Workers Reveal What It's Really Like To Work At Rainforest Cafe

Animatronic gorillas and simulated thunderstorms that occur every 30 minutes can only mean one thing: We have taken a step out of reality and into the world of Rainforest Cafe, "a wild place to shop and eat." If you grew up in the 1990s and 2000s, you are likely well-acquainted with the themed restaurant chain, which had over 50 locations across the United States at its peak (via Since then, the number of Rainforest Cafes has dwindled considerably. There was something special about turning the corner at your local mall to see tree limbs and vines growing out of the walls, just a few feet away from a Gap or Old Navy. Whether you were there for the immersive environment or were dragged inside for a kid's birthday party, there is no denying that Rainforest Cafe is a dining experience you won't soon forget.

But what's it like to work at such a unique dining establishment? Owned and operated by Landry's, Rainforest Cafe is part of a long list of the corporation's chains, including Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., McCormick and Schmick's, and Del Frisco's Grille. That could certainly play a role in the employee experience, but does it have as big of an impact as the giant fish tanks and Cha! Cha! the tree frog? Let's see what employees say about their time at Rainforest Cafe.

Many employees agree that it's a fun place to work

Rainforest Cafe markets itself as a "wild" restaurant, with animatronic animals, massive fish tanks, and simulated thunder and lightning that go off multiple times throughout your meal. Such an immersive environment would lend itself to a fun place to work, right? In general, employees seem to think so.

On Indeed, multiple workers have shared that it was a fun job to have. Whether it was their fellow coworkers, the unique atmosphere, or the happy guests themselves, many employees that talked about their experiences online had positive things to say. One employee mentioned that it was one of their more fun work experiences. Another employee shared how being in a jungle — even a fake one — brought out their inner child every time they went to work. Another Indeed user shared how much they loved working as a host because they got to experience the excitement guests exhibited when entering the restaurant first-hand.

The positive vibes workers experienced made for a great entry-level experience, as one Indeed user shared. Despite some upper management giving employees second thoughts about their time at Rainforest Cafe, as one individual shared, it was often their fellow coworkers that made the job worthwhile.

The rainforest environment was cool but could be overwhelming

When you were a kid, there were probably very few places you could visit that felt as cool as a Rainforest Cafe. Where else do thunder and lightning go off on a regular basis indoors? Not to mention, animatronic animals are the kind of thing you typically only find in Disney World. The environment is really what sells Rainforest Cafe and what kept customers coming back for years. The rainforest vibes were also part of what workers remember the most. As one might imagine, when you are working alongside a herd of elephants that trumpet loudly throughout your shift, you are probably going to remember them. How you feel about those animatronics and storms, however, seems to be up for debate.

While one Indeed user admired the unique environment, another pointed out how the dark lighting made it difficult to see. Also, those animatronics were not always what they were hyped up to be. One Glassdoor user pointed out that there seemed to be as much dust as there were jungle sounds.

Another employee who worked at the Galveston, Texas location — the one that comes with its own water ride — shared how satisfying it felt at the end of the night to turn off all of those non-stop noises before going home (via Reddit).

Your experience varied depending on which location you worked at

At the height of its popularity, Rainforest Cafe had over 50 locations (via, many of which were at shopping malls. But there were some unique spots you could find a Rainforest Cafe, including outside the gates of Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park in Disney World, as well as just off the Las Vegas strip. So, depending on the location you worked at, your experience could vary greatly.

As the saying goes, "location, location, location." Employee perks are one of the areas most impacted by which Rainforest Cafe you worked at. One worker from the Galveston, Texas location shared on Glassdoor that they would receive discounts on not only the food but on the neighboring river ride as well. And while one employee from the San Antonio River Walk location shared on Indeed that they did not have many benefits to speak of, employees at the Disney World and former Disneyland locations disclosed on Indeed and Glassdoor that their employment status came with Disney perks, like theme park admission.

Tips could also fluctuate depending on whether you worked at a mall with mostly local customers or a more populated area with tourists. One employee from the Atlantic City location pointed out on Reddit that they would earn less-than-average tips. Another employee from a Florida location echoed that sentiment on Indeed and pointed out that tipping customs from international guests could have a huge impact on daily earnings.

Employees had to use very specific language when interacting with guests

Part of the immersive experience guests came to expect when visiting Rainforest Cafe had to do with the phrasing and language used by employees. After all, you were not the Johnson family party of five when dining there, you were the Johnson family safari of five!

Employees were quick to point out that the phrasing and language they needed to use around guests was a big component of their job. One worker shared on Reddit that due to the corporate nature enforced by Landry's, operations were very rigid and specific, and that trickled down to the greetings that employees had to offer their guests.

In addition, your server (or shall we say, "safari guide") was likely instructed to use the features of the jungle environment to aid in giving directions, including directions to the restroom. As one employee shared on Reddit, you would not be told to pass all of the tables and look for a restroom sign; instead, you would likely be instructed to turn at the waterfall. It is all a part of the immersive experience guests have come to love, but for workers, it was another part of the reportedly rigid training they needed to adhere to during their shifts.

Employees are pressured to sell Landry's membership cards

As we previously mentioned, Rainforest Cafe is owned by Landry's, which is a massive corporation that owns a large portfolio of restaurant chains. One of the benefits Landry's offers to its loyal customers is a rewards program called Landry's Select Club, which offers its members perks like priority seating, a $25 birthday reward, and more. Whether joining the club was something you would consider or not, you were likely guaranteed to hear a spiel about it from your server.

That is because employees were expected to sell a certain number of these memberships in a designated amount of time, and many have expressed how this was a major pain point with their job. An employee on Glassdoor mentioned how they felt the corporation cared more about selling memberships than the actual guest experience, and another employee on Indeed pointed out how they would often feel annoyed by the pressure to push memberships onto customers.

