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How to make dining out with friends less stressful

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It’s not just about how to split the bill.

friends eating together

Whether it’s a birthday brunch, a big dinner to celebrate your friend’s new job, or just a Taco Tuesday, large group dinners can sometimes be more stressful than they are fun. How do you pick the right restaurant? What do you do if you have dietary restrictions, like a gluten intolerance or frequent heartburn? How do you settle the bill when some people order drinks and some don’t? These issues can seem like NBD with just a friend or two, but things get complicated the more people you add. Take the stress out of planning—and dining—with these easy solutions.

Pick a restaurant that will make everyone happy. OK, this is easier said than done. You may not be able to guarantee anyone else’s happiness, but you can make sure things go as smoothly as possible. Think about logistics: Do you want an intimate setting or a party vibe? A family-style meal or personal entrees? But also keep your friend group in mind: Are they adventurous or are they picky eaters? Are some people in your group on a tighter budget than others? The restaurant you’ll enjoy most will fall somewhere in the middle of your personal matrix. When in doubt, “new American” cuisine usually has something for everyone.

Share the menu ahead of time. Once you know where you’re going, make sure everyone else does, too. That’ll give anyone with food restrictions time to vet options or call the kitchen to find out if they can make allowances for certain dietary choices or allergies. If you’re still not sure what you can eat, chef cards, which outline the foods you must avoid, can be an easy way to share your restrictions with a waiter or manager without making a big deal at the table. Frequent heartburn sufferers (read: you get it two or more days per week) can also take Nexium 24HR for all-day, all-night protection, especially if the menu includes your heartburn triggers, such as spicy foods.

Show up early. Many restaurants won’t seat a group until everyone’s arrived, so do your friends a solid and get there at least five minutes before the reservation time. Not only does arriving “fashionably late” disrupt the flow of the restaurant, which relies on turning tables over within certain time periods, it’ll seriously annoy your crew. If you have friends who tend to be late, tell them the reservation is 15 minutes earlier than it actually is.

Plan how you’re going to handle the tab. No restaurant wants to split a check eight different ways. Make everyone’s lives easier by agreeing ahead of time to divvy it up evenly. Sure, you may end up owing a few extra dollars if you opted for a $15 salad and someone else ordered a $24 steak, but the angst caused by counting pennies isn’t worth it—plus, they can get you next time. Another option for uneven ordering is to split the check evenly, while those who spent more cover the tip. Or one person could also offer to pay in total (rack up those credit card points!), and then have everyone use their preferred money app to send them the cost of their dinner individually.

Keep your phones in your bags. Sure, you want to Instagram your plate. But using your phone during a meal can actually decreases your enjoyment, according to research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Isn’t the whole point of getting together for dinner to log some quality face-to-face time? Stash the phone while you’re at the table—unless you want to (politely!) ask the waiter to take a group pic.