I have a thing about lines at restaurants.
I don’t mind waiting — a little bit — but I get frustrated when lines are not well thought out, are not well orchestrated or, worst of all, when people in those lines lack common sense or common courtesy.
The idea of lines came flooding back to me recently when I chatted with the owners of Mother, the soon-to-be super-hot new restaurant on K Street downtown. For those not following along, Mother will be vegetarian and will be led by chef Michael Thiemann and his wife, Lisa.
Mother will also have a line (you’ll order at the counter), and if my guess is correct, a long line. Long lines take some guidance, if not policing, because some people in those lines are idiots. Others are rude. The rest of us suffer.
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In 2002, I wrote about the science of lines in a feature story. We’ve put a link at the end of this piece, if you’re interested in exploring the topic further. Among other things you’ll find in that story, we spend three years of our lives waiting in lines.
@Blarob I love Fox & Goose, but wouldn't dream of trying to go there on the weekends when the lines are ridiculous.— Pam Giarrizzo (@PamGiarrizzo) January 13, 2014
Here are a few things that bother me about lines:
1. Saved seats
No, you’re not allowed to have your friend get in line while you go grab a table and save it. Why is this wrong? Other than being obnoxious, it throws off the whole idea of how lines should function. If the timing works well, the people who get in line and then place their order, should be able to get a table with little or no waiting when it’s their turn. If you put your coats on the seats and then get in line, people should feel more than OK sitting on chairs with your coats or putting those coats in a lost and found for rude people.
Rule: Don’t be rude and save a table while your friends are in line.
@Blarob Of course tables can be saved. What are you supposed to do with a large party or kids? If you're carrying things? Come on.— yaytaco! (@yumtacos) January 13, 2014
2. People who don’t get that other people are behind them
I was in line at Divine Gelateria recently when a woman with a small child proceeded to act as if no one else on the planet existed. It was a long line, and yet she proceeded to ask for one sample after another. What does chocolate taste like? Like chocolate! Then she went into a lengthy spiel with her daughter. “Morgan (or was it Bronwyn?), what flavors do you want?” Take your time Morgan because it’s all about you and your creativity. Morgan took about 10 minutes to decide. I liked the good old days when parents actually decided for their kids, at least when 15 people are waiting to get their gelato.
Rule: Order for your little kids because they have no clue about the nuances of gelato or anything else. If you want to create the illusion of a democracy, please don’t go out in public and make us a part of it.
3. Indecisive people
I don’t really understand people who can’t decide what to order from a menu. Here’s how it works. There are lots of cool things on a menu and, yeah, we get it, it’s hard to pull the trigger. There’s sooooo much riding on your decision. OK, no.
Why not be an actual adult and get one thing that looks good, then get the another thing that looks good on your next visit? Every decision doesn’t have to be the ultimate expression of who you are as a foodie. And no, you are not allowed to call your friend or spouse and read the entire menu into the phone while we are waiting.
Rule: Make up your mind A) before it’s your turn to order and B) get that other yummy thing NEXT time. You’re not 4 years old.
@Blarob Jack's Urban Eats. Inexcusable lines.— eddurkee (@eddurkee) January 13, 2014
@Blarob my only issues relate to why it hell anyone would eat at some local places that have these lines, I'm sure you can guess which ones— Guido (@bmguido) January 13, 2014
4. Lines that don’t make sense
Why do people wait two hours at the Cheesecake Factory for dinner? Why the madhouse for brunch on Sunday at Tower Cafe? Best French toast ever? Is it the ONLY French toast you’ve ever had? These are lines that continue to baffle me. Experts say that some people see a line and feel obligated to get in on the excitement, even if there isn’t any payoff in cooking quality or culinary creativity.
Rule: Have fun in those lines. I’m eating elsewhere.
5. Annoying people who are near the front of the line yet stand a ridiculous distance from the person in front who is ordering
This is all about awkward obliviousness. I have often inquired, upon walking in to an eatery and seeing someone like this: “Are you in line?” If someone ever asks you that, it’s because it looks like you’re not in line and you’re really annoying.
Rule: OK, maybe the person ahead of you doesn’t want to feel your warm breath on his neck, but a 10-foot buffer is too much.
6. Standing in line and then your friend shows up 20 minutes later and cuts in front of everyone
This is a tough one. I was in a long line at the Crest Theatre once and waited patiently for close to 45 minutes. Then “Dave” showed up, spotted friends (right in front of me) he clearly hadn’t intended to meet, and thought it would be cool to stand there with them — cutting in front of 40-50 people waiting behind him.
Rule: At a restaurant, one or two people showing up late and getting in line might be OK, but if you’re cutting in line because you know someone, that’s just rude.
7. Awkward restaurant lines
.@Blarob I wish there were lines painted on the ground at Jack's for the stations. Newbies don't know how to queue causing congestion.— Karla Fung (@karlafung) January 13, 2014
@Blarob the line at Dads on J can be crazy. Couple that with no real place to wait. Oy vey.— Mike Walter (@MikeWalter_CA) January 14, 2014
The line at Jack’s Urban Eats in midtown is an urban legend — it’s been a nightmare for years. It works (or doesn’t) this way: There are supposedly two lines that look like one line. The slower, longer line is for salads. The shorter line is for hot food. Hot food orderers are supposed to slip past the salad people and order ahead of them in the food line.
Those not familair with Jack’s will think the person is cutting in line and might let loose with a what-a-d-bag glare. Then the line then rejoins as one line as you head toward the cash register. Some people from the salad line will then hop ahead of you while you’re waiting for your hot food. If that person then stops and orders from the soups and sides area, you might hop back ahead. By the time you pay, you will hate each other.
The line — or lines — at Selland’s Market-Cafe are also an exercise in chaos and frustration. During a recent visit, I waited in one line to order food, got in a second line to pay for the food, then got in a third line to get my glass of wine from a tasting flight. I then had to get back in line for each subsequent taste from the wine flight. By the time it was all over, I had been in line eight times.
What’s more, while we were sitting and enjoying our wine at a table, an oblivious guy waiting in line stood with his backside a mere inches from my food and drink. A little awareness of where you are in a public space goes a long way.
Rule: Awkward lines stem from poor design or bad thinking. This line — these lines need a major overhaul. And Jack’s is one of the worst places for people putting their jackets on chairs and then getting in line. Get your bum away from my poached salmon.
Offended by anything I’ve written and want to give me a piece of your mind? Get in line.
For more on lines and queuing theory, check out my story from 2002 by clicking here.