Red Lobster Waitstaff Talking About Diarrhea Turns Into Free Meal And Smiles

Reader Wormfather had an unsatisfactory Red Lobster experience with waiters joking about “diarrhea” and wanting “hot” customers, but after mentioning it to the manager, the couple left with satisfaction and smiles on their faces. His story, inside…

Yesterday my fiancée and I were out and about with a lot to do in preparation of the upcoming wedding, our travels finished in Westchester County, NY. It was getting late and we were starving, we thought seafood would be great and we were close to a Red Lobster (yes, I know, I know) so we decided that we’d zip in for dinner.

Once inside we learned that there was a 25-minute wait, that was out of the question as it was already closing in on 9PM. With that said we decided to sit at the bar area that had no wait. It took a couple of minutes to get our food ordered which was fine and to be expected, hey, they were busy. Well we order our dishes, receive our drinks and then waited 20 minutes for our appetizer, after those aforementioned 20 minutes our entrées show up and we asked the server what happened to our appetizer he apologized and offered to go see, we decided that we’d skip it, finish eat our dinner and head home.

Now all throughout our meal there were waiters going back and forth between the kitchen, the bar and their respective tables, all the while they were cracking jokes to the likes of “Why cant I get a hot customer” and another waiter complaining about the fact that their table came $15 short of the required amount for a automatic tip to be added, both situations I can sympathize with. However as I was halfway through with my meal, two waiters passed by and were audibly joking about diarrhea, well enough was enough and my appetite was finished. A few minutes later I saw the Service Manager passing by and explained to him the situation regarding our appetizers and the professionalism of the waiters. The manager asked me if there was anything he could do, I told him that there was nothing (I know, we should have had a clear request of some sort), we were just grossed out and wanted to let him know what was going on. He apologized and then his eyes caught on fire, he started pointing at waiters and directing them to the back, we overheard a waiter say “All wait staff meeting in the kitchen and at this point my fiancée and I were satisfied, the manager was addressing the situation. We waited for the waiter to comeback and asked for the check and gave him the credit card. A few minutes later the manager emerged with my credit card and informed me that he was buying our dinner tonight, he explained that he was very embarrassed by the situation and had reminded his staff that they are always on stage and that nothing comes before the customer.

Needless to say we left with a smile on our face and despite my fiancée’s concerns about a potential retaliation from the staff, we’ll be back to the Scarsdale Red Lobster next time we’re in the area.

And that’s why it’s always a good idea to speak up.

(Photo: Simon Goldenberg)


Edit Your Comment

  1. downwithmonstercable says:

    After seeing the movie Waiting, I think they did a good job speaking up AFTER their food arrived…

  2. says:

    ugh i work at a chain restaurant and things like this happen ALL the time. the servers like to talk about their recreational drug use and things, loud enough so customers could hear them. i worked at a high end place before working and this chain, and it baffles me. luckily, know one has complained about any wait staff conversation that resulted in a free meal (to my knowledge), but i feel like it’s bound to happen. this is a story i could print and bring into my job to teach them something. thanks consumerist!

  3. Hyman Decent says:

    Diarrhea — cha cha cha!
    Diarrhea — cha cha cha!

    [/Beavis & Butt-head]

  4. ilovemom says:

    Mandatory Red Lobster bashing in 1..2..3:

    If you can stomach Red Lobster, I’m surprised anything can take away your appetite.

    • Ein2015 says:

      @ilovemom: Red Lobster is delicious thank you.

      • missdona says:

        Their cheese buscuits are delicious; but the last time I ate there, I got the worst heartburn/acid reflux. I actually had to call in to work the next day.

        • Citron says:

          @missdona: I really adore their cheddar biscuits, even though they’re basically cardiac arrest bombs. Aside from a tendency to oversauce everything, if you’re going to eat at a chain restaurant, Red Lobster isn’t bad at all. I usually enjoy it a lot.

    • HClay says:

      @ilovemom: Actually, I like Red Lobster for all of the two times I’ve eaten there so far. Last time I was there the people in the booth behind me were having a very loud conversation, which I found disrespectful, but it still wasn’t bad. Food was good. Not gourmet, but good for the price (and, FYI, I’m a culinary arts graduate).

