It’s on me!

Restaurant Bill

Have you ever eaten at restaurant and looked over to the table next to you and noticed that people were fighting to pay the bill? Or better yet, have you ate at a restaurant and fought with the other party so that you could pay the bill? This is what my friends and I call the “it’s on me” philosophy.

By picking up the tab when you are out with friends, colleagues, or even potential clients, you will be appreciated. They may not always show their appreciation, but in the back of their head they know who took care of them. And if you go as far as always picking up the tab, they will want to return the favor by taking care of you.

Now, when the other party wants to return the favor, they usually will try to take you out for dinner and try to pick up the tab. But if you don’t let them pick up the tab, they will start to think of creative ways to return the favor. In many cases this could be introducing you to other people that are interested in paying you for your expertise, or they may just throw you a few business deals. Whatever they do to return the favor, your return-on-investment (ROI) will be much higher than your cost of picking up the tab.

So the next time you go out with others, try to pick up the tab when you can. You may not see a direct ROI, but in the long run you will come ahead by taking care of others.

P.S. If you want more ideas to win people over let me help.


  1. Oh so thats why we fight for the bill. Interesting perspective Neil — I never knew you were so sneaky when it came to paying the bill.

  2. I agree to a point Neil – there are some situations where people insist on paying and I prefer to split because I know they are trying to pay in order to get something out of me. I think it comes down to judgment though – it can’t come across as being manipulative. As long as you pay and the whole vibe is that you are taking care of the people you are with, and that you are a giving person, then yes it definitely comes back to you – but almost never in the way you would expect!

    • The trick with always taking care of the bill is to not think about the ROI. Instead do it because you like the person and if something good happens, then great.

      • I second thought of “whenever we can”. I try to do that with team mates [subordinates] working in my teams, and at times with superiors [my boss]. I just experienced the appreciation when I just picked up nice wines for my team mates and gifted them on Xmas. That would be always in their mind.

  3. :

    This happens every time I go to dinner with my dad. It’s his birthday tonight, so I’m sure he’ll let me pick up the tab, but I picked it up last time, so he might actually fight for it anyway.

    When neither side wants to let the other pay, you have to get tricky. Sometimes I head to the restroom in the middle of dinner, pull out my card, and give it to the waiter on the way back and just tell them to run it before we leave. One time I just showed up early and gave them the card before dinner.

    I hadn’t thought of this reason for picking up the tab. It’s so obvious that it gets overlooked by the rest of us.

    Now I just need to know what you were “Tasting” for $750

  4. Tanner Christensen :

    How about trying to take the “it’s on me” philosophy to other areas of life – not just food – and you can expect to see similar ROI, am I right?

    It’s a little thing that some people like to refer to as “karma”. πŸ˜‰

  5. Nice blog! I never thought of it that way.

  6. We actually budget a small amount of money into each project with a client and use that money to take them out for a “kick-off’ lunch.

    The client loves it and, the best part, they are paying for it!

  7. This is a great idea when dealing with honorable people. But I have a sister who always schemes to get the other person to pick up the tab. Even when there’s an agreement ahead of time, she loves to claim she left her wallet or other such tricks.

    • Give your sister a few more years and she will probably start to change. Most people learn from their experiences, but it just takes time.

  8. That’s one way, but the better way would be to just to pay it and never expect anything in return. If you are a believer you will always get the reward from God. If you are not, then it would be a good sincere gesture on your part.

  9. Nice philosophy! Let’s do dinner when you’re in London next week… πŸ˜‰

    • Not sure if you are serious, but if you are we maybe we can meetup. I already have a packed schedule, but I maybe free for lunch.

  10. This is like a pay it forward thing.

    It feels good to do good for others without expecting something in return.


  11. @Neil, She never got it. She passed last year.

    @Ades, I am a believer and now that I’m older can take the high road. Doing good and expecting something in return deflates the good. Random acts of kindness are the best.

  12. Neil thanks for paying for the bill when I visited last year πŸ™‚

    Want to pay for my car insurance too???

  13. Nice neil πŸ˜›

    I think there may be cheaper tactics, but i try to do this as a nice gesture now and then anyway πŸ™‚ Was the meal good?

