What O'Nan captured so brilliantly was not just the bleak and depressing elements of working at a Red Lobster - any Red Lobster, let alone one that's about to go out of business. (On top of everything else, on that last night, there's a blizzard. And, oh, yeah, I may not have this right, but I think it's just before Christmas, too.) What he also gets spot on is the humor, the sexiness, the fun of working in a place like that. Plus the dignity that a good and hard working person like manager Manny DeLeon can bring to a job that so many of us would consider a "death trap...a suicide rap."*
I especially like Lobster because I could identify with it. Before I launched my brilliant professional career, I was a waitress. No, it was never going to be my life's pursuit - that I still haven't figured out yet - but I did spend three summers during college, and a year+ after that waiting tables. Two of those summers were at Big Boy's, a low-end chain. Kind of like a Red Lobster, only without the booze.
In actuality, I've never eaten in one. But based on my time at Big Boy's, and the other joints I worked, I know the look, the feel, the smell. I know that it can be fun to flirt with the cooks and kid around with the busboys. To get the bartender to make you a Kahlua Sour. (That was at Dugin Park and the Union Oyster House. No alcohol at Big Boy's!) To bitch about the customers. To enjoy yacking with the customers. To sneak a bite or two off of a plate that's just sitting there under the heat lamp waiting to be picked up. To count the tips at the end of the night. To go home bone tired, with barely enough energy to wash out your stinking uniform so you can get up the next day and do it all over again.
So I'm sympathetic to folks who work at the Lobster, or any other restaurant, especially the chains. It's hard, unglamorous work. But someone's got to do it so that the rest of us can go out to eat. And I thank you.
Anyway, last Saturday must have been an exhilerating one for Red Lobster workers. Because that was the day Beyoncé, on the eve of her super-star turn at the Super Bowl halftime show, released a new song in which she talks about taking her boo to eat at a Red Lobster.
As a result of that big ol' shout out from Bey,
Red Lobster Chief Executive Officer Kim Lopdrup said sales jumped 33 percent on Sunday and increased "well into the double digits" on Monday after pop star Beyoncé mentioned the seafood chain in her new song, "Formation."
The song, which was released over the weekend, sent customers streaming into Red Lobster on Super Bowl Sunday, which is typically a slow day for the company, Lopdrup said in an interview. He declined to give a specific figure for the double-digit increase on Monday, which compares with the year-earlier day.(Source: Bloomberg)
This could be a big deal for the chain, which has not been faring all that well, and is plagued with the patronage of an undesirable, aging demographic.
I'm fortunate that, when I want a red lobster, or any other seafood, I don't have to go to a Red Lobster. I live in New England where you just have to reach your arm into the Atlantic and pull one out. Well, not quite. But lobster is pretty easy to come by, in either of my preferred manifestations: boiled with drawn butter or in a lobster salad sandwich.
But I hope that the turn in fortune for Red Lobster continues, and that Beyoncé's mention boosts their business for a good long while. Not to make the owners - a private equity firm - richer. But to put a few more bucks in the pockets of the waiters and bartenders. To put a smile on the face of all the Manny DeLeons - the hero of Last Night at the Lobster - and to keep a few more of them from having to go through the pain and sorrow of a last night.
*And, yes, I'm quoting poet-rock-eate Bruce Springsteen here. I saw The River Concert at The Gah-den last week. Springsteen is the singer-songwriter equivalent of Stewart O'Nan, other than the fact I suspect that more people have heard of (and heard) Bruce Springsteen than have heard of (and read) Stewart O'Nan.