Workers Reveal What It's Really Like To Work At Bubba Gump Shrimp Company

Back in 1994, the film "Forrest Gump" entered into our hearts as the ultimate feel-good movie (via IMDB). The iconic Tom Hanks movie was an instant classic that would not only earn the actor an Academy Award, but it would also give us the gift of a fictional-turned-real life restaurant. Just two years after the release of the movie, the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company opened its first location in Monterey, California.

If you need a quick recap on how the film served as inspiration for the restaurant, remember that Forrest met Benjamin Buford Blue – otherwise known as Bubba – during basic training for the U.S. army. Bubba talks Forrest into joining the shrimping business, but he is sadly killed in combat during the Vietnam War. After the war, Forrest keeps true to his promise by starting the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company (with the help of Lieutenant Dan).

The seafood chain has been a hit with fans of the film, though the number of locations has dwindled over the years. But what's it like for those who work at Bubba Gump's? Between the iconic theme that draws tourists above all else, there's no doubt two days ever look exactly the same. We pull back the curtain and find out what employees have revealed about what it's like to work at the famed shrimp establishment.

You have to know the movie Forrest Gump inside and out

Bubba Gump Shrimp Company is not only based on the "Forrest Gump" film, it essentially eats, sleeps, and breathes the movie. Many of its customers are well aware of this, and many of its biggest fans will come to the restaurant to immerse themselves in the iconic 1990s film. As a result, the employees are also expected to fully embrace the film as a way to interact with their customers.

Several employees mentioned on Indeed how they were required to learn facts from the movie to quiz guests. Another worker shared how they would even practice trivia in between their guests to make sure their "Forrest Gump" skills were up to snuff. The trivia seemed to be a very typical aspect of a day in the life of a Bubba Gump's employee, so if you're a mega-fan of the film, you may find yourself enjoying the interactions while at work. But the good news is that many employees claimed it was one of the best parts of the job. And as one employee on Indeed put it, you are all but guaranteed to love your job if you are a big fan of the movie.

And you have to listen to the movie throughout your entire shift

Like we mentioned earlier, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company does not shy away from the fact that they are based on a fictional company that was referenced in the film "Forrest Gump." If you are unfamiliar with the movie when you enter the restaurant, you will certainly be more aware by the time you leave. This is not only because of the trivia that will surely be thrown your way by your server, but also because of the way you practically live in the world of the film the entire time you dine there.

One of the hallmark features of a Bubba Gump restaurant is a nonstop loop of the film "Forrest Gump." Television screens can be found throughout the restaurant showing the film, and once it ends, it loops right back to the start of the film. For the average guest, you will likely finish your meal and leave before you're able to watch the entirety of the movie, which has a runtime of two hours and 22 minutes (via IMDB). But for employees, they have no choice but to listen to the film over and over again. One employee shared on Indeed that having to hear the film playing nonstop was the worst part of their job, but another employee said that they enjoyed getting to hear the film. Bottom line – if you want to work here, you probably better like this movie. 

Employees are aware they work for a tourist trap

Bubba Gump Shrimp Company currently has over 30 locations around the world, many of which are found in tourist hot spots like Times Square in New York City and Universal CityWalk in both Orlando and Los Angeles. Employees seem to be well aware that they work for what may be affectionately referred to as a tourist trap, and that fact comes with many pros and cons. 

One Indeed user shared remarks on how working at a tourist-heavy restaurant was not always the best for tips, and noted that many times out-of-town guests, especially those from other countries, may have different tipping customs. On the flip side, many workers pointed out that being a tourist location made for a great entry-level job, and that the high energy turned out to be a lot of fun at times. One Indeed user talked about how they were able to meet guests from all over the world and learn about a number of different cultures thanks to his job at Bubba Gump's, which turned out to be a neat perk due to the fact that the restaurants are often found in tourist-heavy vacation destinations.

Selling Landry's membership cards is a must

Bubba Gump Shrimp Company is owned by Landry's, a large corporation that has a portfolio of other recognizable chain restaurants such as Rainforest Cafe and Joe's Crab Shack. So while Forrest and Bubba were looking to build an independently-owned shrimping venture in the movie, make no mistake, the restaurant in our own reality is much more corporate. In fact, a huge part of the daily life of a Bubba Gump's employee involves pushing customers to join Landry's membership program. The program offers a number of perks for its users, including priority seating and birthday rewards.

Many of the workers at Bubba Gump's shared on Indeed that they felt pressured to hit a certain sales level when it came to these memberships. One worker said that selling the memberships is "a must," with another former employee sharing that their metric was to sell two of the memberships a month. If workers fail to hit their monthly target, they apparently have to sit in on a sales class. Other potential reprimands include serving smaller sections of the restaurant until your goals are hit or possible termination.

Employee discounts don't come free at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company

Another lesser-known fact about working at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company has to do with its status as a Landry's-owned dining establishment. Landry's offers its employees a discount on food and non-alcoholic beverages, which is nice when you have a shorter break and you do not have time to grab a bite to eat elsewhere. However, that perk comes at a price – literally.

The discount, known as the Landry's Employee Discount Program, requires that workers provide a portion of their paycheck in order to be eligible for the discount. The fee is automatically deducted from each paycheck. Multiple employees shared on Glassdoor that a big drawback of working at Bubba Gump's was the fact that they had to pay into the discount program. Another employee shared on Indeed that they wound up paying $20 a month (which breaks down to $10 per paycheck if you are paid every other week) in order to take advantage of the lower-cost food. However, one added benefit is that the discount is good at any Landry's restaurant, so you aren't limited to just the food at your restaurant location.