      Then again, I was at the Atrium on Bay (Bay and Dundas) location, in the downtown Toronto core… in Canada. So maybe Red Lobster doesn’t suck so bad up here. I dunno.

    • Kloud says:

      @ilovemom: So I’m assuming you pay a cook to personally serve your family? What about Red Lobster makes it nauseating?

      • Jaynor says:

        @Kloud: It’s not that you need a personal chef, it’s that Red Lobster/Olive Garden is the worst example of a pre-packaged monoculture food chain in this country. The two (they’re owned by the same company) exist outside every mall in America. They serve pre-packaged food that their “chefs” heat before serving to you. They’re tacky and you’re liable to get better and fresher seafood from someplace locally-based at a similar price.

        The Cheddar-buns are delicious though.

        • little stripes says:

          @Jaynor: Aw, food elites are cute. No. No. Just annoying.

          Don’t like a restaurant? Don’t eat there! No need to tell everyone OMG WE SUCKKK! because we happen to like a restaraunt you don’t. The world will not end, promise.

          • Hooray4Zoidberg says:

            @little stripes: Actually to Jaynor’s point, I think people should be more wary that they’re paying $15 for what’s akin to a microwave dinner.

            I always say, if you’re fine with that cool, I get it, I love Big Macs, and sometimes I’d prefer one to a burger made from better ingrediants. I get it, but just keep in mind the Olive Garden is subject to the Walmart effect, they come in pushing it’s “fine dining” and all you can eat breadsticks and suddenly local places unable able to compete with the chains because of the groves of people who actually believe it’s fine dining and a fancy night out.

            What frustrates me is that I live in Boston, there is an Olive Garden about a 2 minute drive away from the North End, probably the best Italian food outside Italy and amazingly affordable(in most cases cheaper than Olive Garden) it irks me when people I know go there. I understand if you live in kentucky or something, not many other options, but really come on. Same thing happens with Red Lobster on Cape Cod, why go eat frozen chain restaurant fish when there is fresh caught, finely cooked fish right down the street at the same price.

  5. SkokieGuy says:

    Wormfather, first, congrats on your wedding! You are brave to consider going back next time you’re in the area.

    1). Potential sabatoge to your meal.
    2). It’s Red Lobster

    • howie_in_az says:

      @SkokieGuy: Your points are redundant.

    • Wormfather is Wormfather says:

      @SkokieGuy: Whoa, whoa, no one said anything about sitting down for a meal. We’re talking about takeout.

      Thanks on the wedding BTW. The best part about planning a wedding is that it gives you a distinct appriciation of the weeks after when you’re not planning a wedding.

  6. laserjobs says:

    I love it, there must be so many cases of the squirts at Red Lobster the waiters came up with the term “hot customers”.

  7. halo969 says:

    I don’t get why people rip so much on Red Lobster. I think the food is good and the one I go to always has stellar service.

    • ObtuseGoose says:

      @halo969: I don’t get it either. I’ve never had a bad meal there. I really like their house salad and delicious Cheddar Bay Biscuitsâ„¢.

    • Nik in Denver, formerly in NOLA says:

      @halo969: If you’re in a coastal area, eating at Red Lobster is borderline criminal. Local places are better 99/100 times.

      However, when I was living in the upper midwest, Red Lobster was the closest thing to “good” seafood I had that wasn’t insanely overpriced.

      Universally though, the biscuits are great.

      • econobiker says:

        @Nik in NOLA: Yes, eating at Red Lobster on the coast is like drinking box wine in Napa Valley…

      • HClay says:

        @Nik in NOLA: Don’t I know it. I like Red Lobster enough, but that’s because I live in Toronto and my choices are saaaad. No one here knows what an oyster burger is, and all they have is (inferior, IMO) Atlantic salmon.

        I was born and raised in coastal communities in British Columbia, Canada. I’m an island girl through-and-through, descended from generations of island people. My marine technician dad would get his tips paid by his customers in salmon (Sockeye, if we were lucky).

