Because most barbecue joints use a counter-service ordering system, many of the most popular places will have a line to get in and order. This can present some complications, specifically as regards to saving a place in line or saving a table for friends.
One point of etiquette is what to do when you are meeting a friend or friends for lunch and one person shows up before everyone else to get an early place in line. Can your friend or friends join you when they arrive later, effectively “cutting” in line?
If just one friend is joining you, it’s perfectly acceptable for them to skip the rest of the line and join you in your place. Two friends skipping the line to join you is pushing the limits of etiquette but generally acceptable, especially if you are placing one order for the group rather than three separate orders.
Having three or more late-arriving friends join you at the front of the line is generally not acceptable.
Another point of contention when it comes to barbecue lines is saving a table. Rookie barbecue fans will often get the bright idea to have one member of the group stand in line while the others commandeer a table and wait until their friend goes through the line and collects the order.
This is a big no-no. A fundamental rule of barbecue-line etiquette is that you should claim a table only after ordering/collecting your barbecue.
Of course this only applies if the restaurant is busy and tables are full. If the restaurant is empty or there are many tables available, sitting down while waiting for a friend to order is perfectly acceptable.
Whether you consider standing in line for barbecue to be a social opportunity or a necessary evil, knowing the associated rules and etiquette is part of the shared experience of being a true Texan in the golden age of barbecue.
How the HOUBBQ Guide helps: On the individual barbecue joint profile pages you can refer to the Pro-Tip and Known-For data to get info about how the line system and seating works. You can get further tips in the Ordering area of the Location Details. In the Features Filter, you can narrow down places based on if they offer Table Service (in which case seating etiquette is really not a concern) or Counter Cut service. You can also filter by Good for Groups, Outdoor Patio, and Private Room which suggests more spacious dining areas and bigger tables for larger groups.