In 1968 Bill Darden opened the first Red Lobster. Toady – as I walk into one of his 682 restaurants to find – once again – the atmosphere and quality he sought out in 1968 still exist today. (Red Lobster). Red Lobster is one of the higher cost restaurants available for the public to choose from. When I go to one I expect a little bit extra for my dollar. I have not been disappointed yet.
No matter where the restaurant is at – when the customer walked up to the entrance way – you find yourself on a seaside wharf in some New England town. The pier pilings, the life rings, the artistic decoration, the architecture – all lend to the ambiance of the dining experience that is Red Lobster.
The entrance way is very welcoming and a hostess greets the visitor and gets a party count and smoking preference. There is often a wait – but the hunger pains will soon be satisfied. The interior decor is a carry over from what welcomed the guest outside. The artwork and shipboard paraphernalia adoring the walls all make the guest feel as if a spray of sea water will splash them any moment.
When your name is called you are led to you table by a server. No matter the size of the restaurant is is designed in a way that you feel as if you are in a small restaurant. There are multiple 5 – 10 table dining areas that are separated by walls or tall dividing partitions. Each table is often separated from other tables by high backed benches or smaller partitions. The guest never feels as if they are in a large restaurant. It is as if one of the underlying themes of design is that the fish is caught on small fishing boats – and you are going to eat it on a small fishing boat.
The entire restaurant staff is positioned for service to the customer. There are several role players involved making the dining experience come together. There is the host or hostess at the front door. This person is a well organized and outgoing person. Able to track all tables – and status of all tables. Which tables are being used, waiting to be cleaned, or available for seating. This person also has to keep up with seating count at each table and server capacity for each area. All of these duties have to be kept up with while staying focused on the customers coming into the restaurant and those that are patiently waiting to be seated.
Then there is the ever present server. These men and women are the ones who will do the most interaction with the customer. They will introduce themselves, take drink orders, appetizer orders, main courses and desert orders. They will deliver the food as available and clear up unused dishes during the meal. They are also the ones who will hear any guest complaints during the meal. These people have to be very outgoing and willing to be a part of a larger team for the success of the restaurant. They may find themselves having to help other servers on larger tables and doing things that are not only associated with waiting on guest. They will have to fill condiment dispensers, roll silverware, prepare salads, fill server stations, make beverage, and numerous other behind the scenes tasks.
There are several cooks that a guest may never see. They are key role players in the restaurant. They have to be able to be team players when assisting the servers and bus staff in addressing any issues that come up throughout their shift. These associates have to be knowledgeable of food preparation and food safety.
Other associates around the restaurant are the bus people, every ready to clear a table or arrange tables for larger parties. There is a bartender – responsible for filling all the alcoholic orders – these associates are also servers for guest who sit a the bar or in the bar area. Then there are the management associates. They keep the whole operation focused on delivering the dining experience for the guest, whole keeping an eye on overall safety, service, and quality of the operation. There is not a feeling of any one associate being more important than another. Together they work together for the customer.
Although there are several associates involved in the operation – as a guest I never felt there was confusion or chaos in the restaurant. The tools needed by each associate are available to minimize the wait to the customer. The flow for the guest from parking lot, to hostess stand, to table, and back to the car again is very smooth. No area is set up to make you feel rushed. The atmosphere is very relaxed and welcoming.
These people are there to serve you – not to make you feel crowded. That is a line often crossed in a restaurant. The food was perfect. Bill Darden’s dream from 1968 is still alive in 2009.
- Red Lobster. “Home” Red Lobster . 01 Jan 2009. Darden Restaurants. 15 February 2009. <http://redlobster.com> .