Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you one of my favorite things to do is dine out with friends and dish on everything! I dislike talking on the phone so I really enjoy talking face-to-face over a good meal. I particularly enjoy eating lunch out everyday with friends/colleagues and have been accused of going to work only so that I can go to lunch (probably true on most days). But when you're in a group dining situation, things could get sticky if you don't decide ahead of time how the bill will be paid. I'm talking about "splitting the check." An end of meal audit of the bill is uncomfortable and can ruin what was otherwise probably a great meal. Not to mention it makes them/you look cheap.
So, if you are meeting others for a meal out, opt for one of the following to avoid any breach of etiquette when it's time to pay the bill:
1) You pay the whole bill yourself. Let your guests know in some appropriate manner like "Let's go to lunch - my treat"
2) Gently ask the server to separate the checks before you order so each pays their own (key word in this phrase is "before"...otherwise, I am pretty sure the server will do something disgusting to your food/drink)
3) If separate checks are not possible, then let your mates know that you will be ordering the filet mignon but paying your fair share "I'm ordering the surf & turf but you won't have to dig into the college fund"
4) You share the cost of an appetizer (unless it's something only you want i.e. fried pickles, an acquired taste for some and my favorite).
There doesn't need to be any discomfort about the bill when you are dining out with friends if you plan ahead...unless you figure out you forgot your wallet after having ordered the lobster.