Server Andrea Forbes is well-versed in Darden after working for two of the company’s brands — first Olive Garden and now Seasons 52 — for 11 years. “I love working for Darden,” she said. “I tell people that all the time. Their benefits including the 401(k) retirement savings plan are great. The company has been really good to me so I’m grateful.”
She said she enjoyed her seven years at the Olive Garden restaurant in Kennesaw, GA, but switched to Seasons 52 four years ago partly because the Dunwoody, GA, location was nearer her home. “I’m very happy here,” she said.
Her career path has taken some unusual turns. She worked as a stockbroker from 1999 to 2002, and although she liked the work, she had reached a point where she could not advance unless she moved to California. With her family in Georgia, she didn’t want to do that.
So Andrea said she “fell into” foodservice, not by working at a restaurant but by opening one of her own, Andi’s Wings, from 2002 to 2007. “It was successful but very hard work,” she said. “I had no life for five years.” She sold her restaurant and joined Olive Garden as a server in 2008.
Andrea said she loves being a server and has about a dozen regular guests at Seasons 52. Her secret to success is to be kind, no matter what, and treat people they way she would like to be treated.
“It’s a reciprocal relationship,” she said. “If guests are nice and I’m nice, it will get better from there. A lot of people tell me, ‘You’re so nice,’ and I say, ‘That’s because you’re nice.’ So it’s an easy relationship.
“If they’re not nice, which doesn’t happen often, I’ll still be nice — and I won’t take it personally. Wonderful guests and good managers have kept me at Darden.”
Andrea doesn’t limit her focus to her own role — she wants the entire restaurant to run smoothly. “Andrea always has her finger on the pulse of the restaurant,” said Managing Partner John Piper. “She is a second set of eyes for us and a great communicator, so she helps us be a better team.”
She has not given up her stockbroker career, either. “I’m still a part-time trader late at night. I love it!”
And who better to offer financial advice? “Start your 401(k) if you haven’t already and buy Darden stock! Seriously, invest in the company that’s good to you.”