Workers Reveal What It's Really Like To Work At Dave & Buster's

Boasting 144 locations across North America, including 40 states, Puerto Rico, and even two Canadian outposts in Ontario, the restaurant-arcade combo of Dave & Buster's has been a popular guilty pleasure for adults since the first location opened in Dallas, Texas, in 1982. With comfort food menus highlighted by wings, burgers, and ribs, and full-service bars to keep the excitement running high day and night, the adult arcade allows everyone who enters to feel like a kid again, at least for a little a while. Well, maybe not everyone.

In order to keep the facilities fully operational for adrenaline-induced guests, Dave & Buster's retains roughly 8,500 employees (as of January 2021), from hosts and servers to cooks and game technicians, with plenty more positions in between. While we would hope that anyone would find their job exciting and inspiring, a job is still a job, so we shouldn't expect that working in a fun-zone would be quite as thrilling as playing in one. And, as hundreds of online reviews from former employees reveal, it often isn't. Still, it's certainly not all negative, and some of the perks are as surprising as the pitfalls. Good and bad, in no specific order, here's what it's really like to work at Dave & Buster's, according to some actual employees.

The party vibe extends to the staff

Not many customers pop into Dave & Buster's just for a burger. If you're there, you're probably looking for some fun among the games and, if you're 21 years old or over, a drink or two. This all-around entertaining vibe is not just there for the visitors, however, as it reportedly extends to the staff as well. One former employee from Austin, Texas, who left a mediocre 3-star review about his experience working for the company on Indeed, raved that the environment was "a party all the time" and claimed that every shift brought a smile to their face. A former waiter from Louisville, Kentucky, also enjoyed the fun and laid-back atmosphere of Dave & Buster's, recommending it to anyone who liked to have a good time during work (and it's hard to imagine anyone who wouldn't).

Finally, a former bartender from Milford, Connecticut, not only found Dave & Buster's an enjoyable place to work, but said the management actually want staff to have fun on the job. Finding small bits of joy at work (like falling back on snarky inside jokes about your boss with your work bestie) is one thing, but if bosses are actually seeking to create environments specifically for staff to enjoy themselves at Dave & Buster's, it's easy to understand how "fun" makes its way into so many employee reviews.

Staff get cheap eats

Surrounded by food and fun all day, Dave & Buster's staff couldn't be blamed for wanting to chow down on a bite or two themselves, especially during a long shift, and it appears they can do so for fairly cheap. Depending on their position, staff reviews reveal that menu discounts will range from a decent percentage off to completely free, proving there is such a thing as a free lunch.

A former server in Tempe, Arizona, left a 3-star review of her employer, citing an even mix of positives and negatives. One of the pros she pointed out was that she received a 50% discount on food. Meanwhile, a former line cook from Frisco, Texas, also left a 3-star review. While he complained of the low pay for experienced cooks, he praised the free food that came with the position. While a free meal may not pay the rent, it certainly seems to have encouraged some employees to stick around longer than they otherwise may have.

They may have to beg for breaks

While discounted or free food is an awesome perk for almost any employee, not having a chance to enjoy any of that food would be a legitimate problem. According to plenty of reviews left on Indeed by former employees, getting breaks at Dave & Buster's isn't always the guarantee it should be. A former front desk worker at the Boise, Idaho, location, who was lukewarm on the job and left a 3-star review, complained that the restaurant "never really gave breaks," and the analysis only gets worse from there.

One very unhappy former hostess and front desk staffer at the Hollywood, Florida, location left a 1-star review of Dave & Buster's with a host of grievances listed, but one of the most eye-opening was her gripe against breaks. Not only did she cite not receiving breaks unless she specifically asked for them, even during 10-hour shifts, but she claimed that breaks weren't guaranteed even then. It's possible a manager could forget to send someone on break during a particularly busy shift once in a blue moon, but denying breaks even when reminded seems beyond harsh.

The tips can be hard to pass up

If we're being honest, the primary reason many of us have jobs at all is because we need the money, and that tends to be the case even more so with customer-facing service jobs. At Dave & Buster's, that appears to be especially true, and it's completely understandable — why else would anyone want to put up with demanding customers ordering food, downing drinks, and trying to conquer arcade games for prizes?

