Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Red Lobster has made a mess...

As I have time over the next few months, I intend to chronicle my experiences working for Red Lobster.

I have worked 6+ years for Red Lobster, and they have been trying their hardest lately to convince experienced good quality servers like myself to quit. My store is a excellent store, with what I would consider pretty solid management. My beef is not with them, or even our area manager, as they all know the mess that corporate Red Lobster has created.

In short, one month before Christmas Red Lobster completely changed the way they structure the job of server (waiter/waitress). This set of changes has impacted my weekly take home by reducing my income by 40-60% on a weekly basis (and no, I am NOT exagerating). We honestly weren't getting rich before, now many servers are struggling to pay their bills. Many servers are single moms and students, people barely scraping by, often just above the poverty level. We have already lost some of our very best service staff over these changes, and many, many more are looking and will be leaving Red Lobster ASAP when they find new employment.

The changes:
Red Lobster has always had a policy of 3 tables per server that was NEVER enforced if you were a good to great server. Now Red Lobster is enforcing this for ALL servers, no exceptions made. Managers can and will be fired if anyone is found to have a 4th table. This has been made very clear. Then to add insult to the injury this causes our pocketbooks, they have now added bussers who must be tipped out on a nightly basis.

For the past 6 years, I have been able to carry 4 or more tables 3 or more nights a week. During the busiest nights this isn't possible (Friday and Saturday where I work) but most other nights it was very common. Also, early on Fridays/Saturdays or late on those same nights it was possible to have more than 3 tables. Now if you have someone who sits in your section, you cannot get another table, no matter how long they sit there.

Examples from tonight:
Tonight I had had a table come in and tell me their other two guests would not be there for 30 or more minutes. This means that I cannot turn that table and get another set of guests in during an additional 30 minutes. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but the next table I was sat was a single woman who tells me that her other guest won't be in for 45 or so minutes. That means that now for the next 30-45 minutes, I have guests filling 2 of my 3 tables who are not eating, not doing anything to help me get paid. My other table did keep on turning over fortunately. Eventually both tables filled (both groups taking about 30 minutes to show up). The lady and her guest then proceeded to sit in my section for 3 1/2 hours, after leaving a $3 tip on a $31 check. That means the rest of the night I could NOT take another table, because they count against my 3 tables, even though they didn't want any more food, drinks, dessert, or even beverage refills. Not only did they tip terribly, they completely removed the possibility of my making any more money on that table for the night. And Red Lobster has no flex in their asinine policy, so I couldn't take another table even though there were empty tables all around my section. And worse, Red Lobster shoots itself in the foot because they have to keep additional staff on the clock because I cannot take another table, even though I have very little to do because 2 of my 3 tables are being camped in.

We used to close our store with just 2 servers on for the last hour 80% of the nights of the year. We now have 5-7 people still on the clock every night at close 80% of the nights, and our guest count have not climbed. Red Lobster has tripled it's hourly server costs. Darden Enterprises stock might take a hit over this.

The stupidest thing of all of this is they tried this and failed previously in Olive Garden Restaurants. You would think they might learn from their previous mistakes, but that might be too much to ask of a bloated corporation. The turn over at the top level of Darden and Red Lobsters has had a negative effect on Red Lobsters, and it is now manifesting in the local stores.


Anonymous said...

Good God, Lobster Boy! :)
Sounds like the fat cats up top are once again making "important" decisions without hands-on server experience. I am an employee of Starbucks, and though my store has been at the top sales in the Southeast Region, the bleeps up top always feel the need to make more "rules", more money-making tips - never mind that our team in the last two years got us a Millionaire's Club award...nah...

"We" need "our" "partners" to start setting more timers, more unecessary piddly crap, that obviously is the brainstorm of a group of overpaid "analysts" who don't have a CLUE how it effects the actual human being behind all their detailed reports.

ANYWAY - I could go on, but I loved your blog. I was doing a search on Dead Lobster, because I have an interview this Monday and they want me to take a "test". I was wondering if you knew what that was...I have already filled out an online application and got a call this morning from a nice gal there, who said I need to take a little "test". hahaha! Any "tips"? I am about to leave Starbucks for a change of pace...whatdyathink? Thanks!

Lobster Boy said...

You'll make more money at Red Lobster, but you won't get the nice buzz. Though you can drink all the coffee you want at Red Lobster too, it's Farmer's Brothers IIRC.

The test is a basic skills test to verify that you are basically smart enough to operate a calculator and sign your name. It's completely mindless, and if you've passed 8th grade you could do it in your sleep.

Down the road (at the end of your training) there is another test that's not so easy. They give you all the answers, which is helpful, but it is a comprehensive menu test that you must pass before becoming a server. It is extensive, and you WILL have to study for it, but it's actually the stuff you'll be answering questions about on a day to day basis as a server, so it's appropriate.

Lobster Boy