All it takes for a customer to appreciate Bob Evans is one meal of honey butter chicken and a side of mashed potatoes. But for the employees, it takes more than a hot plate of food — even if for free — to say they are happy with Bob Evans. The company, at least as per the ratings of 90 odd employees, allows its customers to have a good work life balance (via Comparably). While this is great news, it must also be mentioned that not all is sunny about the restaurant that serves the perfect sunny side ups. The chain employs 3,400 employees in its 500 locations, which are spread across 20 odd states. But in the recent years, the chain has been shutting down its locations, and laying off its employees.
Though the chain decided to shake up its menu by offering beer, wine, and prosecco to its Florida-based customers the year the pandemic struck (via Columbus Business First), there were no revisions made to the employee wages (via Falcon Media). Having said that, tips did pour in. “I think I got a $20 tip from someone at least once a week … That basically never happened before the pandemic,” an employee told The Atlantic. Read on to find out what else the employees have to say about working at the restaurant where “everybody is somebody.”
Did you know that over 50% of the employees in the restaurant industry are dissatisfied with their jobs? A 2003 study published in Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research said so — and we’re guessing that percentage may have gone up during the COVID-19 pandemic. But employees at Bob Evans seem to exude a Kimmy Schmidt-kind of positivity. A majority of them left positive feedback about the company on the site Comparably, with some typing out comments like, “My teammates and I love serving,” or “Everyone works together. We help everyone out who needs it.” The camaraderie seems sweeter than the restaurant’s apple pie.
A hostess at Bob Evans gushed, “… if we needed a meal ready, we were very able to talk to the back staff and have them get that ready. If we had just sat somebody we would let the servers know and it was a very good work environment. All the pieces worked together that way.” The customers are generally nice too, and some are so sincere about having their meal at Bob Evans that, as per the hostess, the employees tend to have a good relationship with them. But what about the waiters? They must surely be stressed. “The waiters would always joke around, and they were on rotation, so you got to know all of them really well,” she said (via Job-applications).
As per employee reviews on Quora, Bob Evans can be a kind and welcoming first job. As one past employee put it: “It was my first job, and I loved it!”
What’s it that they love about the work? For some it’s the fact that “they value you as a person” and “consider your concerns”; for some others, it is the learning experience that the restaurant gives them. An ex-employee who had joined Bob Evans in high school — taking up a range of roles including that of a bus boy, dishwasher, kitchen prep, cook, and server — said, “I actually learned skills that I could use later in life.” He added, “I learned something valuable from all of those. And while doing all that it was a great social atmosphere when time permitted.” He also mentioned better hours, work, and customers.
But of course, not everything is cool and dandy here. As a waiting staff at Bob Evans told Quora, “… it is not easy. You will have your mental breakdowns and nights of being so busy you feel suffocated and seeing nothing but cranky tables mad at you for all the issues that may or may not be your fault …” But, she added, “I truly mean it when I say there’s more good than bad.”
When an employee at Bob Evans posted a photo of the restaurant kitchen sink on Reddit, we pondered: Was that grilled chicken we had the other day prepped next to a mountain of unwashed dishes? The one who posted confirmed on the Reddit thread that the location was Bob Evans, and said the gross pile-up happened because their dishwasher wasn’t scheduled till 10 am. Yet another employee, who had worked as a hostess and grill cook at Bob Evans for eight months, said that “dishwashers tended to be either absent or slow, so it was very hard to find clean dishes during the rushes of the day.”
Guess some Bob Evans employees never paid attention to Colette Tatou’s firm order to “Keep your station clear” (any “Ratatouille” fans here?). Unfortunately, unwashed dishes are not the only issues that botch up the kitchen aesthetics: “The grill area tended to be really gross,” said a former employee. She added, “Fryers, when the oil was finally changed, tended to stay empty for a few days,” and “timer buttons for the fryers were confusing.”
The Bob Evans in Toledo, Ohio, even seemed to violate some kitchen regulations. As per the Toledo Blade, “Foods were left out on a speed rack at an unsafe temperature while awaiting reheating.” Many items including packaged pumpkin pie, cantaloupe, tartar sauce, whipped topping, and milk were found to be stored at unsafe temperatures.
