There's a Science to Cutting in Line
Not that you should skip the line, but some methods are more successful than others.
Lines have become a regular part of food culture. Whether at a hip new quick-service outpost from a famous chef or a popular food truck that simply doesn't have the space to move things along any faster, a lot of the time it feels like we're queueing up more than ever before.
But what if you truly are in a hurry or, god forbid, simply don't feel like waiting in a line? As an article in this month's issue of The Atlantic points out, science is here to save you! David Andrews, author of the book Why Does the Other Line Always Move Faster?, cites five studies out of which you can pluck a bunch helpful advice for squeezing your way into the middle or (if you dare) the front of a queue.
The first tip: Considering the reason for the line is important. Lines for once-in-a-lifetime events have higher stakes than a reoccurring line that happens regularly, so cutting into the latter is going to be a lot easier. To put that in foodie terms, you're better off trying to cut into the queue at a place that always has a line, like Franklin Barbecue, than at the line of a big restaurant opening, like a new Ichiran Ramen. Also, take cultural norms into account: For instance, the article suggests that the Spanish are more lax about line cutting than the Irish or Germans.
Another tip that might seem counterintuitive: Always have an excuse, even if it isn't a good one. In one study that looked at photocopier lines, politely saying "Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?" earned a cut 60 percent of the time. When the cutter added the additional reasoning that they were in a hurry, the cut rate jumped to an amazing 94 percent. But even the ambiguous excuse that "I need to make copies" worked just as well. So next time, maybe try something as simple as "Excuse me, I need to eat at DO!"
Bribing is another tried and true technique that's surprisingly effective. But even more surprising is that a lot of time, people won't even accept your money afterward. A 2006 study found that offering cash often worked to secure a cut, but then, feeling the cutter's desperation, the person who was offered the cash would turn it down. Who knows, if you offer to buy someone something at the Dominique Ansel Bakery in return for a cut, maybe you'll be able to have your cronut and eat it too.
And one final tip: Always do your dirty work alone. An experiment from the '80s found that two people trying to cut together were more likely to be rebuffed than one lone cutter. Yeah, your table for six can move to the back, thank you very much!