A waitress who received a $4,400 tip from a group of good Samaritans to split between her and another server has been fired from her job after the restaurant manager forced her to cough up most of the money.
Grant Wise, who owns a local real estate company, organized the ‘$100 Dinner Club’ to dine at the Oven and Tap in Bentonville, Arkansas, earlier this month, with each member contributing a $100 tip.
Wise told KNWA he called the restaurant ahead of the outing to confirm that its servers did not share tips, and as he presented one of the waitresses, Ryan Brandt, with a check for $4,400 to split between her and another waitress who served the group, she was left in tears.
But soon after, Brandt said, restaurant managers told her she would have to split the tip with all of her co-workers – something she said they have not requested in the three and a half years she has worked there.
‘I was told that I was going to be giving my cash over to my shift manager and I would be taking home 20 percent,’ Brandt told FOX 59, noting that she had never been asked to split her tip before in the three and a half years she worked there.
Brandt, who studied Spanish at the University of Arkansas, said she was ‘devastated’ at having to fork over the large tip as she had planned to use the money to help pay off her student loans.
A few days later, Wise found out that Brandt had been fired for ‘violating’ the restaurant’s rules by telling Wise about its tip policy.
Grant Wise, left, who owns a local real estate company, organized the ‘$100 Dinner Club’ to dine at the Oven and Tap with each member contributing a $100 tip
As he told Ryan Brandt she would receive a $4,400 tip to split with another server, she broke down in tears
Brandt, right, said she was planning to use the money to pay off her student loans, but was told by restaurant management she had to split it with all of the employees – something she had never been asked to do before
Wise had come up with the idea for the ‘$100 Dinner Club’ during the pandemic, telling 5 News that he knew many servers who were struggling under COVID-related shutdowns.
He had hosted a real estate conference in Arkansas, and orchestrated the event at the Oven and Tap to pay-it-forward.
‘We knew servers were really hit hard through COVID and it was something that [a friend] had come up with to help give back,’ he told 5 News, noting that he chose the Oven and Tap because it was one of his and his wife’s favorite restaurants.
He said he had called the restaurant beforehand to confirm the restaurant did not have a policy about tip sharing or pooling tips, and when a restaurant employee confirmed that they did not have such a policy, Wise and his wife moved forward with their plan.
They then presented Brandt, in her early 30s, with the large tip, leaving her in tears – a moment that was posted to Instagram on December 2.
‘I’m so sorry to interrupt everyone’s dinner, this will only take 60 seconds,’ Wise begins in the video.
‘We have a table full of absolutely amazing people from all over the country who have traveled here, and tonight we’re hosting a $100 Dinner Club,’ he says, as he wraps his arm around Brandt, and points in the distance.
‘Everyone at this table has contributed or tipped $100 for you and for the other waitress who unfortunately had to go home because she’s not feeling well.
‘And then we put it out to our social media channels, and then we actually had a bit more money sent in, so we are tipping a total of $4,400 for you to split with the other girl who took care of us.’
Wise said he chose the Oven and Tap in Bentonville, Arkansas (pictured) because it was one of his and his wife’s favorite local restaurants
Brandt was visibly in tears after the announcement, but soon, Wise said, he found out that the restaurant managers asked her to split her tip.
Wise said he tried to get in contact with the owner to ‘ensure that everything was going to be OK, but was unable to connect with her outside of a few text messages that eventually stopped.’
He then went back to Oven and Tap to get his money back and hand it to Brandt directly, outside the restaurant, he said.
But by December 7, Wise posted on social media, he had found out that Brandt was fired from her job.
‘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 Facebook.
‘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.’
He repeated that sentiment in a video he posted on YouTube, in which he announced that he would put together a GoFundMe for the waitress.
‘I hope that we can help this girl stay on top, and not let something like this get her down,’ he said, noting: ‘I don’t fully understand it … but I want to do as much as we can to help.’
In a statement to FOX 59, Oven and Tap officials said: ‘After dining, this large group of guests requested that their gratuity be given to two particular servers. We fully honored their request.
‘Out of respect for our highly valued team members, we do not discuss the details surrounding the termination of an employee.’
Wise posted on social media on December 7 that he discovered Brandt was fired
He set up a GoFundMe to help her pay her expenses until she finds another job. It raised $8,700 as of Saturday, when Wise shut it down
Wise wrote in the online fundraiser that he wanted to help Brandt ‘get through the next couple o months, and to hopefully find a new job opportunity,’ noting that he does ‘not know Ryan outside of her waiting on us in the past’ and does ‘not know what type of employee she was outside of what I personally experienced and what we’ve read from other people commenting that were her regulars.
‘My only goal is to help her get through this experience with the least amount of stress and anxiety possible and onto whatever her next opportunity may be.’
On Thursday, Wise posted an update saying Brandt was offered a job at another restaurant, and began work on December 8.
He shut down the fundraiser on Saturday, after it surpassed $8,700.