From Bel Air, MD — 11/22/2008
Red Lobster is an average restaurant to work for. I have been there for over three years, beginning as a hostess, and now working as a server. For hourly employees, at my restaurant anyway, the pay is competitive. Hosts start around $8/hr and bartenders tend to make $10/hr plus tips. Job security is not an issue whatsoever--do your job and they'll be thrilled to hold onto you as long as possible. The turnover rate is high in service jobs, so they're more lenient with people than they make themselves out to be. If you've never worked in a restaurant, it's important to know how much it blows not having your weekends (because that's the only time you really make money), and never knowing when you're going to go home (we get cut when business slows down and then have to finish out our tables, clean our tables, and do closing work). Along with this, we make a little over $3/hr as servers, so when we're slow... that could be as much as you make. If you're sick... you don't get any kind of sick leave, so you just make nothing for however long you're out. Granted, I personally average about $15/hr in tips on weekends, $10/hr in tips on nights, $8/hr in tips during weekdays. During our busiest months (winter), I have taken home about $800 in tips for working 40 hours, plus having made $120 in base pay. Health insurance through the company sucks. Hours are very tedious in a restaurant and if you get below 35 I believe, it gets yanked from you. I personally do not have it, but I've heard that it sucks. They do not pay for it. We do not really get benefits. One thing that is pretty cool about this company though is their paid vacation policy. At your first and second year anniversary, you get one week's paid vacation, after three years, you get two weeks' paid vacation. They calculate how much of your tips you claim to the government, and give you how much you average in a week or two, and you get your check which usually averages less than $20 after taxes... and suddenly you have an extra $600 or more in your pocket! As for co-worker competence... I'm sure that it depends on the restaurant you're working in... but about 95% of employees, including our managers, only have a high school diploma. It's the case at every restaurant, and Red Lobster is no different, you *will* be working with a lot of very dumb people, some stoners, some drug dealers, a lot of Hispanic people, and a ton of 20-year-old single moms.
Bottom line, I have liked Red Lobster over the time I've been there. It's an awesome job for a student. You get very flexible hours, can always switch shifts, pick up shifts, or give them away as your schedule may require. You can work just 20 hours a week and walk with $400 *in CASH*. This restaurant has some of the highest checks (most expensive) I've seen for a non-gourmet restaurant, and our servers tend to make more than at a lot of other restaurant around. I feel really bad for the people who have to work in a restaurant for their entire life, but you can support a family on this money. It's just hard to do. Despite this, I would, and do, recommend this job to anyone with enough confidence, competency, energy, and people skills to get the job done.