Tips can vary quite a bit

The amount of money a server receives as a tip can vary depending on the size of the total bill at the end of the meal, but restaurant workers will point out that the amount earned on each table can vary beyond that simple metric. 

For instance, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company has most of its restaurants located in vacation destinations, which can lead to a variety of tipping practices. While many employees on Glassdoor mentioned that tips can be really good on an average night, there were some instances where the fluctuation was not always positive. Part of that, as employees on both Glassdoor and Indeed mention, is because of that fact that tips are not automatically built into the bill for large parties, a practice that is common at other restaurants.

Another issue brought up by an employee on Indeed is that servers are expected to share their tips with other staff. The tip sharing could be beneficial if you are working as a host, but as one employee puts it, if a table dines and dashes and leaves no tips, that 3% share will come out of their pocket.

It's not just customers who love the shrimp

As the name implies, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company has one item on its menu that it specializes in — shrimp. Seafood fans will find themselves in good company when dining at the restaurant chain, as the menu will have no shortage of coconut shrimp, fried shrimp, or tempura shrimp. Liking seafood is certainly not a prerequisite to working at the restaurant, though it may help when you are on your break and looking for something to eat.

Employees seemed to be in agreement that the food at Bubba Gump's was good and that they looked forward to eating it during their shift. Workers on Indeed rated the food anywhere from "good" to "amazing," with one employee saying that the cajun shrimp was one of the main highlights of their time at the company. Multiple employees enjoyed the seemingly endless amount of shrimp they were able to eat, with one worker on Glassdoor mentioning that they were able to take advantage of a considerable amount of free shrimp while they worked there. We'd say that's a pretty delicious job perk, and it seems that plenty of workers would agree. 

Chefs will cook family meals for staff

Often, it is your fellow team of employees that can make or break a job experience. No matter how long the hours may feel or how busy a restaurant can be, if you are surrounded by a supportive staff of coworkers, then it makes the challenges worthwhile. Bubba Gump's seems to be aware of this, and employees have shared that the company likes to tap into this worker camaraderie every now and then.

Often, the restaurant will host a "family meal," where the chefs will cook a free meal for the entire staff. One employee on Indeed said that the family meals were one of the things they always looked forward to when going to work. Another Indeed user mentioned that the family meals were usually a dish straight from the Bubba Gump menu, so there was always something to look forward to trying if you were a fan of the restaurant's food.

These meals were a part of what one employee on Indeed called a "family-like relationship" when talking about their teammates. In fact, multiple workers referred to their coworkers as a second family, citing the support and fun environment they experienced while at work.

Sometimes the job means dressing up as a shrimp

If you keep your eyes peeled during your meal, you may spot a larger-than-life shrimp greeting guests at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. The shrimp, known as Shrimp Louie, is a big hit with the guests, and it's a role that multiple employees are able to step into from time to time. One employee shared on Indeed that they love being able to dress up as the shrimp, as it gives them a fun added layer of guest interaction.

However, not everyone loves when it's their turn to suit up as the mascot. Another employee pointed out on Indeed that dressing up as the shrimp was not always a highlight. Their experience included having to don the giant shrimp costume in extreme heat, which is not exactly the most fun situation to find yourself in. The employee described it as the hardest part of their job. But they also made to note that when they were out of the shrimp costume, they loved meeting guests from all over the world – just as long as they were able to talk to them as a regular employee, and not as an overheated shrimp mascot.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. is a fun and engaging work environment

If the "Forrest Gump" trivia, shrimp mascot duties, and free family meals was not evidence enough, employees are strongly encouraged to have fun while they're at work and engage in a high level of interaction with all of their guests. From one Indeed user talking about the time spent with coworkers to another comment on Indeed noting how there was always something to do, we found that across the board, employees seem to love their time at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. 

We noticed several remarks on Indeed from current and former employees who simply loved their job, with one comment specifically mentioning how it is their "jam and jelly." Fun fact: Movie star Chris Pratt worked at Bubba Gump's while he lived in Hawaii, and he mentioned in an interview with Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest that he loved his job and really got into the role — perhaps as training for his eventual career as a major film actor?

Of course, that constant level of fun and high energy can wear even the best of employees out, as one made note of on Glassdoor. The comment mentioned that the environment grew stale quickly and that burnout seemed to be a common occurrence. However, another employee on Indeed would likely point out in response that it's best to "have fun and realize it's just shrimp."

There was a noticeable shift after the COVID-19 pandemic

Despite the relatively high accolades workers seem to bestow upon Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, the restaurant chain could not avoid the impacts felt during the COVID-19 pandemic. Multiple workers noticed a shift in operations in 2020, which resulted in some employees losing hours or losing their position altogether. One comment on Glassdoor mentioned that the company seemed to drop the ball in the midst of the pandemic, and when their location finally reopened, there was a noticeable lack of communication. Employees that had given years to the restaurant were suddenly out of a job, which seems to have been an unfortunate reality across businesses and industries.

Despite the hardships, Bubba Gump employees have maintained their signature positive and upbeat attitude. One manager shared on Indeed that the pandemic brought on new difficulties, but they made it through. If what we learned today about working at Bubba Gump's has taught us anything, it is that the supportive environment will carry on. After all, as Forrest himself would say, "life is like a box of chocolates," and since we are never sure what we are going to get, a positive attitude (and an affinity for shrimp) can carry you through.