Employees had to pay a portion of their paycheck in order to be eligible for employee discounts

Discounted food is one of the benefits enjoyed by Rainforest Cafe employees. However, the method for obtaining the discount rubbed many workers the wrong way as it seemed to detract from the overall employee experience.

Landry's has what they call an Employee Discount Program, which gives workers a 50% discount on food and nonalcoholic beverages. Sounds like a good deal, right? Well, before an employee can take advantage of those discounts, they must sign up for the program. By doing so, the employee agrees to give a portion of their paycheck to the program (an employee on Indeed noted it cost $10 per paycheck). While the program is voluntary, those who do not opt-in must pay full price for Rainforest Cafe's food items — along with any other Landry's restaurant.

On Indeed, several employees pointed out the seemingly backward nature of having to pay a portion of their paycheck back in order to be able to use the employee discount. One employee drove this point home by noting that it's not really a discount if it comes directly out of your check.

They had to learn facts about the animals featured in the restaurants

Animal lovers would find themselves in an uncanny jungle paradise when dining at Rainforest Cafe. Some of the animals on display included gorillas, elephants, leopards, frogs, and butterflies. While the animatronics may have been fake, the animals they were based on are very real, so employees were encouraged to learn as much as they could about them to engage with guests.

Over on Reddit, one employee revealed how the company asked them to learn facts about not only the animals featured in the restaurant but also the fish that take up the massive aquariums so that they could educate guests. Some of Rainforest Cafe's employees were tasked with feeding the fish, which one individual said was a big part of their education on the animals and how to take care of them (via Indeed). The educational aspect was another feature of working at a Rainforest Cafe that made it a unique experience compared to other restaurant jobs.

The kitchens could be very fast-paced

While the immersive environment is a huge part of the draw for Rainforest Cafe, make no mistake: It's still a restaurant, and you have to eat! With this in mind, employees have shared what it is like interacting with the kitchen staff. On Indeed, one employee said that their location ran like a well-oiled machine if there was adequate staffing. Several others shared on Indeed that their kitchens were very fast-paced, with one employee mentioning how, in their time as a line cook, they would have very little time in between clocking in for their shift and starting cooking meals for guests.

That did not seem to be a universal experience across all Rainforest Cafe locations, however. Some employees shared that their kitchen tended to operate on the slower side, which made it harder to get meals out to customers in a timely manner (via Indeed).

You'll more easily enjoy working there if you like kids

It is pretty easy to pinpoint the target demographic for Rainforest Cafe. While one Indeed user could argue that the restaurant is for the inner child in us all, you are bound to run into actual children more so than children-at-heart. It's absolutely a family dining establishment, so enjoying the company of kids is almost a prerequisite for working there.

We found a lot of employees who shared that interacting with kids was their favorite part of working at Rainforest Cafe. One individual on Indeed talked about how much they loved seeing kids light up with excitement when visiting, while another simply enjoyed the interactions they had with their younger guests.

In fact, we came across many employees on Indeed whose favorite aspect of their job was seeing how much the kids enjoyed their time at Rainforest Cafe while having fun with their families. A restaurant full of energetic children may cause more stress than excitement for people, but it seems like employees had an overall positive experience at work thanks to the families that visited.

The menus changed frequently

There are some staple menu items at Rainforest Cafe that you are likely well familiar with if you frequented your regional mall's location: Rasta Pasta, Mojo Bones, and the Sparkling Volcano dessert are just a few of the signature menu items that are iconic in the eyes of Rainforest Cafe's biggest fans. But some employees pointed out how, despite some items staying on the menu, things would frequently change.

Over on Indeed, someone who worked as a lead cook said that their location would get new items added to the menu on a quarterly basis, which meant learning new recipes on regularly throughout the year. Servers also pointed out how it felt like the menu was always changing, and they needed to constantly make sure their knowledge of what guests could order was up-to-date so they could offer the best suggestions.

One employee shared how they would begin their time at each table with a rundown of the menu in order to help their guests make the right selections — an ever-changing roster of items would certainly keep every employee on their toes (via Indeed).

It was common to work up to 12 hours with no breaks

Working in the food industry can be a very demanding endeavor, with many hours spent on your feet in a high-paced environment. Rainforest Cafe appears to be no exception, with many workers sharing how the days were often very long with very short breaks or none whatsoever.

In fact, one of the most common criticisms we came across on Indeed was the infrequent or seemingly non-existent breaks. In fact, more than one employee noted that they would often work 12 or 13-hour shifts with no breaks at all. Another employee said that while the short breaks were a drawback of working there, it was a common practice in the restaurant industry and nothing that was particularly unique to Rainforest Cafe. Another employee on Indeed elaborated, saying that the lack of breaks were common when working a double shift and that they would instead simply transition from the first shift into the second without any time off in between.

Food quality was questionable

As much as we love an animatronic gorilla, a cool environment or atmosphere just doesn't make up for sub-par food. And while no one goes to a Rainforest Cafe expecting Michelin star-quality dishes, ordering something decent and edible is to be expected. And for the most part, that is what you will find when dining there. In fact, you may really enjoy your Rasta Pasta or Mojo Bones. But it's fairly common to hear mixed reviews about the food, or that the quality doesn't quite justify the prices. That trend of mixed reviews is echoed throughout the feedback from employees. Some on Indeed found the food to be quite good, while others claim it was terrible. One comment, in particular, pointed out the dichotomy between quality and price.

Another employee who worked in the kitchen shared on CareerBliss how the food quality was not what they expected it to be when they began working at Rainforest Cafe. Seeing as how they listed that as one of the things they did not enjoy about their job, we're willing to bet that the quality was less than what they expected.