about paying for just their own food. This argument isn't entirely new on the app; content creators have been making this point since at least last year, but a wave of new videos has brought this discussion into the spotlight.

Many of these posts are in the form of first-person testimony, a format that has not always proved to be reliable storytelling. But the passionate reaction these stories get, often drumming opposition to even bill splitting, indicates it's an increasingly common sentiment, perhaps exacerbated by the economy's fragility and new technology allowing people to easily pay for their food separately.

In 2024, it's every diner for themself.

Diners say splitting the bill can be unfair

Some of the recent bill-splitting posts are grouped under the hashtag #groupdinner, which has 9.6 million views.

Many of the top videos are from the past year and feature people talking about not wanting to help pay for others' meals when dividing the check. While the videos share various experiences, the through line is that people are fed up with the status quo of evenly splitting meal costs — especially if others are pushing back.

One of the most popular TikTok videos on this subject features a user who goes by @finegalnopimple calling out diners who make everyone split the check evenly when they order significantly more or much-more expensive food.

"I feel like some people use this as a way to get over on others," she says in the video, which has received over 3.2 million views since it was posted on January 17.

A flood of commenters agreed with the sentiment: Some said they wanted to pay for just their own food so they weren't taken advantage of and disrespected, while others said they were tired of being called "childish" or "stingy" because they preferred getting separate checks.

In another viral clip, which has been viewed over 2 million times since it was posted on January 15, the TikToker @remiandaryan described a scenario in which she said she was asked by the host to pay $150 at a $50-a-head steak-house birthday party because other guests left early without paying. Many commenters expressed outrage at the idea.

While some users have commented on these videos saying they feel comfortable sharing the bill evenly in specific circumstances (like a meal with longtime friends), the new consensus seems to be paying for one's own meal only.

"I am not discussing nothing," one top comment on @remiandaryan's video said. "I am paying for what I ate."

New technology could be a reason for the shift against bill splitting

Splitting a restaurant check evenly regardless of people's orders has historically been the norm in certain social circles, perhaps especially in the US.

In a May article, a Dutch fintech company told people not to be surprised if their American friends wanted to split the bill evenly, and the Louisiana Federal Credit Union said online that some restaurants would refuse to provide separate checks for customers.

Nick Leighton, who cohosts the etiquette-advice podcast "Were You Raised by Wolves?" told Business Insider it made sense that people were beginning to question the practice.

"An invitation is not an invoice, and people are simply tired of feeling fleeced," Leighton said.

But there may be more to the sudden disdain for spending beyond the amount one individually racked up.

On TikTok, videos about the rising cost of living are increasingly popular — people have shared their struggles to make ends meet despite having stable jobs, and videos about the cost of everyday groceries can attract hundreds of thousands of viewers. In response, some say on social media they want to normalize cutting down on spending, rather than glorifying extravagance.

In addition, the proliferation of payment apps such as Venmo and Splitwise drives a more individualized approach to spending by allowing people to split bills easily, some people say.

Venmo "changes friendships and makes them more transactional," one teacher told The New York Times in 2017, adding: "It's nickel-and-diming everything, literally."

In 2022, Forbes reported that Americans were relying on these apps because of economic pressures.

In a survey of 1,000 Americans by Forbes Advisor and OnePoll, 47% of respondents said they were using payment apps to "split bills in ways they normally wouldn't due to inflation."

If getting a separate check appeals to you, there's good news on the etiquette front

If the TikTok comments are anything to go by, not everyone feels comfortable with people paying for their orders separately.

"I agree to a group dinner, knowing the cost a.k.a. splitting the bill. It's like a social fee," one commenter wrote under @finegalnopimple's video.

It's also not always possible to pay for just what you ordered — some restaurants won't allow a large number of checks because it can disrupt the flow of service, not to mention it risks "becoming a real pain in your server's ass," Eater wrote in 2018.

Leighton, the etiquette-podcast host, told BI that it's reasonable to split the bill with buddies if everyone's orders came out to similar prices: "Ultimately, at the end of a lifetime of friendship, it'll all even out."

But if they don't, Leighton said, it's "not outside the bounds of etiquette" to ask for separate checks. If the restaurant can't do that, he added, the burden falls on the person who organized the event to handle the bill with the venue and then get reimbursed by their guests. Leighton recommended an app called Plates, which lets users determine how much someone owes based on what they ordered.

In sticking to etiquette when paying for just one's own meal, it's crucial that guests repay their portion promptly.

"It's super rude to ever make someone chase you for money you rightly owe," Leighton told BI. "Those who don't pay their debts promptly should be removed from any future guest lists."

More than anything, communication between the hosts and guests is essential and can help thwart nightmare bill-splitting mishaps like the ones described in the viral TikTok videos.

If you're into planning group dinners, you can avoid becoming viral fodder, Leighton said, by telling guests ahead of time whether there may be an extra cost associated with the event so they can assess their finances and decide whether to attend.

Just don't be surprised this year if requests for separate checks come with the RSVP.

Read the original article on Business Insider