  14. Vietnamese people are ALWAYS fighting to pick up the tab when they are dining with Vietnamese. Strangely, this habit disappears when dining with other people. I am Vietnamese and I have to admit that I enjoy the American way… It’s fair and not fake!

    • A lot of times things like that go back to culture. With my family (and most Indians), they are naturally cheap when it comes to spending a penny. I also am very cheap when it comes to spending money, but when it comes to friends and family, I have no problem spending.

    • Haha I noticed this too. Not to be stereotypical or offensive, I’ve dined with many viet friends or colleagues and SOME might be the exception to the rule, MOST tend to be straight out cheap! When people genuinely treat people for dinner and have no strings attached, in my experience they are the first to wimp out when It comes to fighting for the big bill, but when it comes to the cheap bill all of the sudden they turn into tito ortiz haha. When they pay, they usually make it known that they did and now everyone owes them a favor, or in a big group situation where everyone pays for themselves. It’s usually a Vietnamese who forgets to add their drinks, tax or tip.

      Sorry if I offended anyone, there are always bad seeds in every race. It just turns out from my experience that alot of them are Vietnamese.

      • With Indians a lot of them hating tipping. They usually tip 10% instead of the 20%.

      • Heh… tipping is always contentious issue when I’m out with family. They hate tipping.

        I’ll tip if the service and food is good, but more often than not I tend not to. I’m sure a lot of it is because they (the server) figures “he’s Indian. He won’t tip us anyway, so lets treat him like crap.”.

        Too bad, so sad for you.

        I had the same problem with a cab driver some time ago. He was all pissed that I used him to transport cargo instead of people and the entire trip he moaned and groaned about it.

        I wasn’t going to tip him, but in the end decided to show him how much of a jerk he was and gave him a $1.00. I told him that had he been nicer instead of complaining, I’d have given him the difference between the charge for transporting people versus cargo — which would have been $50.00 or so.


        • LOL, I just had a problem with a cab driver as well. I was in Germany and took a cab to my hotel from the airport. The thing I did not know was it was a 3 minute cab ride and the cab driver was upset because the ride was not long. He threw his GPS system on the ground in anger even though I said I was sorry and would tip him greatly before hand.

          I guess people like that deserve no tip.

  15. Great tip man

  16. I think I put this lesson in play over bowling.

    How about another Heineken?

  17. Neil, as a new reader of your blog I have to say this post came at a great time. I’ve got a group of co-workers and we tend to rotate around who picks up lunch, however there is one guy that will almost always pay if he is along.

    This makes perfect sense now and as I look back at the situation, I can certainly say that he has benefited greatly from the favors that people will do as a result.

  18. This has been a standard operating procedure for me, I’ve been doing this religiously since college. I think the best way to approach it is to pay because you genuinely want to, not for any ulterior motive.

    What I’ve noticed is that it’s like a virus and before you know it, everyone around you catches on, then rules have to be made (when to “call it”, etc…) and brawls start to break out at restaurants.

  19. Hi Neil – sometimes it’s nice to say yes and let them pay too. But, often if it is another business paying, I suspect that they are screwing me with their charges!

    • It makes sense to let others pay sometimes, but I personally am not a big fan of it. Even if there is no benefit, I like taking care of my friends.

  20. Great post Neil… although I’m not too sure how many $1000+ tabs I could afford to pick up!

    • Whether the bill is $30 or $1000, it doesn’t make that much of a difference. It is the thought that counts. πŸ™‚

  21. someday i will be able to afford going out to eat

  22. I didn’t see you fighting for the bill at the John Chow blogger dinner. πŸ˜›

    Not that I gave you a chance. He he he. πŸ™‚

  23. It feels nice when I take care of my friends or family.

  24. Leonard Klaatu :

    But when you’re out with a George Castanza type you get screwed – everytime!

  25. It makes very good sense and has been a policy among my private bankers for years. Although guests seldom remember who paid for a particular meal/drink, they always remember who never paid. Deep down if they remember you as “the one who always pays” thy feel positive about the experience and in fact a little “taken care of” This puts the payer in a superior position in an otherwise equal relationship moving forward. In other words a sound business policy as well as good social manners.