A former employee at an Ontario, Canada, location of Dave & Buster's left noticeably few positive comments in an Indeed review, giving the gaming restaurant a measly 2 stars, but confessed that there was one thing that could possibly bring them back to the offending employer: GREAT TIPS (and those emphatic caps belong to the reviewer). A former bartender and server from Milpitas, California, who seems to have felt considerably better about working at Dave & Buster's and left a 4-star review of the overall experience, did admit to long hours and an occasional feeling of depression regarding the job, but twice mentioned the great money available in tips.

It's better as a second job

While employees in some positions raved about the potential for great tips at their locations, others lamented their inability to earn much at all. A former front desk clerk in McDonough, Georgia, seemed to enjoy the position overall, leaving a 4-star review on Indeed, but was unhappy with the reportedly low pay that they felt was only worthwhile enough to have served as secondary income. And they were far from the only ones who thought that way. 

At Dave & Buster's — as with any tip-based position — great tips can never be relied upon. While it could be assumed that some former employees complaining about the lack of money found at their job could just indicate they were bad workers, as evidenced by the fact that some people claimed they got great tips working there, a former bartender and server from Overland Park, Kansas, added a bit of nuance to the discussion. They explained that solid income was never guaranteed, at least at their particular Dave & Buster's, as the money would definitely fluctuate from week to week, depending on the type of customers that came in. Proving it was possible to rake in great tips when the clientele was available, the ebb and flow of cash availability at Dave & Buster's seems to be an establishment issue, not the employee's fault.

It's a lot of responsibility

Okay, yeah, almost every job comes with a lot of responsibility, and usually more than most employees feel they're being fairly compensated for, so this concern isn't exactly novel. At Dave & Buster's, however, the amount of responsibility some employees described appears to go beyond the already-too-much that the rest of us encounter, and warrants special mention.

A server and key manager from Gaithersburg, Maryland, described the environment as fast-paced, with dining rooms full of large sections and parties. They also specifically noted that those who can make it at Dave & Buster's can survive at any restaurant, which essentially means it's the hardest gig around. While that certainly helps explain the potential for great tips, being thrown to the wolves isn't most people's idea of an enjoyable working environment. A former bartender in Northridge, California, went a step further, not only declaring that the expectations were far greater than pay grades would suggest, but that it was sometimes impossible to meet the expectations, noting that many tasks came with such exacting corporate guidelines that they wound "up being unreasonable or inefficient."

Guests can be brutal

Customers are often the best and worst part of any retail-style job, but the clientele of Dave & Buster's appears to veer much more heavily toward the side of worst. While some employees took a more diplomatic approach in describing guests as not always the nicest (a gentleness of language one might expect from a lead trainer, like the one who left that review), plenty of others were far more direct with their allegations.

One reviewer claimed that rowdy and hostile guests made her feel unsafe working at the host stand, and a former employee in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania said angry guests would attack in the unsafe environment of the restaurant. Even management at Dave & Buster's weighed in on this unnerving trend, with one senior manager from Springfield, Virginia, describing the restaurant as "a very dangerous environment." It should be expected that the clientele of any establishment serving alcohol and encouraging a party atmosphere could get out of hand from time to time, but the frequency and severity of safety claims from Dave & Buster's employees, past and present, makes one rightfully wonder if the problem may be a bit more endemic.

Cooks can listen to their own music

At the end of a horrible shift, whether you're hopping into your car for the drive home, slipping onto a bus or metro, or even walking, there's one thing that's almost guaranteed to help you instantly melt away the stress of the day, and that's your own personal music. Even if the sweet relief only lasts the length of a single song, that instant recharge can be enough to turn your attitude around and maybe even reset the rest of your day or night. Especially if you've been forced to listen to someone else's selections all day, and particularly if they were corporate-chosen tracks that repeat day after day while you grind away in your position.

