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RichardJ Mar 11th, 2006 08:05 AM

Splitting the restaurant bill in Sydney and New Zealand
We will be traveling with two other couples, staying in Sydney for 5 days and 10 days ono the south island of NZ. We cannot figure out the most equitable way of sharing the restaurant bill. Is tax already factored in to the price of each food item (as in Europe) or is it added on to the total at the end of the bill? What is the tax percentage on meals? No tip required, right? Our friends prefer to give 3 credit cards to the waiter and let him divide the bill evenly. My wife and I NEVER order alcohol and the other two couples will consume several bottles of wine. My wife NEVER orders dessert and is a very light eater. Waiters in the US try to avoid writing separate checks. Should we try to get separate checks or figure out our portion, (include tax) and throw cash into the middle of the table? We were on a trip recently with one of the couples and found ourselves paying 30-40% more every meal. That really infuriates us. Any suggestions of how to tactfully approach the subject?

Neil_Oz Mar 11th, 2006 02:44 PM

I can see how it must be difficult for you, Richard, having to negotiate a reduction in your share of the bill at every meal while your dining companions shift restlessly in their seats, sigh heavily and roll their eyes at each other - and having to go through all that stone cold sober!

I've seldom asked for a split bill, so I can't say how many restaurants would comply, either happily or unhappily. You can only ask. I just hope your friends are more forgiving than mine.

In Australia 10% goods and services tax (GST) is included in the bill, and in the price of most things you buy. From memory the NZ system is similar.

Normally I like to remind visitors that in general, tipping isn't expected in Australia. As you dine so frugally, though, you should be able to afford a small contribution.

tropo Mar 11th, 2006 03:55 PM

Richard, I've never seen a Restaurant in Australia, give out seperate bills to people on the same table.
When I've been dining with others in numbers, what usually happens after each couples share of the bill is assessed, most couples throw money into the centre of the table, with a possible tip (if the food & service was above the norm). Sometimes one couple will pocket the money from the other couples, then he/or she will pay total bill with a credit card.
Most people that I dine with, are considerate, in that they know they have to pay more, if they want to consumer heaps of alcohol, where others do not.
Just carry cash and throw in your amount, and let the hard drinkers pay the total bill.

mlgb Mar 11th, 2006 04:41 PM

I feel your pain. The couple who drinks, has appetizers, the most expensive entree and dessert always thinks the other couple who doesn't is stingy. I think there only way two wayst to approach this. Either discuss it before you leave, or decide you are going to order the most expensive thing on the menu! Unlikely to get the waiters to split the bills.

No tip is required in NZ. GST is the Kiwi VAT charge at 12.5% It may have been already calculated into many charges that I paid, but can't specifically remember how restaurants usually handled it.

Peteralan Mar 11th, 2006 04:59 PM

Are you sure you actually want to eat with them all the time? It is not usual for waiters to give you more than one bill and I do not think they would be happy to do that. What usually happens, as has been said above, is that the diners work out the bill themselves and put in their own contribution. It is a little petty to quibble if one person has a dessert for example and another does not. Most people are happy to spend the time in company with friends and will not mind splitting the bill. In your situation however it is extrememly unfair to consume great quantities of alcohol ( which will usually be the major part of the bill anyway )and expect the abstainers to share the cost. One would expect them to take that into consideration when splitting the bill. So I guess your choices are to discuss it first with them or only go to BYO restaurants where they will pay for the alcohol in advance or put up with it or take up drinking or just don't go out with them! It is not compulsory to pay a tip on top of the cost but it is not included as it is in the States and most people will leave a tip in appreciation unless they get lousy service.

Neil_Oz Mar 11th, 2006 05:34 PM

Another option is to convince your friends to bring their own wine. In most Sydney restaurants BYO is fine (wine only, though, unless they don't have a liquor licence). The pricier ones may levy a hefty corkage charge, though. With few exceptions restaurant markups are at least 100%, so that will save them money.

Jed Mar 12th, 2006 07:22 AM

Two days ago we went out with another couple who ordered much more than we did. At the end, we were ready to split the bill, but they insisted on paying what looked like their fair share. That shows consideration.

It seems to me your friends are inconsiderate.

Since you are committed to a long trip with them, you could either discuss it with them <i>now</i> (with separate checks or figuring your part of the bill), or not say anything and be aggrevated for 2 weeks. ((R))

Mucky Mar 12th, 2006 08:24 AM

This is a big problem, not just in Oz but everywhere. Especially when large groups of friends dine together and some of them are driving.

The one thing that infuriates me about this situation is the seemingly endless 'squabble' to sort out the bill at the end of a great evening.

The only suggestions I have are either:

1. Be frank and make sure they pay for what they have.
2.Go to a BYO (Brilliant civilised method by the way !!And great suggestion).
3. Have seperate bills.
4.Find someone more suited to dine with- your quite incompatable really lol .
If you are really stuck just nip out on your own, I'm sure they will feel the same way too sometimes.

Failing that you will have to eat and drink to the same extent as them.



Good Luck


RichardJ Mar 12th, 2006 08:41 AM

Thanks for giving us support to only pay for our share. We originally planned the trip with one couple, then the brother and wife decided to join us. I did send the wife an email regaring our thoughts on dividing the restauant bill and plan on reiterating our plan of throwing cash into the center for our share during the first meal. I must admit that it does make me feel rather cheap, but paying extra will also annoy me so much over a two week period, that we will be forced to express our opinions upfront.

wilees Mar 12th, 2006 08:43 AM

It is true that in general restaurants prefer 1 bill. Some will split the bill if asked in NZ (not in Oz tho from my experience).

