Who Should Pay at a Business Meal?
Every week I try to network with other small business owners, industry colleagues and potential new clients. Sometimes I go to an organized event; other times, I meet up for lunch, dinner or to just grab a quick drink. The conversations are usually good and sometimes I even get a referral out of these meetings.
I was telling some of my clients about my love of networking, when one of them asked me, how do you handle the bill? That client told me likes to network too, but he doesn’t go as often as he’d like because he always gets stuck with the bill. If you’re dining with a potential new client, then it might not be a bad idea to pick up the check. But if not, then here are some ways to get past the awkward situation of who pays the tab:
ASK FOR SEPARATE CHECKS
When you order your drink or meal, just ask for it on a separate check immediately. It’s a pretty common practice and the person you’re dining with shouldn’t have any problems with it. Immediately asking for a separate check eliminates one person getting stuck with the entire bill.
DISCUSS PAYMENT BEFORE THE MEAL
If you’re a little shy and aren’t forward enough to ask for a separate check, consult with the person or persons you’re meeting with about who is paying even before you walk into the establishment.
LARGE GROUP MEALS
If you’re going to a large group dinner for work purposes, your employer might be willing to pay for the meal, but make sure you check on it first. Remember, if you’re the boss, as with travel-related meals, you can only deduct 50 percent of meals as an entertainment expense. Plus, to write off an expense, you have to talk about substantial business sometime before, during or after your meal.
ATTEND NETWORKING EVENTS
The best way to avoid getting stuck with the bill is to attend an official networking event. Networking events are pre-planned and a great way to meet up with potential clients or friends and not get stuck with a bill. Everyone pays his or her own entry fee and it usually comes with a drink ticket or two.
PAY WITH A CARD
Whether you split the bill or pay the whole thing, make sure you use a credit card, especially one with points. Meals can be a large chunk of your spending and can add some extra points towards hotel stays or air travel in the future.
PAY THE ENTIRE BILL
I said this earlier, but you may want to consider picking up the check, if you’re trying to woo a new client. Clients don’t expect it, but it always makes a good impression. You may also want to consider paying the entire bill if you’re meeting with someone you regularly meet with. You can say, “I’ll get it this time” and hopefully, he or she will remember to pay up next time.
Paying the bill can often be a source of contention, especially if there’s a cheapskate in the group. Follow my advice and remember, you’re there for a purpose, to promote your company, yourself or just to have a good time, so don’t let something so petty ruin the fun.