I had arrived at Cattleack Barbecue in Dallas later than I’d planned. I expected the line to be long at 11:15 that morning, but it was a real whopper. It snaked through the stanchions set up to herd the crowd and all the way down the side of the new dining room. I cursed to myself because I knew better than to wait this long after their 10:30 opening to get in the door, but at least I had Twitter to entertain me.

Through a side door I saw a small group approaching. I counted all seven of them as they snaked past me to reach their friend just ahead in the line. He was waving and smiling. As an afterthought, he asked the people just behind him, who were in front of me, if they were okay with his friends jumping in. He didn’t bother to consult the ten or so people further back. I seethed quietly.

A few minutes later, three more friends greeted the wave-happy patron. With strength in numbers, the group of eleven didn’t bother to ask permission. I spoke up, asking how many more he was holding the line for, but I just received a few uncomfortable grins in response.

These patrons were clearly unfamiliar with barbecue line etiquette. So hopefully, somehow, they’ll read these simple rules and learn to honor thy neighboring meat enthusiasts.

  1. You can totally cut in line to meet a friend. I get it, and I’ve done it, but we all know what is reasonable. If there is one of you, let one person in, maybe even two. But seven? C’mon, people. Back of the line.
  2. It’s about the transactions. There’s no quicker way to get four people through a line than to order one big tray and share it. On the very same day in question, I was meeting four other friends. I got there earlier than them, and they didn’t come stand in line with me. We also didn’t hold up the line by making them construct four separate barbecue trays for us and paying with four different credit cards. Even if you all got in line together (following rule number one, of course), please consider keeping your number of individual transactions to a minimum.
  1. Know your order. If you’ve been in line for thirty minutes, or heck, just five minutes, look at the menu. It is rarely hidden. Study it and figure out what you want before you step up to the counter. The first word to every order shouldn’t be “Um…” while glancing at the menu for the first time.

That wasn’t hard, was it? Just those three rules will help all of us spend less time in line and get more time eating.