At Dave & Buster's, one former prep cook from Manchester, New Hampshire, escaped the horror of repetitive restaurant soundtracks, reporting that they were able to listen to their own music in the kitchen all day. Despite the primarily negative review complaining of poor management and mistreatment, the one bright spot for this employee was the personal music selection that made the job bearable for as long as it lasted.

Staff can often play the games for free

It's hard to watch others having fun all day while being left out of the merriment, but some Dave & Buster's staff reported the unique perk of being able to play the arcade-restaurant's games for free. Reports on the regularity and universality of this perk vary, but it's clear that it does happen, and it doesn't seem to be all that rare.

A former server in Hollywood, California, reported that staff at that location were allowed to play the games whenever they wanted, and a former game technician in Sevierville, Tennessee, listed free game bands in the pros column of a 3-star Indeed review. While these two employees seem to have lucked out with total freebies, others appear to have somewhat what more restricted freedoms. A former maintenance technician in Little Rock, Arkansas, was able to play games for free on Fridays only, but wasn't complaining. In fact, it was enough of an enjoyable perk to help lead to a 5-star review of the labor-intensive Dave & Buster's position.

The benefits are a bust

In the only developed nation without universal healthcare, Americans are uniquely tolerant of poor benefits, having been raised in a nation of fend-for-yourself medical treatment. However right or wrong that may be, in a culture where it's increasingly rare to be offered any health benefits, you might expect employees on the receiving end to be somewhat grateful for the consideration, but the benefits offered by Dave & Buster's have still proven to be a sore spot among employee reviews, making one wonder just how bad they could be.

A former server in Cincinnati, Ohio, didn't list specifics about the benefits in a 2-star Indeed review of Dave & Buster's, but did complain about their extreme cost. In an industry that isn't exactly known for extraordinary salaries, expensive benefits could not only be a deterrent, they could be downright prohibitive for some. Those who could afford the benefits and opted in didn't seem much happier with the package, either. A former sales associate who enjoyed the job was nonetheless irritated by the disappointing benefits, first bluntly claiming they "absolutely suck," and later going as far as to imply that they were so poor they might as well have been nonexistent. Not everyone thought the benefits were the absolute worst, though; a former service support employee in Virginia Beach, Virginia, labeled them mediocre.

There isn't much support staff

It's difficult to succeed at any job without the proper tools, the most essential typically being solid support. At Dave & Buster's, employees regularly reported a lack of support from day one training straight through to the end of their stints at the popular chain. A former support technician (oh, the irony) reported in a 3-star Indeed review that the training program needed more structure, noting a somewhat loosey-goosey program that appeared to fall apart when other staff were too overworked to provide a proper lay of the land.

For those who manage to make it past training, or the lack thereof, there doesn't appear to be much support at the other end of the tunnel, either. A former server from Hollywood, California, claimed there were no hosts or bussers at the location, creating drama from angry guests who found themselves seated at dirty tables. Even worse, a former employee of the Winner's Circle (the prize desk where you can cash in tickets won at the games for all manner of take-home goodies) in Thousand Oaks, California, claimed that poor scheduling often meant there were no other employees to assist in that department for entire shifts, leaving a single scrambler to juggle all of the day's demanding customers. Nothing screams "total lack of support" more than being completely abandoned in a position, but perhaps this could be expected from a company that receives so many complaints about its lack of training.

It's nonstop chaos

Whether it's better to remain busy all day long and have the hours fly by or nicer to have some slow spurts where time crawls is a debate no one will ever be able to settle — they both have their pros and cons — but employees of Dave & Buster's may never even get the chance to decide for themselves. According to most staff reports, there is no downtime to be found. Some rate this as a negative, but there are plenty of ex-employees who ranked this as a positive, too.

A former server in Little Rock, Arkansas, called the weekend shifts outright chaos, with never-ending customer demand, and found the position to be relatively average in a 3-star Indeed review. A former cook in Mission Valley, California, on the other hand, rated the position a full 5-stars, even when admitting that the shifts were nonstop, and a former hostess and server from Islandia, New York, who also rated the position a perfect 5, nevertheless listed the non-stop chaos as a con, noting that the fast pace of the restaurant was "difficult to cope with" at times.