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Friends are late - how long do you wait?

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My DH and I arranged to meet another couple for dinner at 7pm. The restaurant is a small neighborhood joint that serves excellent food, is very popular and doesn't take reservations. We arrive at 7pm, the restaurant is 1/3 full and our friends haven't arrived. We wait 20 minutes before friends ring to say they are a few minutes away. We inform the hostess who decides to seat us.

We order drinks then wait 15 -20 more minutes - still no friends. Restaurant is now getting busy. Our server says we can't hold the table once all other tables are taken. Fair enough. We ring our friends who say they are at the end of the street parking their car. We tell our server and then proceed to wait another 15 minutes. STILL no friends!! At this point, the server asks us for the table back which both my DH and I immediately do and we pay for our drinks. We are in fact mortified for keeping the table for so long esp when we could have waited at the bar.

My DH and I decide to give them 5 more minutes and they still don't show. As we are walking back to our car, we hear our friends calling to us. Overall, they were 1 hr+ late. DH and I with hindsight think we should have bailed after 35 minutes and told our friends we were going to go ahead and have dinner elsewhere but would like to know what Chowhounders think. How long would you wait before leaving? Or is it rude to leave, no matter how late your friends are?

  1. Friends were definitely the rude ones here. They obviously lied about their updates. Having said that, I don't know. Are they habitually late? I suppose, after 1/2 hour waiting, I might have just ordered dinner, or at least appetizers and let the friends know after they arrived that I was just too hungry to wait any longer. I've seen customers do this, and it seems to work.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hilltowner

      Yeah, I'm pretty dumbstruck here as well, and I have no great answer. I pretty much agree with hilltower, but will add that going ahead and ordering without them could backfire. If they're as clueless as they seem, they might then go ahead and order a full meal, regardless of your progress with yours, which would leave you sitting there watching them eat long after you are finished. Awkward all around.

      An hour late, and lying about it all along, to boot?!? Totally unacceptable, but I know it can be difficult when dealing with friends. Well, now you know and you won't make dinner plans with them in the future.

    2. Well, I wouldn't make plans with them again, and frankly, I'd be reluctant to even invite them for dinner at my home. They might be a couple you all would only want to do open ended social activities like say, a gallery walk or museum where they could join you "whenever." Definitely not movies or theater. Gosh, their habits are really rather limiting, aren't they? That behavior is completely inexcusable, and dare I say it: Anti-social? Narcissistic? Wow. It's not rude to leave in such a situation, unless you call them up and lie to them that you'll continue to wait and hold the table while you're getting in the car to drive off. Seriously, do they just have no concept of time, or do they lie about other stuff?

      1. imo - those aren't friends. based on your situation where there was a set time to meet, even 35 minutes is a long time to wait. i think waiting that long would be completely fair and after you could do what you wanted -- eat there (at a table for 2) or elsewhere.

        1. They LIE about being a few minutes away and then about being at the end of the street after 40 minutes? Questions:

          a. Is this the first time you've eaten out with them?

          and

          b. Why didn't you go ahead and eat without them?

          1 Reply
          1. re: anonymouse1935

            This is the 2nd time we've had dinner with them - they were 15 minutes late the first time but they did ring us to say they were running a little late. I guess that is part of the reason why my DH and I waited so long since we really thought they were only a few minutes away based on previous experience. This is also why we didn't order anything -it was suppose to be dinner together and like purple bot wrote above we didn't want to end up with our dinner finished while they were still eating.

          2. what did you do after your 'friends' whoo hooeed' at you? Did you find somewhere else to eat all 4 of you or did you separate and go on your way?

            What a difficult situation, you are being lied to every few minutes leaving you in an almost impossible spot to stay or to go. I agree with others don't go out with them again, or keep it to very casual like ' we are going for coffee if you want to join us we will be there between 11 and 11.30'. I wouldn't even do museums with them - who wants to wait at the front of a museum for latecomers either?

            8 Replies
            1. re: smartie

              After they finally showed, we went back to the restaurant but of course the wait was now 45 minutes. Friends started to make murmurings about staying and waiting but DH and I were both too hungry and we said no, let's go somewhere else.

              We went to another neighborhood restaurant that was able to seat us right away. During dinner, friends kept commenting about what a shame it was we couldn't eat at the first restaurant since their food was so good etc. I got so annoyed and angry hearing those complaints that I point blank asked them, "Well why were you so late then?"
              They sheepishly replied "we got caught up doing stuff and left the house late"
              "But you only live 10 minutes away, what took so long?"
              At this point my friend (the wife) flushed a bright red and said "we had to go to my husband's work first"

              That was the conversation killer/straw that broke the camel's back. My friend's husband works 15 minutes in the opposite direction! DH and I were both floored and in fact, we have never had dinner with them since. DH refuses and I don't blame him . I still see my friend but also invite other girlfriends as well. We all now know that she's chronically 15-20 minutes late, so we've started giving her an earlier meeting time to make sure she is actually on time! LOL

              1. re: SeoulQueen

                "We all now know that she's chronically 15-20 minutes late, so we've started giving her an earlier meeting time to make sure she is actually on time! "

                I've used that tactic as well on some people!

                1. re: SeoulQueen

                  WOW. I wouldn't eat with them again either.
                  My Brother in law is perpetually late, he'll start getting ready (ie showering) 5 minutes before my sister wants to leave. it makes her crazy. we try to give them an earlier meeting or starting time like you do with your friend.

                  1. re: SeoulQueen

                    "At this point my friend (the wife) flushed a bright red and said 'we had to go to my husband's work first'" -- between the sheets?

                    1. re: Stephanie Wong

                      An interesting possibility, and one I find far more amusing and less objectionable than a stop at the office. It's still bad manners, but -- more power to 'em!

                      1. re: Stephanie Wong

                        i assumed either sex or they were fighting was the real story all along

                        1. re: Stephanie Wong

                          this is the thought that I had too...I would feel quite angry regardless of the reason, this is just so rude.

                        2. re: SeoulQueen

                          I do this with female family members; depending who they are, I tell them 30 minutes to an hour earlier than the meet time. I learned this lesson after my inlaws were AN HOUR late for wedding photos...which preceded the wedding.