Proof You Shouldn’t Split the Check When Eating Out

People tend to eat more lavishly when the bill is split evenly among diners.

Proof You Shouldn’t Split the Check When Eating Out Photo (cc) by faungg's photo

You and your friends are eating out and you plan to divide the tab evenly. Now you’re faced with a dilemma. Do you splurge at the expense of your friend’s pocketbook, or do you eat light, knowing you’re going to end up paying for your friend’s lavish meal?

This seemingly innocuous event has caused enough consternation that a group of three scientists actually performed field experiments to see how unscrupulous people really are.

According to, the experiment went a little like this: A group of strangers gather to eat at a restaurant. The participants are each told how they will pay for their meal. Some will pay individually, some are told they will split the check, and the remaining people are told that the meal will be free.

The diners then ordered their meals without anyone else seeing what they had chosen.

The results of the dining experience are described by

To no one’s surprise, the people who paid individually were the most frugal, the people getting the free lunch were most extravagant, and the people who split the bill were in the middle, and therefore slightly unscrupulous.

Some diners were then told that they would have to pay just one-sixth of the cost of their individual meal. There was no difference between what those diners ate compared to those who were told they had to split the bill evenly, according to

The 1/6th diners paid just about what the split-pay people did. So it seems we just like a good cheap lunch, no matter who it’s coming from.

The study, entitled “The Inefficiency of Splitting the Bill,” also found that 80 percent of people would prefer to pay their individual bill rather than splitting it.

My husband and I went out to dinner one night with another couple and when it was time to pay the bill, the other couple told the waitress that we would just split it. Normally, I wouldn’t think too much about it. But I was pregnant at the time, so I had been drinking water all night, while my husband and our friends drank several alcoholic beverages, none of which were cheap.

We definitely ended up paying way more than our fair share that night.

So, the next time you eat out with friends or family, think twice before agreeing to split the bill evenly. You might end up with the short end of the stick, and a much lighter wallet.

Have you been in the uncomfortable position of splitting a bill with friends before? Share your experiences below or on our Facebook page.

Krystal Steinmetz
Krystal Steinmetz
A former television and radio reporter, I stay at home with my two young children, run a small craft business and freelance for Money Talks News. I have a BA in journalism ... More

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