Many restaurants in the United States wouldn't split check according to the chair/person but instead, bill the entire table. How to split the check then?
Easiest option is to do evenly. However, people ordering less would have to bear the cost of people ordering more. With this model, people also tend to over order because the cost is shared by everyone.
Another way is to make everyone responsible for their own share and pay what they owe voluntarily. However, this voluntary method needs a slight improvement. For example, I asked guests in my cousin's birthday party to pay the check voluntarily but still got stuck with one thirds of the bill when all I ordered was a drink. How?
People tend to underpay. It's not because they want to cheat but they simply "forget" to add that extra drink, something else they had, appetizer they shared and/or tax/tip they owe.
So here's my "cross-out method" for paying check in a restaurant. this should work well for a large group. Here's how.
- Find the shared items and evenly divide the cost. Cross out shared items while doing so. Examples are shared appetizers, shared costs such as birthday boy/girl's dinner & drinks. Write down the "individual shared cost" with tax and tip and divide by number of people. Ask everyone to add the cost to their payment, even though they didn't have anything. Always highlight percentage of automatically added tip (gratuity). Often tips of 18%-20% are automatically added in check for a large group. This avoids paying the tip twice and importantly, people can't tip less than what's automatically added in the check.
- Ask everyone to go over the check and cross out items they consumed and paying for. Ask them to pay "individual shared cost" plus their individual share with tax/tip.
- If there are any remaining uncrossed items, ask people to see if they forget to add any items. If nobody ordered those items and you are certain that the extra items are error, go and talk to the server and get it removed. People make mistakes. The crossing out items is essential to isolate those extra items people forget or to isolate unintentional error (hopefully) by your server.
- Splitting the cost after a wonderful meal is awkward. However, for your own financial health and to maintain a fair relationship, it's necessary. Even after following these steps, if you are the organizer, be prepared to chip a few extra bucks.