The restaurant conundrum
The meal has been delicious, the company entertaining – and then the bill arrives. It can be an awkward moment deciding whether to divide the bill evenly between the dinner guests or whether to add up the cost of each diner’s meal. As the poll result suggests, opinion is often split. Whatever the choice, research tells us that people tend to behave differently depending on the strategy.
Thanks for subsidising my expensive meal
A study published in The Economic Journal in 2004 found a strong preference among diners to pay individually for items they had. However, when the group was forced to splitting the bill evenly, there was a tendency for diners in the study to take advantage by ordering a more expensive meal. Splitting the bill evenly effectively subsidised the more lavish option. Or, in the words of the study authors “subjects minimise their losses by taking advantage of others”. The decision of how to split the bill varies from group to group – but the study findings do provide food for thought.