When Does the Woman Pick Up the Tab?

More than 10 million women own businesses in the United States.  According to a study from the Center for Women's Business Research, women business owners contribute nearly $3 trillion to the U.S. national economy and create or maintain 23 million jobs.

With those kinds of numbers, many more women are hosting clients for business meals.

Handshake 2.0 asked business etiquette expert Donna Dilley:

"When a businesswoman asks a businessman to a restaurant to discuss business, who pays?"

Donna Dilley kindly replied:

At a business meal, who picks up the tab? The woman should expect to pick up the tab if she initiates the invitation to a business meal.  By communicating her intent to pay to her guest she will avoid confusion or argument at the end of the meal.  To prevent further discussion, she may also advise the restaurant of her intent to pick up the tab when making the reservation and give the host or maître d' a credit card in advance. Communication with restaurant staff  prior to the meal about handling the tab demonstrates attention to detail and eliminates any awkwardness for the guest.

To dine with ease, women can familiarize themselves with the technical aspects of proper table etiquette when hosting a guest for a business meal. Some of the most common dining blunders that business women commit are:

  • Leaving a lipstick trail on stemware and flatware.  Use a tissue to blot before a meal.
  • Touching or fiddling with hair frequently during the meal.  This gesture indicates nervousness and/or insecurity.
  • Placing a purse or briefcase on the table during or after the meal.
  • Leaving a cell phone, PDA or other electronic device on during a business meal.
  • Re-applying lipstick, make-up or other personal grooming at the table.

A business woman is equally able to invite and pay for a guest's meal as is a businessman.  Whoever asks pays, man or woman.  A business woman shares this mutual power and responsibility with men.


Donna Dilley is a business etiquette consultant based In Roanoke, Virginia.  She writes a business etiquette column for Valley Business FRONT.

Who's in FRONT? Mike Pace
An Entrepreneur in Every Garage


  1. As a woman in a male dominated industry, I assumed that if I took a male client to pay. Glad to know that I was right.

    Now… if it’s a date on the other hand… 😉

  2. If it’s a date I leave the debit card at home. 🙂

    For clients, I ALWAYS pay – I feel its my responsibility to, since they’re going to be so impressed with my product that they’re going to spend a lot of money with me. Hey, dinner is the least I can do. 😉

  3. Christina, thanks for reading my post commenting.  Your confidence and attitude about your product will bring you lots of success.  

  4. Heather,  thanks for reading the post and commenting.   You are absolutely correct to have different expectations for different situations.    

  5. Thanks for the list of things to avoid. Always nice yo get a reality check sometimes. Great article!

  6. Janeson, thank you for reading and for your comments.  I hope too see you soon.  

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