Group of friends splitting restaurant bill after eating meal together

(Photo by Ground Picture on Shutterstock)

NEW YORK — Sharing isn’t always caring, especially when eating out with others. If you’ve ever felt like splitting the cost of dinner out with friends was unfair and uncomfortable, you’re far from alone. A third of Americans don’t think the bill should be split evenly if the meals didn’t cost the same amount, according to new research.

A survey of 2,000 adults looked at some of the things people struggle with sharing and found that even with family members, just 26 percent are okay with sharing personal information like passwords and text messages. When it comes to their partner, people revealed that they are likely to share things like clothing (50%) and money (57%), but the same doesn’t always go for food.

Two in three respondents in a relationship said when sitting down for a meal with their partner, what’s theirs is theirs and they won’t share (67%), with millennials as the largest demographic sharing this anti-sharing sentiment (74%).

Conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with Fogo de Chão, the survey also found that people aren’t willing to let just anyone pick off their plate — a fifth of respondents even said they’d have to know someone for at least six months before they feel comfortable sharing food.

When not to ask for a bite

And when eating out with others, nearly half of Americans said someone has tried something off their plate without asking (48%) — but the same percentage are guilty of doing the same.

Sixty-five percent even said that if someone asked them to try their food, they’d immediately think about not inviting them out the next time. Similarly, 46 percent would consider it a deal breaker if they were on a first date with someone who asked to try their food — especially Gen Z (63%) who see this as a major red flag.

Couple sharing spaghetti on date
(© Jacob Lund – stock.adobe.com)

Seven in 10 admitted that ultimately, they reluctantly say “yes” to requests to share food because they don’t know how to say “no.”

“When you’re enjoying a great meal, it’s only natural that you don’t want to share a bite, even with your closest friends and family,” says CEO of Fogo de Chão Barry McGowan, in a statement. “Dining out should bring people together to bond over the discovery of trying new and delicious foods and the shared experience, without needing to share plates.”      

While main courses are typically off-limits, 63 percent of people “always” or “often” order shareable items for the table when eating out.

Perks of sharing food

Even though many don’t like to share, respondents agree that it can have perks. Nearly three-quarters said they want to try new things when eating out but are afraid they won’t like them enough (73%).

When sharing with others, people enjoy the benefit of being able to try different foods (35%) and not having to commit to one menu item (19%). However, those surveyed noted there are rules around food-sharing etiquette (57%) like sticking a piece on the other person’s fork (23%) or passing it on a separate plate (22%).

And the rules for trading are completely different. Half of respondents have ended up trading their entire meals with someone because they liked their food better (49%). “Generosity is at the heart of Brazilian hospitality,” says McGowan. “Sharing the experience of a meal, specifically something you’ve never tried before is a great way to bond and create connections and memories with friends, new and old.”

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by Fogo de Chão between Feb. 3 and Feb. 7, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

About Sophia Naughton

Meet StudyFinds' Associate Editor, Sophia Naughton. Sophia graduated Magna Cum Laude from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication directly focused in journalism and advertising. She is also a freelance writer for Baltimore Magazine. Outside of writing, her best buddy is her spotted Pit Bull, Terrance.

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1 Comment

  1. Amy says:

    I have noticed that when people eating at a restaurant expect they’ll be sharing meal costs equally, they’re much more likely to order appetizers, desserts, and beverages. In other words, people are prone to taking advantage of others even in socially enjoyable situations.
    Non-drinkers are at a massive disadvantage in these situations because non-alcoholic beverages cost $3-4 max (usually less), while alcoholic beverages start at $3-4 and can go MUCH higher, depending on the restaurant.
    If it isn’t obvious, I’m in the “pay your own bill” camp.