Speak English Around Town » LESSON 7 - Picking up the Tab at a Restaurant

Picking up the Tab at a Restaurant

Its time to pay the bill at Carmen's Bistro. Tanya and John discuss who will pay it. Then they talk about how much to tip.

Tanya: Let me pick up the tab.

John: No, it's my treat. The guy is supposed to pay on a date!

Tanya: Says who? I don't want you to pay for me every time we go out! Let's go Dutch this time.

John: No, I'll get it. I insist.

Tanya: Okay, but next time it's on me.

John: Let's see ... The total without tax is $74.75.

Tanya: Do you think we should leave 15 percent* or more?

John: The service was so-so. Our waiter was no great shakes. He seemed put out when we complained about our food.

Tanya: What did he expect? The food left a lot to be desired! This is supposed to be such a great restaurant. I don't know what happened.

John: I guess it's gone downhill. I'll leave 15 percent. I could leave less, but I don't want to be a cheapskate!

Tanya: Yeah, we may want to come back here someday.

John: Come back here? When hell freezes over!

* It's standard to tip waiters and waitresses 15-20 percent in the U.S. They are unhappy when they get less than 15 percent.

Idioms
  • cheapskate
    someone who doesn't like to spend money; a cheap person
    Example: Dana is such a cheapskate. She brings her own tea bags to restaurants and asks for a cup of hot water.
  • (to) go downhill
    to become worse over time; to deteriorate
    Example: The service at the Seaside Bar & Grill has really gone downhill. We waited 45 minutes for our food to arrive!
  • (to) go Dutch
    to split the bill
    Example: Amanda didn't want her boyfriend to pay the entire restaurant bill, so she suggested they go Dutch.
  • I insist
    I will pay (say this when you do not want to argue anymore over who will pay the bill - it's usually the last word)
    Example: "Dinner is my treat." - "No, you paid last time. I'm paying tonight. I insist."
  • it's my treat
    I'll pay the bill
    Example: "Let me pay for dinner tonight." - "No, I invited you to dinner, so it's my treat."
  • it's on me
    I'll pay
    Example: Put your wallet away. It's on me.
  • (to) leave a lot to be desired
    to be bad or lacking in some way
    Example: Josh chews with his mouth open and rests his elbows on the table. His table manners leave a lot to be desired.
  • no great shakes
    not so good; fair; unimpressive
    Example: The person we just interviewed for the job was no great shakes. I think we can find somebody better.
  • (to) pick up the tab
    to pay the bill
    Example: Everybody left the bar before the bill came, so I was stuck picking up the tab for our entire group!
  • put out
    annoyed; inconvenienced
    Example: Joel seemed really put out when I asked him if he could drive me to the airport.
  • so-so
    average; not very good
    Example: Paul and Nora weren't thrilled with their tour of Portugal. It was just so-so.
  • When hell freezes over
    never
    Example: Will the boss invite us all over to his house for dinner? When hell freezes over.
Practice the Expressions

Fill in the blanks using the following expressions:

  • pick up the tab
  • went downhill
  • let's go Dutch
  • when hell freezes over
  • it's my treat
  • cheapskate
  • so-so
  • on me
  • leaves a lot to be desired
  • put out
  • Kara: I had a date last night with Steve, that guy I met online last week. We went to that new restaurant downtown, Zanzibar.
  • Leah: How was the restaurant?
  • Kara: It was (1)_____ . The appetizers were good, but my fish was lousy.
  • Leah: So what did you think of Steve?
  • Kara: Things were going okay, until the bill came. Then things (2)_____ . When the bill came, he suddenly seemed (3)_____ .
  • Leah: Why? He's not used to getting a bill at a restaurant?!
  • Kara: He looked at it and then said," (4 )_____ ."
  • Leah: He made you pay for your own meal? What a ( 5)_____ !
  • Kara: So I told him, "No, dinner is ( 6)_____ . "
  • Leah: You're kidding? You offered to (7)_____ ?
  • Kara: Yes, I offered and he accepted.
  • Leah: Wow! Such cheap behavior (8)_____ .
  • Kara: At the end of the evening, he did say, "Next time we go out, (9)_____ ."
  • Leah: And when will you be going out with him again?
  • Kara: (10)_____ !
Answer Key
Practice The Expressions
  1. so-so
  2. went downhill
  3. put out
  4. Let's go Dutch
  5. cheapskate
  6. on me
  7. pick up the tab
  8. leaves a lot to be desired
  9. it's my treat
  10. When hell freezes over
Answer Key
Language Lens: Supposed to

Use "supposed to be" when talking about something that is generally thought to be true.
Examples:
Paris is supposed to be the most romantic city in the world.
Your boyfriend took you to dinner at Masa? That's supposed to be the most expensive restaurant in the city!

Use supposed to + infinitive to:
==> Say what should or should not be done because of rules, common practices, or customs
Examples:
Before ordering supplies, you 're supposed to get your boss's approval.
You're not supposed to smoke inside this restaurant.

==> Express sarcasm and/or anger, in place of should, can, or going to
Examples:
Who was the nineteenth president of the United States? How am I supposed to know?(= I don't know! How would I know?)
Your music is so loud, how am I supposed to get any work done? (= How can I get any work done with that loud music? I can't!)
You invited your entire office over for dinner? Who's supposed to do all the cooking?(= I don't feel like cooking for all those people! Who's going to do all the cooking?)

==> Express something that was planned or intended, but did not happen (in this case, use "was/were supposed to")
Examples:
Luke was supposed to start college in the fall, but then he decided to travel around the world instead.
We're lost! We were supposed to take a right onto Danbury Road.
We were supposed to go to a holiday concert last night, but it was snowing too hard.

Quick Quiz

Re-write the following with "supposed to":

Example: If you keep talking to me, how am I going to concentrate?
Answer: If you keep talking to me, how am I supposed to concentrate?

  1. How can I do my homework when it's so noisy in the house?
    _____
  2. Weren't you going to tell me when it was time to get off the highway?
    _____
  3. Who's going to do all the cooking for the big party you're planning?
    _____
  4. Who's going to clean up this mess?
    _____
  5. We were planning to go to London last month, but the trip got canceled.
    _____
  6. I've heard Venice is the most beautiful city in Europe.
    _____
  7. If you want to take vacation time, you need to get permission from your boss.
    _____
  8. Amanda and I were going to meet yesterday, but she canceled the meeting.
    _____
  9. Who's going to clean all these dishes in the sink?
    _____
  10. You can't take flash pictures inside the museum.
    _____
Answer Key
  1. How am I supposed to do my homework when it's so noisy in the house?
  2. Weren't you supposed to tell me when it was time to get off the highway?
  3. Who's supposed to do all the cooking for the big party you're planning?
  4. Who's supposed to clean up this mess?
  5. We were supposed to go to London last month, but the trip got canceled.
  6. Venice is supposed to be the most beautiful city in Europe.
  7. If you want to take vacation time, you're supposed to get permission from your boss.
  8. Amanda and I were supposed to meet yesterday, but she canceled the meeting.
  9. Who's supposed to clean all these dishes in the sink?
  10. You're not supposed to take flash pictures inside the museum.
Answer Key
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