December 3rd 2013 | Comments

How to split the bill in a restaurant

In his Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sequel Life, The Universe and Everything, the late Douglas Adams invented a concept called Bistromathics, the most complicated numbering and mathematical system in the galaxy.

Bistromathics, Adams declared, is the direct result of the fact that when a large party dines in a restaurant, it remains impossible to split the bill equally, no matter how carefully everybody is to record how much they have spent. The resulting mathematical anomalies are powerful enough to power a space craft to travel at many times the speed of light.

split bill friends

The gentleman, then, is likely to encounter the advanced applied mathematics of a restaurant bill on regular occasions, and he should place himself in the right state of mind to take control when the undesirable situation arises.

While it remains the simplest solution to divide the bill equally between all diners, this sensible arrangement falls over the moment somebody says “Yes, but you had wine, while I only had water”; an outburst that is closely followed by the riposte “That might be true, but you had an expensive starter, while I only had the bruschetta.” Unfortunately, that is just the opening gambit, which plays out half an hour later with a detail cost analysis of the dessert trolley and a shouted “That’s the last time I ever spend in your company!” as lifelong friendships end forever.

In the name of sanity, it falls to the gentleman to come to the rescue. We find that a calculated risk should be taken, one that will result in admiring looks from the gentlewomen, and grudging respect from the rest of your party.

The risk is this: Pay for the entire meal out of your own pocket, then announce to the rest of the table to pay you back what they think their portion of the bill should be. Invariably, the other diners will round up their payment to the nearest round figure, which, if things go well, should result in a hearty profit. The gentleman should either leave this profit as a tip, or use it to buy a round of drinks.

If, at this stage, there is still somebody working out the exact sum they spent on a calculator, you are obliged to kill them stone dead with a kebab skewer, and not a jury in the world would dare convict you.