Besides the luxury of wearing a casual black tee and denim to work (unlike chains such as In-N-Out that are pretty strict about their red apron and hat), the employees have a ton of perks including insurance and retirement benefits, and the right to have the best dang chicken in town for free. The discount rates on food vary with the job title, though. All managers can nosh for free (via Glassdoor). But the rest get 50% off on all meals on days they work. But what if it is their off day, or if they dine at other Bob Evans locations? They still get 20% off (via Glassdoor). A former server at Bob Evans told Job-applications, “If you worked over a certain number of hours, you were entitled to a half price meal … even if you came in and you weren’t working that day, you were entitled to a discount …”
Free food, and a starting pay of $10 when you have just hit sweet sixteen, can be a great deal — “I thought that was amazing,” said a former kitchen prep at Bob Evans (via Job-applications). Though to enjoy the free country biscuits and sausage links, the employee did have to put in a lot of effort: “Pretty much prepared everything, and made sure all the produce was sliced, made sure we had soups that could be heated up and ready,” he said. He was in charge of the soups, salads, desserts, rolls and biscuits … phew!
Coworkers at Bob Evans are like family. Not like the distant aunt you see once a year, but someone more close. As per Glassdoor’s analysis of 2,600 odd reviews by Bob Evans employees, the restaurant is a “family oriented great place to work.” While many of us dream of early retirement, a certain employee at Bob Evans, in fact, said, “I plan on working here until I’m 100-years-old — if I can.” Pat Hartman was 90 when she told 10 WBNS about her wish to continue cleaning tables and greeting guests at Bob Evans — something she had been doing for 15 years. “I love it. I love the people; I love the work. I love the people that I work with …” said Hartman, who sometimes worked the weekends too.
When Bob Evans advertises itself as a place where strangers are like friends and friends are like family, there probably is some truth to it. When an employee for 30 years, Larry Michelli, passed away, his family had his funeral procession pass through the parking lot of the restaurant, just so his co-workers could bid adieu one last time, reports The Daily Jeff. Michelli, per report, had shown up at work even on the morning of his daughter’s wedding. Another employee who had spent 25 years working at Bob Evans told Quora, “We were a special group. More like a family than coworkers.”
Usually, the staff at Bob Evans get along with their customers quite well. Sure there are some adorable customers — like the old couple that walked across the street from the nursing home to lunch at Bob Evans everyday (the ritual continued after one of them passed away), via Reddit, or the customer who, instead of tipping only the employee who served him, decided to tip every waitress at the restaurant (via Reddit) — but there are also those who need little reason to turn sour.
At Bob Evans, it’s a custom that you pay your bill at the cashier’s desk. “People usually figure it out themselves, but sometimes they will stop me and angrily tell me they’re ready to pay. When I drop their bills off, I tell them that you pay up front. So if you’re not listening to me, it’s not my problem really,” wrote an employee on Reddit. Yet another noted how some customers unregretfully stiff the check: “… there would be about 3-4 walk-outs every day the manager would have to write off.”
One particularly difficult customer refused to follow the restaurant’s protocols of wearing a mask during the pandemic; the waitress who was on duty at the time said that the customer used profanities, flung a bottle of sanitizer at her, and picked up the row with the cashier and the manager as well (via Cleveland).
Bob Evans, usually associated with free date nights (via WTOL 11) and discount menus for the elderly, turned into a crime spot in 2021. At one of their Ohio locations, an employee got shot by her boyfriend while at work. As per the police officers who investigated the incident, there were about six to eight employees and about the same number of customers inside the restaurant when the grisly incident unfolded. Though the police quoted “domestic reasons” behind the gunman’s cold act, a former employee echoed the sentiments of all Bob Evans workers: “This is horrible. You’re in your own place of work where you’re supposed to feel safe. … It’s devastating. It’s devastating” (via News 5 Cleveland).
On yet another occasion, customers at one of the restaurant’s locations in Indiana heard a gunshot from the bathroom, and later learned that a woman had accidentally shot herself — though it wasn’t fatal, thankfully (via WKFR). Tacking on to the list of horror tales that have happened at a Bob Evans is that of a robbery in 2019, when a thief threatened an employee and stole a wad of cash from the restaurant (via WHIO); the same year, a location in Indiana got multiple calls from a stranger who threatened to “come and shoot the place up” (via WAND).
