A waitress in Arkansas has been fired after what was meant to be an inspiring act of kindness turned sour.
Ryan Brandt, a server at the Oven & Tap restaurant in Bentonville, received a $4,400 (£3,300) tip to split with another waitress earlier this month, KNWA reported.
The generous customers were 44 real estate executives from around the country who were meeting for a conference that night, and each decided to pitch in $100 (£75) for the service. Grant Wise, president of the local real estate company Witly, surprised Ms Brandt with the tip at the end of the meal.
“Everybody at this table has contributed $100 for you and for the other waitress,” Mr Wise announced in a speech to the restaurant, which he posted on Instagram. “So we are tipping a total of $4,400 for you to split with the other girl who took care of us.”
The table then burst into raucous applause, and Ms Brandt burst into tears.
“It was an incredible thing to be able to do,” Mr Wise later told KNWA, “and to see the server’s reaction and to know what that meant for her and the impact it’s had on her life already.”
But the impact on Ms Brandt’s life had only just begun. From that moment on, things began to unravel.
First, Ms Brandt told the table that her manager was requiring her to split the money with the rest of the restaurant staff.
“I was to give my cash over to my shift manager to be taken, and then I was going to be taking home 20 per cent,” she explained to the local TV station.
That wasn’t what Mr Wise had in mind, so he complained to the restaurant and got his money back. Then he left the restaurant and gave Ms Brandt her tip outside, away from her bosses.
Ms Brandt finally got her tip – but she was fired.
“It was devastating,” the former waitress told KNWA, adding that without her job, she has no way to pay her debts.
“I borrowed a significant amount of money for student loans,” she said. “Most of them were turned off for the Covid year and a half, and they are turning back on 1 January, and that’s a reality I’m facing.”
In a statement, Oven & Tap told The Independent it had fully honoured Mr Wise’s request – but fired Ms Brandt afterward.
“Oven & Tap doesn’t deliver terminations lightly,” the restaurant said. “Because we value our employees and highly respect their privacy, we never discuss personnel issues. The server who was terminated several days after the group dined with us was not let go because she chose to keep the tip money.”
The restaurant said it has always pooled its tips – although Ms Brandt says she had never been asked to do so before that night.
“Our policy has always been to participate in a tip pool/share with the staff,” Oven & Tap said. “Tip sharing is a common restaurant industry practice that we follow to ensure all of our team members are adequately compensated for their hard work.”
Since Ms Brandt was fired, Mr Wise has started a GoFundMe to help her pay her bills.
“I’m so saddened to hear that the girl we tipped the other night at our $100 Dinner Club has been fired from her job,” he wrote on Instagram as he unveiled the fundraiser. “I don’t fully understand why this would happen to what seems like such a sweet and kind-hearted woman. Nonetheless, I’m committed to showing her that there are great people in the world that will do good when they can!”
On Wednesday, Mr Wise wrote on the GoFundMe that Ms Brandt had found a new job at another restaurant.
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