Going Dutch? In the age of equality, who pays for dinner?

First Dates’ Fred Siriex divides opinion saying the bill should be split equally

There was a time when men would always pick up the tab for dinner, whether on a first date or indeed subsequent dates. But times have changed and these days equality is the name of the game so it should come as no surprise that Fred Siriex, general manager of Galvin at Windows in the London Hilton, believes the bill should be split between a couple.

Probably best known for his appearance on Channel 4's First Dates programme, the Frenchman caused something of a stir recently when he told TV host Lorraine Kelly that there should be no expectation for men to pay for women as equality means equality.

But not everyone shares the same view.

Some outraged viewers took to Twitter to voice their opinions claiming that “If a man asks to split a bill with a woman, he is really tight” and “Men should always pay the bill, especially on a first date, that’s just the way it is - anything else is just horrible”.


Singleton, Elaine Kavanagh agrees and says if a man ever asked her to pay for dinner or even to go halves, she would walk out of the restaurant.

“I know we are living in an age of equality and I think it’s really important that women are treated the same as men, but when it comes to men paying for dinner, then that’s a given,” says the Dubliner.

“I would be really offended if a man asked me to split the bill - it shows a total lack of romance and to my mind a lack of respect as well.”

Sarah Byrne however disagrees and says if society is to be equal, “women shouldn’t expect a free meal”.

“I think Fred Siriex is absolutely spot on,” she says. “Women have had to fight for equality for such a long time and yet, there are some who want to be equal on every level except when they want to be treated like a princess. But it doesn’t work like that - if we truly want to be an equal society, we should be splitting the bill or offering to pay ourselves, just as we would expect a man to do - fair is fair.”

‘Women earning less’

But relationship consultant David Kavanagh disagrees and says the “gentlemanly thing” to do would be for the man to pick up the tab, particularly if he was the one who arranged the date.

“If a gentleman asks a lady out to dinner, he should pay for her, particularly on the first date, but even for the first few as it is good for them to show that they are generous,” he says. “If you look at the facial reactions on the First Dates programme when a man suggests that the bill is halved, you can see that many women are not happy with that, because although it is suggested that society is equal, women are still earning less than men, so it’s not.

“However, I do think that women should offer to pay or even go halves at some point of the dating experience - whether the man accepts or not is up to him.”

Etiquette expert Tina Koumarianos begs to differ and says she would expect a man to pay on a first date, unless she knows she isn’t going to see him again.

“If I really like a person and wanted to be in a relationship with them, I would let them pay as at my age, I have always been used to a man paying for the meal,” she says. “And I think a man should really pay, particularly if he was the one doing the asking out, however, if it is someone I’m not remotely interested in and didn’t want to see again, I wouldn’t insist on him paying as it would be unfair.”

The proof of the pudding, as they say, is always in the eating and some restauranteurs say the tides are beginning to turn with more and more couples opting for the modern approach.

Equal balance

Niall Dunne, operations manager of Newpark Hotel Kilkenny, says equality really is becoming the name of the game as many people are choosing to split the bill.

“Although it does depend on the individual couple, we do see an equal balance between males and females paying in our restaurant,” he says. “And we have noticed a common trend of couples taking turns each time they dine out, with the female paying one week and the male the next.”

Shane Molony, general manager of Riba restaurant in Stillorgan, has also seen a trend towards splitting the bill, but says more often than not, the man does end up paying.

“How the bill is paid usually depends on the man,” he says. “Most will offer to pay, particularly on a first date and although their partner may offer to split it, some men will insist on paying, while others will go halves.

“On the whole, it is generally the man who makes the first move to pay, but so far, I have never seen it happen the other way round, where the woman offers to pay first.”

So while the equality debate rumbles on, who pays the restaurant bill is set to be questioned for some time yet.