One of my favorite questions during my seminars involves paying the bill at a business lunch or dinner, specifically: What should a woman do when she invites a man to a business meal and the wait staff hands the check to her male guest at the end of the meal?
Very frustrating. Playing tug of war with her guest for the check is not the image she wants to leave with him . Since, she did the inviting she knows she is expected to do the paying, and she wants to do it.
She could say to her guest, “Tom, please, I’ll take care of the check. I invited you to lunch today. I insist.” Hopefully, her confident tone and her words will be enough to convince Tom to relinquish the check. If he insists on paying, she may be stuck, and her best course of action is to graciously appreciate his generosity.
Better yet, she will do herself a favor by not letting the situation ever get to the point where the wait staff can foul up her plans by giving the check to her male guest.
- She could discreetly let the maître d’ or the waitperson know ahead of time or when they are being seated that the check should be given to her at the end of the meal.
- She could give her credit card to the manager ahead of time and ask to have the check plus twenty percent for the tip be charged to the card. She can sign the charge slip and get her card at the end of the meal. (Of course this assumes she knows the restaurant well enough to feel comfortable giving them her card ahead of time.)
- She can excuse herself to the restroom a few minutes before the end of the meal, give her card to the waitperson who will process the check and the tip, and have the slip ready for her signature as she returns from the restroom. The beauty of this scenario is that no check ever comes to the table. She has fulfilled her obligation as host, the meal is paid for unobtrusively, and her focus can be on her guest as the meal draws to a close.
This advice is equally applicable to men. Arrange for the payment of the bill in such a way that it never shows up at the table. Keep your attention on your guest without the distraction of having to figure the tip and sign the slip.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
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