  26. i couldnt agree more…btw, im sending this to the guy who sets my client lunch budget…maybe i can get an increase on it…mike.

  27. Krunal Chauhan :

    That could be a good idea Princess.. Would luv to try once .. if would be with you (Loll)

  28. Julie, writer :

    It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to do something for others and have them be totally taken by surprise. I don’t usually pick up the tab but I do give them special surprises when they least expect it. Simple things like a bar of their favorite chocolate really brightens up their day. While it doesn’t inconvenience you, it has a great effect on others.

    • It is the little things that make a big impact. When I get expensive gifts it usually does not have the same impact as thoughtful ones.

      • The theory is based on the Principile of Market Generosity (Fairhurst et al)1986, that it is not how big the gift or promotionits the lack of obvious ulterior motive. So when we receive a “gift” from a store without any purchase, it has more long term effect than if we must perfom or buy something to qualify. Similarly a friendly card given not for valentines day but just because “I felt like it” would have substatialy more effect.

  29. one aspect of giving and receiving that I notice some people, particularly selflessly generous people, seem to struggle with, is actually accepting generosity in return.
    being open to people talking you up, or sending good things your way, is a hurdle for some people.
    maybe it is a confidence thing. what do you think neil?

    • I don’t think it is a confidence thing, but more so an obligation. Many people feel that if someone else does something for you, them in return. Or even worse, that you owe them for the meal.

  30. How come the bill doesn’t add up? I get 865$ before tax

  31. Ahh….I thought the 180$ was 20$. Thanks

  32. I mean $120

  33. Justin Chelf :

    I do this as well and you would be so supirsed how many times later down the road it comes back to you in a huge way!

  34. Motorcycles for sale :

    I thnk its a great idea when dealing with honest people… But I have a friend who always schemes to get the other person to pick up the tab. Even when v go out for eating or any other reason, she loves to claim she left her wallet or other such tricks…:)

  35. cash loans uk :

    This is one post where I wouldnt totally agree with you. I believe even though people may want to return the favour, the ROI as you mention may not be as much.

  36. Great points Neal. Typically I will reach for the check when we go out with friends. However most of my friends will then insist on at least paying half. Or they will insist on getting it next time. But it is definitely a good gesture to pick it up and not ignore it like you didn’t see it or something. The only exception is when we go out with my parents or grandparents. Let me tell you my grandfather will throw down if you don’t let him pay the bill :-). He is a world war 2 vet so I don’t push it. I protest though πŸ™‚

    Of course whenever I meet a client for lunch or coffee or something of that nature, I will always get the bill.

  37. Ibrahim | :

    Pure genius. It makes perfect sense. I’m going to try this as often as possible, and I believe that it will make a serious difference in my life!

  38. that is as old as time, you get a favor from someone you pay with the same coin, it like of mr corleone were giving old schcool lessons jaja

  39. That is a really interesting tactic. What a creative way to think about it. Of course it would make the person get more creative on how to get you back if you avoid letting them pick up the tab.

  40. This is essentially an pseudo investment you make for yourself in hopes for returns later. It’s also effective in helping with your services for someone (helping a friend move, giving them a ride somewhere out of the way, doing something above and beyond your responsibilities to make your manager look good). It’s sort of an invisible form of indebtedness that can certainly go your way. I’ve done it before and it does help, either it be for networking or personal purposes!

    • Definitely. What comes around goes around, and if it doesn’t that okay as well. Character is what you do when there is no immediate benefit to yourself. I call it Karma πŸ™‚

  41. Online Mastering :

    yea unless you have crappy fiends who mooch off of you.

  42. I think there may be cheaper tactics, but i try to do this as a nice gesture now and then anyway Was the meal good?

  43. Jignesh Rathod :

    Never imagined that such small things teach so important lessons in life. Thanks to you. You’re just awesome.

    I could not stop myself to start reading all your articles on QuickSprout right from the beginning. I am loving it, it’s more thrilling experience than watching a movie or reading a novel. Can’t imagine where you will reach in coming years.

  44. good point Neil. thanks

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