        • ElleDriver says:

          @HClay: I can only think of one Red Lobster location in Toronto’s downtown core, so I’m going to make a wild assumption and surmise that you live in the outer Toronto “area”, and not downtown Toronto.

          Being a seafood lover, I can tell you that there are plenty of great seafood places in Toronto: Rodney’s Oyster House, Oyster Boy, Big Daddy’s Crab Shack, Zee Grill, Chippy’s (for good ‘ole fish and chips) and not to mention super-affordable and tasty Chinese restos (I’m a fan of Rol San’s.)

          Please go out and expand your mind (and stomach!)

      • Brunette Bookworm says:

        @Nik in NOLA: Yeah, it’s hard to get any kind of seafood in the midwest that’s not at a chain restaurant. And the biscuits are soooo good. They are the crack of biscuits.

    • Parapraxis says:

      it’s the cheese biscuits.

    • Kishi says:

      @halo969: Blasphemy! How dare you question the hive mind by liking something mainstream! You will be re-educated!

      No, seriously, I agree. I live in Arizona, so it’s not like we’ve got a lot of good seafood options and Red Lobster fits the bill. They’re a chain, sure, but as chains go, they’re pretty good, and I’ve always had good service and good there.

    • Murph1908 says:


      I grew up in Indiana. Eating at Red Lobster there, I feel, is fine.

      I now live in Maryland, and can’t understand why anybody goes there. As has been mentioned already, you can get fresh seafood and a hundred local spots that’s much better.

      But, people like their chains. That’s why Outback has a 3 hour wait, while the local steak place is putting 2 for 1 coupons in the Entertainment book.

    • little stripes says:

      @halo969: ‘cuz there is always several somebodies who have to rip on people so they can feel better and smarter than them.

  8. lizk says:

    This is a really good example of a reasonable customer just providing good, actionable, solid feedback to a manager. As a manager, I know I always appreciated that sort of feedback–especially when it wasn’t tied to a dollar amount or free something-or-other.

    If a customer gave legitimate feedback about a poor experience, the right thing to do is to offer some sort of compensation in return. I know people here are big on having a request in mind when they make complaints, but I don’t think that’s necessary, and it can hurt your cause. When I received feedback that ended with, “what are you going to do for me?” my response was usually, “apologize profusely, sir” and that’s about it. People expect compensation WAY too much.

  9. snoop-blog says:

    I can’t stand unprofessionalism whenever I am at a place that works for tips. If you want a $10 tip from me, earn it. Otherwise you’ll get the $5 and change or maybe even worse. Unfortunately it seems that a lot of servers are the type of people who like to socialize to their friends loud enough for everyone to hear, intentionally because they think they are cool. Btw servers, guys are usually there to score brownie pts with their woman. It’s HER night reguardless of how informal the night is. Quit trying to flirt with me as it only fucks the night up. It has gotten to the point where I’m relieved when I get a male server.

    • jeebussez says:

      @snoop-blog: even at a place that ISN’T tip oriented, a degree of professionalism is expected if it’s an establishment to be taken seriously. If your employees don’t care, why should I?

    • ceriphim says:

      @snoop-blog: Damn, Snoop, is flirting *that* big of a problem for you? Maybe stop wearing all those blingin’ gold chains?

    • Dr Steve Brule says:

      @snoop-blog: Damn Snoop, that’s a problem I wished I had. Sounds like you should probably change the dizzle, and turn it down a little when it comes to your charm.

    • HiEllie says:

      I agree with the “earn your tip” comment. Waiters/waitresses: guess what? If you don’t provide me with enough service, you aren’t going to get paid as much. If you didn’t work, you wouldn’t earn a wage, right? Same thing here. If you never check on my soda levels, never check to see if my food was prepared correctly, and deliver my food cold because you weren’t checking the kitchen frequently enough to see if my food was done, you don’t get 15%. you get 5% IF i’m feeling generous. If you do a great job, I usually tip 25%.

    • VigilanteKitteh says:

      @snoop-blog: I know! I hate that so much! Evey time I go out with my guyto a “chain” restaurant, we always get some slutty waitress hitting on him, and shoving her tits in his face!!! This pisses me off to no end! At least we don’t get that at local places – they tend to be more professional, even if it’s a small place.
      Bottom line: No more chain restaurants and slutty waitresses, or hire more waiters!