A survey conducted by Social Science Research Solutions found a shocking stat — one that pertains to the sexual harassment cases in the restaurant industry. According to the survey, 71% of women in the restaurant industry had been sexually harassed; the perpetrators, per the surrey, include both customers and those within the industry — supervisors, managers, restaurant owners. What’s worse, when the incidents were reported, almost all harassed employees faced a retaliation of some sort. Sexual harassment cases were reported by some Bob Evans employees as well. In 2005, the restaurant chain faced a lawsuit that alleged that the general manager at one of the restaurant locations sexually harassed eight female servers — some among them were teenagers (via St. Louis Business Journal).
While the restaurant settled the lawsuit with a $250,000 check, in yet another case, an employee who worked at the Bob Evans South Charleston location filed a complaint against her former manager and the company for sexual harassment and racial discrimination (via West Virginia Record). As per the report, when the employee had complained about the manager to the restaurant’s supervisory personnel, he had criticized her, cut her hours, and sent her inappropriate text messages — leaving her no choice but to quit the organization.
On 2015 New Year’s eve, the small town of Flint, Michigan, saw the “Chosen One” traipsing along the streets, hopping in and out of some shops and restaurants including Bob Evans. “Chosen” who? While the millennials out there got it, we bet, for the rest — we are talking about Daniel Radcliffe, the star of the popular “Harry Potter” movie series. As per M Live, Radcliffe was in the area to visit his girlfriend, actor Erin Darke, who is a University of Michigan alumnus.
Radcliffe, per report, stopped by the Bob Evans in the area for a meal. Were the employees stoked? Not sure, they seemed pretty tight-lipped about the encounter: “We gave him the same service that we give everybody, and he was satisfied,” said the manager of the restaurant.
An employee, however, charmed social media with a photo of her standing next to the star, spurring a thread of comments including: “Out of all the things Daniel Radcliffe could do in Flint, he chooses to go to Bob Evans. #Why” (via M Live). Besides Radcliffe, yet another celebrity who we guarantee enjoys the farm-fresh food served up at Bob Evans is the quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals, Joe Burrow. As per the NFL team’s website, Burrow was a frequenter at the Bob Evans in his hometown — Athens, Ohio.
Getting laid off hurts, even if it’s George Clooney himself doing it. So Bob Evans’s two-liner to its long-time employees about its restaurant closure in Elkview, West Virginia, came across as cold and surprising to its workers. “I was in shock, and more than anything I was disgusted,” one of the laid-off employees told Eyewitness News. “Ten years I’ve given that company! The least they could have done was handled it better,” said another employee, who had worked at the restaurant for a decade before she was abruptly let go. Yet another employee who was let go after 36 years at Bob Evans wrote on Glassdoor: “Treat your long-time employees like you used to! … I stuck by you people and you try to eliminate my job, I deserve better treatment.”
Like the Elkview location, which closed due to financial strains, many of the other locations of the chain have been shutting their doors, leaving their employees’ future wobbly. After the closure of five restaurants in 2013, the director of corporate communications, Margaret Standing, told the Tampa Bay Times, “We told the team there it had nothing to do with their dedication or how well they were doing their job, but for reasons and circumstances beyond their control.” In 2016, the company’s low-performing locations were shut, affecting as many as 1,100 workers. As per CBS News, they were transferred to other Bob Evans locations, or offered termination benefits.
As per Indeed, about less than half of Bob Evans employees feel that they are paid fairly; the employees’ salary ranges between $18,900 per year (for a host or cashier) to $135,000 for a program manager. The company has been accused of not paying its employees their due. In 2018, they had to settle a lawsuit by giving away $3 million to 1,800 odd employees. As per the lawsuit, the company had been paying the employees tipped minimum wage while making them do a ton of work that did not earn them any tips — like scrubbing walls and sweeping the floors. The tipped minimum wage is less than the non-tipped minimum wage.
And by making employees do non-tipped work for most of their time, the company was breaking the United States Department of Labor’s important rule that says if employees do non-tipped work for more than 20% of their work time, they have to be paid the slightly higher non-tipped minimum wage — which is the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Still with us?
In 2019, yet another lawsuit was filed by employees in some Bob Evans locations in West Virginia. Besides incorrect payment, the lawsuit alleged that employees were asked to pay from their pockets to compensate for customer walkouts (via The Athens News).