Eight ways to win the Battle For The Dinner Bill

Paying the bill after a meal is an art form that requires experience. Here are some ways you can outsmart your family and actually pay for dinner.

As everyone chows down on the last bites of their food, you signal to the server to bring over the bill. The server scurries over and sets down the bill in the middle of the table. The battle of “who’s paying the bill” has begun.

You lean in quickly to grab it, only to discover someone else has already snatched the bill, leaving you with a tray of emptiness. Voices erupt around you and suddenly everyone is clamouring for the server’s attention, with arms and credit cards waving in the air.

For many of us, this is a familiar scene when dining out with our family and friends.

Traditionally, fighting to pay the bill is about pride and saving face. It has become an art form that requires skills and experience to finesse.

While it may be difficult to challenge your grandma or the auntie who knows every server by name, here are some ways you can excel at this end-of-mealtime ritual like a champ:

1. Offer to make the reservation – While everyone thinks that you are just being a nice kid, you are already making arrangements to pay before the meal commences. You can also pick a restaurant you frequent so the servers know to only accept payment from you.

2. Follow the classic slip-away – Everyone knows about the classic washroom move before the end of a meal. When you see someone excusing themselves, follow them so you can beat them to the cashier.

3. Cash only – While everyone else is busy fighting over who gets to swipe their card, just give cash to the server (no change!). Cash is king at Asian restaurants.

4. When you can’t be the first to pay, be the last to act – Slap down your credit card on top of everyone else’s when the server is about to pick up a card. Steal everyone’s credit cards to ensure no one else is paying.

5. Reason with them … or throw shade – Try these: “I am the oldest at the table,” “You are poor and starving students,” and “I am married and you are still single.” These words may hurt, but there is nothing like some tough love to strengthen your relationship.

Photo credit: Wu Yi

6. Find your allies – Sometimes you just can’t win on your own. It’s okay to ask for help from your six-foot, lanky basketball player cousin or a five-year-old nephew who can slip between objects and people unnoticed to secure the bill.

7. Pay them back – Look for pockets or openings. Split up the cash and place them in multiple places so they won’t notice until they get home. Slip money in their birthday cards or give it to their children as pocket money.

8. Be polite – After all, sharing food is a way for families and friends to bond. It’s best to end off on a peaceful note. Tell them, “I’ll let you pay next time.”

Now, share with us your tips and tricks for paying the bill. We promise we won’t use it against you.   

Making Asian American media

We believe that our stories matter – and we hope you do too. Support us with a monthly contribution to help ensure stories for us and by us are here to stay.


The future of Cold Tea Collective depends on you.

People chatting at the Making It documentary screening.

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top