In the past, I've waited for over an hour, and I spent most of the meal feeling irritated at my friend. I feel I would have been able to enjoy their company more if I had just ordered. I also felt awkward taking up a table at the restaurant for such a long time without ordering anything.

The next time I met up with a different friend, I waited for 30 minutes, then just ordered. When they arrived and saw me with food, they seemed surprised and said, "Oh, you've ordered already."

The meal is just between the two of us.

This question has a few different situations:

  • the person is running late and has messaged you with an ETA, but that time has passed
  • the person is late, but hasn't contacted you at all
  • someone who has a habit of being late vs someone who is usually punctual

Is it acceptable to order if someone is running late, and if so, how long is a reasonable time to wait?

(I've split the group version of this question into its own question: Is it acceptable to order foor at a restaurant if a group of people is waiting for someone who is late?)

  • 2
    Where do cell phones come in here? Have you called them? Does that matter? Sep 15, 2017 at 0:39
  • @anongoodnurse I usually send them a message after 15 minutes of waiting.
    – Fodder
    Sep 15, 2017 at 1:42
  • Regardless of other advice, its probably a good idea to try to contact the person before ordering for an ETA estimate. Sep 15, 2017 at 20:53
  • 3
    ETA is a permutation of ATE.
    – user510
    Sep 16, 2017 at 10:03

3 Answers 3


In one on one meeting there is a much greater expectation to share a meal, so I'd hold off on ordering. If you are ferociously hungry you can get an appetiser to hold you over.

On the other hand, if someone was more then an hour late for a meeting I'd be tempted to just go home instead. Being late a group meeting is more acceptable since people there are not bored, but for one on one meeting this degree of lateness is a bit much

  • 2
    +1. I think I would leave as well, but I would also call them and make sure they weren't injured or something. Sep 15, 2017 at 0:37
  • @anongoodnurse Very true, actually in real life when that happened me and my friend who were at the place got pretty worried, but we couldn't reach the other people for a while, so there was no way to figure out what was going on (turned out they were just VERY late, and had phones turned off or hidden where they couldn't hear them -_-)
    – Maxim
    Sep 15, 2017 at 14:45

I think the question "Is it acceptable to order food at a restaurant if the person you are meeting is late?" has a clear answer: yes. Is the other person who is being unrespectful making you to wait for a long time, so no one can blame you for starting without him.

But I will add that you may want to wait in some cases:

  • Small delays: what is an acceptable delay (which is another of your questions) is depending on the culture. I'm Spaniard and 10 - 15 minutes is considered acceptable, normally.
  • Long delay of someone who usually arrives on time to your meetings. Anybody can have a mistake sometimes.
  • Justified delays: if the other person report you that he's delaying because of a reason that justifies enough the delay, like an unexpected traffic jam, for example.

In this cases you may want to order if you are hungry. You can tell the other "hey, sorry but I already ordered because I was really hungry". This way you make clear that you are not reproaching his delay.

However, I would never wait to a person that almost always get late. In this cases, if I don't want to stop meeting up with this person, I order the lunch with the only intention to make clear to the order person that I am upset, but I don't want to be always telling him/her about this topic.

One of my friends is always late when we meet up for dinner, so when everybody excluding her has arrived we order the dinner. Additionally, when she finally arrives and before she sits down, we sing her "happy birthday" loudly, so everybody in the restaurant looks at her, and she feels embarrassed (this doesn't stop her from doing it, but at least she feels bad for a moment). You may not want to do this being alone, but well, these are my 2 cents.

You are totally allowed to leave if you want for very long unjustified delays. I suggest to call or message the other person asking if he's arriving soon, and if he doesn't answer, I suggest to message him telling that you're leaving.


Generally, you shouldn't have gotten seated at your table if your partner has not arrived and most places would have a waiting area or a bar for this purpose. You may also ask the host to delay seating you by informing them your companion has not arrived. If you do end up at a table, it would usually be okay for you to order an appetizer. If your companion is over an half hour late without contacting you, most people would have paid for their drinks/appetizer and leave. And if they habitually do this, you should reconsider ever making dining plans with them.

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