I think the Etiquette is when dining as a group expect to split the bill evenly unless discussed beforehand.

The BYO option is a really good one! Heaps of restaurant in NZ are BYO (and often when they are not if you bring wine by accident they will still open it).

So i go with everybody else and talk about it before you leave. Then just carry cash and do a vague assessment of your portion (always being a bit generous) and throw the money in the middle of the table.

lizF Mar 12th, 2006 02:31 PM

I don't see a problem. Just sit at a seperate table, order your food then move over to the other table with the friends. That way you will get your bill and they will get theirs.

bhuty Mar 12th, 2006 10:08 PM

I've been able to split bills about half the time (or a bit better). However, i don't ask for it that often.

I think you'll find it more difficult to gain social acceptance of this (from your friends) than you would have troubles from the restaurant.

here's what i would do: I'd call the restaurant quietly in advanced (if you can) and make sure they can do it before you arrive. then if they can;t go to maccas instead.

wally34949 Mar 13th, 2006 04:51 AM

At least it will be easier to figure out than in the United States since the price of the food item includes taxes and tip. Furthermore, the prices are usually rounded to the nearest dollar--none of this 9.99 stuff plus tax plus tip.

So if your order is 12.00 and so is her's, carry a little cash and put in 25. Try to tip 5%.

Neil_Oz Mar 13th, 2006 10:35 AM

To be a bit pedantic, the bill doesn't actually include a tip. Put simply, restaurant staff in Australia must by law be paid a living wage which is considerably higher than the US minimum wage equivalent, so there's no more reason to tip a waiter or bar attendant than, say, a shop assistant in a department store.

Despite this it's not uncommon for restaurant patrons to tip (a) in recognition of exceptional service, (b) in a spirit of generosity brought on by a glass or three too many, (c) if entertaining on the company's credit card, (d) some combination of the above. It's not majority practice, though.

For some reason, many eateries find it too difficult or exhausting to list their prices to two decimal points or to use a dollar sign, so you might see &quot;13.5&quot; where $13.50 is intended. My other pet peeves are that the spelling in cafe menus is more often than not atrocious, and hardly anyone knows how to pronounce &quot;bruschetta&quot; - it nearly always comes out as &quot;brew-shetta&quot; rather than &quot;brew-sketta&quot;. End whinge.

Peteralan Mar 13th, 2006 07:18 PM

Neil, I once went to a restaurant here which had homos on the menu !

lizF Mar 13th, 2006 08:38 PM

How many homos did you have Peter?
My pet peeve is that International visitors do not tip, the wages are a living wage paid to hospitality staff but usually the work is done by people who are either doing a second job or while at Uni and they are just as in need of a bit extra than say anyone else.
Just because staff are not paid as is the case in North America is not, in my view, a reason for the patron to pay their wages. Tipping should be for good service just as it is supposed to be elsewhere in the world except where you are forced to pay it because its in the bill.

Neil_Oz Mar 13th, 2006 09:24 PM

Liz, I hear what you're saying, but why should visitors be expected to tip when most Australians don't?

I'm open to correction, but I think the only time most Americans don't tip is when the service is lousy - otherwise a tip of at least 15% is assumed.

The European practice of adding a &quot;service charge&quot; looks like a compulsory tip. But what's the point of charging separately for something that you can't very well decline? I mean, can I opt to collect my own meal from the kitchen? I read of one brave soul who challenged a service charge because the service was almost non-existent and actually had it deleted, but few of us are that persistent I think.

Neil_Oz Mar 13th, 2006 09:38 PM

Peter, I guess the restaurant wasn't on Oxford Street either? For some reason I thought of a sign in a hotel in Yugoslavia cited by Bill Bryson: &quot;The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid. Turn to her straightaway.&quot; Well, we all know about those oversexed Europeans, don't we?

Way off-topic here, but I couldn't resist sharing this Chinese menu, which is the genuine article (after all, who could make it up?)

* The cold cow in west in special grade picks: Y38
* The onion pig picks: Y30
* The Milan pig picks: Y30
* The pig picks the elder brother a cloth: Y30
* The Tbone of the United States picks: Y38
* Italian vanilla mutton chop: Y48
* The big (Chinese character) in London picks: Y48

BTW, the above prices range from AU$5 to AU$8, which means they're pricier- than-average dishes for China. But you can see why.

Peteralan Mar 14th, 2006 09:19 PM

LOL Liz and Neil. I am not so sure most Aussies don't tip. I would say we do out of appreciation for the service although we don't need to ( which I think was the original question? ). I guess I might think twice about putting in a tip if I dined out with Richard J's friends and didn't drink ( but that of course is purely hypothetical!)

RichardJ Mar 15th, 2006 06:30 AM

If I throw cash for our share plus a tip into the center of the table and the other two couples opt not to tip, the server will not benefit--rather it will help fund our friends. This sounds like another good case for communication up front. I guess we'll say, &quot;here's our portion, and this is for the tip.&quot;

Back to my original question--if the meal and service are exceptional--what is the percentage? Neil is correct--in the US servers get a minimum of 15% and prefer 20%. It's a real slam to only leave 10%. Could someone give me simple guidelines:
average meal, adequate service = ?% tip
above average meal, great service = ?
great meal, exceptional service = ?

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