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traveling with group in France, separate checks? reservations?


We'll be having a week-long mini family reunion this late spring in France (Dodogne area). For the times when we are dining out (10 of us), what's a good way to have the bill spilt into family groupings? Surely the French eat out in larger groups :)

Research into other forums is all over the place:
1. Never ask the waiter!
2. It's ok to ask the waiter for separate checks...just do it early in the game!
3. Just split the bill yourselves (either by what you ate/drink or just divide evenly) and everyone put cash on the table!
4. Tell the waiter, as you put down your credit card, please charge this card this many euros.

5. You be the treasurer, put it on one credit card and everyone gives you cash.

Re reservations, I would guess that it would depend on the restaurant and what time you eat.


Posted by
9855 posts

In general French, and even most Europeans, do not discuss money. They also don't split according what people ate, they just split the check evenly with the philosophy that everyone ordered what they wanted and enjoyed it. In fact, when with only one other person or a couple, often one person or couple picks up the check. It's considered nitpicking and rude to hem and haw over money. It's assumed that the other person or couple will return the gesture next time. This is a HUGE difference between the US and European cultures. I'd go with #3 or #5 but don't draw a lot of attention discussing money while in the restaurant.
Edit: I meant #5--not 4.

Posted by
2487 posts

I wouldn't feel comfortable with troubling the waiter with the financial arrangements between me and my fellow-eaters.
One bill. Split the bill if everybody has eaten and/or drunk for more or less the same amount, and if not a rough correction. So option 3 or 5.
PM. Tipping is another much debated issue.

Posted by
2916 posts

Tipping is another much debated issue.

Don't even get into that! As to the original, question with a group of 10 it's a little trickier. When we've dined out in France with others, we've done the bill splitting ourselves, usually involving cash payments.

Posted by
262 posts

When we go out here and in France, we do not ask waiter to split the check with a large group. We all know what we order and put in that amount in cash. As far as a tip, we round up a little bit. If it is a especially large group, we add a bit more in tip.

Posted by
22977 posts

Our experience when dinning with a group is that the European restaurants are not as friendly towards splitting checks as in the US. We had friends that approach this question very directly. She insisted that everyone have a pen and note paper with them and write on the paper the price of what they ordered. If you did not have a pen she carried golf pencils. She acted as treasurer, paid the bill, added the tip, and collect the slips of paper, and give you the bill later down to the penny. Very efficient but a touch.

As for reservations, anything above a bar probably should have reservations. Americans tend to be more casual about everything including reservations. We have noticed or at least our perception is that we get better service and tables with reservation even if we only make the reservation an hour before. Others will disagree but I think the better restaurants interpret reservations as a sign of respect for the restaurants and their need to manage tables. In a US restaurant they will expect you to leave within an hour or so early reservations are not that important. In the European restaurant the tables is yours for the night. That requires a lot more planning. And with a group of ten you are asking a lot to just show up unless you are willing to split up into smaller tables.

Posted by
375 posts

Thanks everyone! That helps much! Frank, thanks for tip on reservations.

Posted by
224 posts

Waiters in France are quite adept at splitting bills and entering in different amounts for subgroups at a table. So, in response to your list:

  1. It's OK to ask the waiter, if he or she is the one with whom you will be settling the bill. If not, talk to the person who will be doing so.

  2. My opinion is that early is not necessary or useful. Do it at the time of payment so you don't burden someone with the responsibility of remembering information from an hour or two ago.

  3. That would be OK, but it's better to hand the cash to the waiter.

  4. That works.

  5. That works too.

Posted by
375 posts

My kids tell this is what the "Splitwise" app is for :) So apparently no need to bother the waiter or collect cash. Ha ha!


Posted by
440 posts

Split the bill evenly this easier to for everybody unless one person orders lobsters and champagne then they can pay that themselves

Posted by
4535 posts

It would think it depends somewhat on just how many splits are required. It's easy to split 50-50 but if you are asking for 4-5 bills, that is a lot to ask.

The good news for keeping track of each person's dinner costs is that taxes are included in the price listed and most meals are expected to be ordered from a prix fixe menu. And tips are not generally added (but with a group so large, it would be polite to add 5-10% if they take good care of you.

With a group so large, you'll need reservations just about anywhere and will need them in advance. Large outdoor cafes might have an easier time accommodating you but the reservation will allow them to keep a block of tables open.

Posted by
3134 posts

When we travel with other people, the group has a joint slush fund. It starts with everyone chipping in the same amount to the fund for bill payment, ticket payment, etc. When it gets low, more equal money is added to the fund. At the end if something is left over, it is divided equally and returned to all participants. It seems to essentially balance out. I wouldn't want to travel with people who were so nit-picky that they want to calculate their expenditures down to the penny. And I don't feel it is the waiter's job to do that. Multiple meals/events usually balance out. And if I were traveling with people who were too expensive to travel with, I'd never travel with them again. Lesson learned, but no complaining during the time period. Pre-trip discussions would be beneficial as to what everyone's expectations are going in. This system has kept everyone happy in our group travel.

Posted by
8293 posts

I think the OP has probably completed her "late spring" trip.

Posted by
375 posts

Hi. We are finishing up our trip. What we ended up doing is just bringing cash. One person would collect it all and pay with cash or use credit card and keep the cash.

I would say that in a few circumstances we could have asked for separate checks but overall, I think that would have been asking too much of the waiter. For our family, the spread and cost of what people ordered would have been to great to divide evenly.

We had a great airbnb so we had 3 dinners here, with a new chef for each meal!