  10. semanticantics says:

    Red Lobs Turd.

  11. joshuadavis says:

    All the while they were cracking jokes to the likes of “Why cant I get a hot customer?”

    I guess you’re not a good look. But yeah, joking about diarrhea is a definite deal breaker.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I would recommend NOT going back there, those waiters might “remember” you…

    I refuse to go back to a TGI Friday’s because someone in our party sent back their food twice (first time tastes “bad”, second time “cold”)… I had actually walked in w/ a friend and saw the same waitress who had us before and decided we should go somewhere else.

    I saw Waiting…

  13. Anonymous says:

    As someone who has worked as a server and as a manager of a chain restaurant, I think this is the perfect way to make a complaint. Most servers who act this way are woefully oblivious to how customers view them. A calm complaint that does not seem like a personal vendetta against the server, or an attempt to get free stuff makes the biggest impact. If you start off with a demand for compensation most people will think you are a liar who wants to scam the establishment out of money or goods. If you make ridiculous, outlandish claims about the waitstaff instead of sticking to what was wrong about the service it makes your whole complaint look sketchy. If someone announced that my waitstaff were “useless morons who never should have graduated from Highschool” I have already lost respect for anything they are going to say after that.
    Ask to speak to the manager and tell them where the service is failing. They will compensate you, and the waitstaff will take the complaint seriously, understanding how their behavior is upsetting customers.

  14. Ihaveasmartpuppy says:

    My neighbor ate at Red Lobster and got food poisoning bad enough that it screwed up her whole immune system. She died less than a year later of complications of that immune system screw up.

    • Acolyte says:

      @Ihaveasmartpuppy: Damn that’s sad, she must have also had a pre-existing condition that also excarbated things.
      Nothing is as bad as sea food that is off though.

    • jdhuck says:

      @Ihaveasmartpuppy: Once Red Lobster tried to smother my puppy. It was awful.

      All jokes aside, sorry about your neighbor. Seafood can make a person very sick. I for one will never participate in a raw oyster eating contest again.

  15. ninjatoddler says:

    I’m not sure what “Wormfather and his fiancee” were complaining about but seafood chains usually provide terrible service. If the service is adequate, the quantity or quality of the food suffers.

  16. 51tiggy says:

    I would be apprehensive of vindictive behavior if I were to return there.
    At the very least, the client may find somebody noting his 3-digit bank no. off his cr card next time, and stealing his ID.
    As for what goes on in the kitchen, well…

  17. scousa says:

    There are way too many decent Mom & Pop restaurants in this world for me to give some of these places a second thought. They all seem to continually strive to under impress, after one bad experience after another I’ve resigned myself never to eat in a Red Lobster again, I even had vouchers for a free meal after my last fiasco.
    queenlizzie, you’re right. Whenever I complain, my point is not to get a free meal but to relate my experience to someone who can hopefully make sure others don’t go through the same.

  18. jdhuck says:

    Anyone notice that the best Chinese restaurants are next to pet stores or Vet clinics?

    This is not a joke. My favorite place is in Sandy Springs, GA. House of Chan. Great food. I drop off my dog and get some Lo Mein.

  19. rreimund says:

    I’ve been to that Red Lobster numerous times – although I won’t go there any more due to the “25 minute” wait times being actually quite fast… It’s usually more like 45 to an hour on any given Friday or Sat night.

    Pass.. I’ll buy my seafood at my fishmonger and cook at home and be done around the same time – including prep and cook time.

  20. emich27 says:

    Years ago when I was waiting tables, I got called out by a guest because she and her young son heard some story I was telling one of my co-workers. I can’t remember what it was, but it sure offended her. I felt pretty guilty – I didn’t know I could be overheard. Thankfully she didn’t tell the manager (or the Consumerist :) )

    In any case, I think waiters forget how small a restaurant is, and how easily their personal conversations can be heard at times. I hope the waiters in this story didn’t lose their jobs – just a swift reminder from their manager to watch what they say in front of the guest.

