An Open Letter Re: Horrible Red Lobster Experience

To Whom It May Concern:


I am writing to relate the story of the most disastrous restaurant experience I have ever had. It happened at the Red Lobster in Antioch Tn. Usually I would use flowery prose to describe a situation such as this, but I believe a timeline and straight telling of the events will suffice.


March 7, 2012

7:10 PM: My mother and I enter the Red Lobster. We had been drawn in by the Lobsterfest promotion. There were a good number of people dining, but not crowded and there was no wait. We were seated pretty much immediately by the hostess on duty (who was made the fall guy in much of what happened later. She did an amazing job and holds no responsibility for this.) She takes our drink order.

7:11: Seated at our table a nice young man comes with our drink order, water with lemon and unsweet tea. He tells us that Dottie, our server, will be with us shortly.

7:20: No Dottie

7:25: I catch a glimpse of Dottie at the booth by ours and I try to get her attention. I fail.

7:27: Dottie is in a prep area right behind where I am seated. I call to her. She ignores me.

7:29: Dottie walks by and I call her name out. I tell her that we were wondering if she could help us and she tells us that we aren’t her table.

7:30: I catch the hostess (again….doing a great job!) and tell her that Dottie says she isn’t our server and ask if we can get a server.

7:32: Dottie comes to the table and expresses how this wasn’t supposed to be her table and the hostess didn’t tell her we were there. I had told her we were there…apparently didn’t count. She takes our order, with little incident. She asks what we are drinking. Then says “oh—you have sweet tea” to my mother. My mother explains that she has unsweet tea and would like a glass of ice since there was hardly any in the glass she had received 25 minutes ago.  My mother goes on to explain that she just wants ice…no tea. Dottie brusquely says she understands and walks off.

7:45: No ice. No salads. None of those amazing cheddar bay biscuits. Nothing has changed at our table except our anger level has risen. I ask the hostess if she can send a manager to our table.

7:47:  Manager arrives and asks what she can help with. I say that our server Dottie doesn’t seem to want to serve us. She says I am wrong…nice touch. I then express what has happened and she says she will take care of it.

7:50: Manager comes out with our salads and cheddar bay biscuits (really—those things are a delight!). Still no ice. Dottie is hot on the manager’s heels with another water for me (not requested), no lemon for my water (even though there is one clearly bobbing in my water glass) a glass of ice (finally) and a glass of sweet tea for my mother (not requested and incorrect). Upon being told about the ice tea issue Dottie rushes off to bring the correct beverage. I also requested lemon from Dottie. She brings a large (excessively so) bowl of lemon slices to our table.

7:51: Dottie checks on us and offers free dessert. We just got our salads and have understandable trepidation about our food being correct, dessert is the last thing on our mind. Dottie promises to bring more cheddar bay biscuits.

8:00: Food arrives, all is as ordered (shocking!) Manager stops by and checks in. She also offers the dessert. We decline. She pushes the dessert again. Then mentions they have a really good brownie…and it’s small so we should have room. Small isn’t usually a selling point for desserts….but ok.

8:15: We have consumed all we care to of our meal. We also, just for kicks, check to see if the glass of tea that was brought to replace the sweet tea that was incorrectly served was now actually unsweet tea. Guess what… was sweet tea!!  We sit at our table and take some more time watching all the other servers rush around, taking care of their tables. People have come and gone since we sat down. I then overhear Dottie (once again in the nearby prep area) talking about how we were “pissed off because the stupid hostess sat us when she shouldn’t have.” Lovely.

8:17: Dottie comes by with the nearly forgotten cheddar bay biscuits and asks if we need anything else. We say we need boxes and the check. She says she apologizes for what has happened. I say she doesn’t (because if she were truly apologetic there would have been discernible effort to improve our experience throughout the evening) She argues with me. I tell her to get the boxes and our check and let us go!

8:22: She finally arrives with our check (with a scribbled note on it about having a blessed evening, blah blah blah),boxes, bags and (this is where it got odd) to go cups of Diet Coke and Dr Pepper. Neither of us were drinking these beverages. When I ask her why she thought we would want to go cups of something we weren’t drinking she grabs the cups in a huff and rushes off. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this.

8:26: Dottie picks up the check with my mother’s debit card in it.

8:30: Dottie returns the check and my mother is faced with the desire to do something she has never done before, not leaving any sort of tip. She does just that and notes on the bill that the food was fine but the service was miserable!

8:31: We leave. As we are walking out the hostess apologizes to us again and we assure her that it was in no way her fault.


Note: The manager promised to keep an eye on us to make sure everything was fine. She checked in once and when I was trying to get her attention in order to get our check and leave, she consistently ignored me.


I get it, times are tough. Chain restaurants can’t be as fully staffed as they once were. People are serving tables that haven’t had a ton of experience, etc…But at no point in our evening did the situation improve. Quite the opposite. Dottie couldn’t contain her anger and frustration with us. We couldn’t contain our frustration either. I would think that when a complaint is registered before the salads come, all involved would do all they could to expedite the meal and get the complainers out of the restaurant. That doesn’t seem to be the case at this location.


From now on Lobsterfest commercials will make us get angry all over again and this story will be a tale we tell everyone we encounter.


Just thought you should know,

Heather Haley


2 thoughts on “An Open Letter Re: Horrible Red Lobster Experience

  1. I hate to say this, but anytime I go to eat in the Hickory Hollow area, it’s usually a bad experience. Mind you, I am in NO WAY prejudice. And I live in the area. But I don’t eat in the area anymore.

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