I always get stuck paying for lunches. Who should pay the tab for a business lunch?
We have talked a lot over the weeks about what to do during dining/coffee meetings but haven’t yet touched on what happens at the end – when the bill is dropped on your table.
Traditionally the rule is: whoever asks for the meeting pays for the meeting. However, it’s never a good idea to rely on traditions because sometimes other people don’t follow the rules, so you need to be prepared.
Take out your wallet and offer to pay (and be prepared to pay) regardless of who you believe should be throwing their money on the table.
If the other meeting attendee has “forgotten” their wallet or quickly has to go to the restroom as soon as the bill arrives at the table, then be gracious and pay the bill.
If you are familiar enough with your colleague you can suggest to spilt the bill but please judge this situation with caution and only suggest the spilt if you feel it would be appropriate.
If you have called the meeting and you are going to pay, then before the other attendees arrive give the wait staff your credit card or tell them you will pay after the others leave.
All you will need to do is sign the receipt or give the cash afterwards and that way there is no awkward tug-o-war for the bill and you can just say, “I have taken care of this meal, thank you so much for your time today.”
Lastly, I am not a big fan of do and don’t lists, however there is just one “do not” I want to make sure you understand for the end of the meal:
Do not order a doggy bag! I don’t care how delicious the meal was and you want to finish it later. No! This is not the image you want to portray.
Visit the restaurant again (even for dinner that night) if you loved the meal that much. Do not walk out of that venue with the remains of your meal under your arm.
All these tips are to make sure you finish the meeting with your dignity and respect intact. Neither of you should be leaving with a bad taste in your mouth by the other’s behaviour. The only taste you should have is from the delectable desert you decided to have “just this once”.
Enjoy your new confidence and the game of etiquette.