  21. Ninjanice says:

    My roommate went to RL a couple of weeks ago. A server who was tending to a different table managed to spill hot butter all down my roommate’s arm and sleeve and also got it all down her coat (which she didn’t notice till she went to put said coat on). No one even apologized to her. The Cheddar Bay biscuits are delicious, but you can make them pretty easily with Bisquick. Just make the biscuits according to the package and add a 1/2 tsp of garlic powder and about 3/4 c shredded cheddar cheese.

  22. loganmo says:

    I was expecting the story to be that your food was late because the waiter had diarrhea

  23. bbagdan says:

    I remember going to a hip restaurant in Portland a few months ago. It was nearly closing time and we were one of the only tables left. The staff were literally yelling to eachother across the restaurant, like we weren’t even there. Really unprofessional and annoying.

    That said, when I was a waiter we would often fart in other waiter’s sections as we walked through. rotf lmao!!

  24. Justifan says:

    eh don’t worry, standards probably going up.
    supply of potential workers is increasing. who knows, your next waiter might have worked at amd:P

  25. Liz11685 says:

    As a server, I can definitely relate to both sides here. Talking about bowel movements is not ok on the floor, thats disgusting. But also, servers tend to talk a lot, and we often need to vent about the poor working conditions we are faced with. There really is truth to the adage that hell is other people. Now, make those people really want chips and salsa (like 5 baskets) and then leave you a small tip- I’m definitely going to vent to a fellow waiter, just so I can cheer up and work the perky at my other tables.

    Ugh, thank goodness I’ve cut my hours down to 2 nights a week. I really hate my job.

  26. Jon Parker says:

    @queenlizzie: For a complaint of this nature I make sure to complain *after* I have paid the bill, and make clear that I am not asking for compensation, I simply want the problem addressed. The only time I’d ask for compensation is when it was integral to my complaint (the food was bad and I didn’t eat it).

  27. iiqulo says:

    Okay, first up these people are in a Bar area, not the restaurant. This is a place where raunchy conversation happens. The customers and the staff alike. I believe in the USA the legal drinking limit is 21. So everyone there is presumably an adult. I don’t think that the talk of diarrhea should be all that upsetting. Second, until one works in a chain restaurant, one does not understand the bad treatment staff goes through, from demanding customers and stressed out bosses. If staff are passing through the bar, then that is the place they are most likely to speak a bit more crudely to blow off steam and just connect to one another to get through the day. Bars in general-like in chain restaurants are full of drunks and rude people, the staff oftentimes talks like the clientele to keep on even ground. If you can’t stand it don’t go in there.

    Last point-these customers are getting married. I am thinking it is possible they will have a child at some point. I sure hope they can grow up and handle a little “poopy” or even talk of it without losing their appetites because they will be in for a rough haul when it comes to diaper changing time.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I’m a server at Red Lobster and I can attest that I even sometimes cringe when I hear my fellow crew members talk about what should be private matters within earshot of guests. The restaurant is a noisy environment and people just don’t realize how far a conversation can travel.

    That being said, I want to point out a couple of things…

    1) There is no threshold of a dollar amount that must be reached before automatic gratuity to be added. The threshold is people. At Red Lobster, if there are eight or more persons in your party, two servers are required to take the table and then automatic gratuity is added. If a party of 7 racks up a $300 bill, there’s no automatic tip.

    2) I urge all of you who complain about the quality of Red Lobster’s seafood to come back and give it a second shot. With the award winning Today’s Fresh Fish menu, and all the new Wood-Grilled entrees which started just this week, there are a wealth of fresh and healthy options available. I never eat the fried stuff myself, but I still eat there all the time. The 50% discount helps :-)

    To the OP, if the conversation made you that upset, I’m glad you did somehow get compensated for it, because it’s unacceptable.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I don’t get why so many people say Red Lobster’s food is gross. I love it. Yes, it’s not authentic seafood but for a chain it’s not bad at all.

    You don’t sound like a bad customer so you have every right to complain but don’t mind servers who complain about bad tips because it really, REALLY sucks when you have rent and bills to pay and someone leaves you two frigging dollars.