When Wahoo Seafood Grill owner Shawn Shepherd got a phone call from an employee about an extraordinarily large tip, his first instinct was to be suspicious. He advised his employee to check the customer's ID and name on the back of the card, which checked out. Even after the point-of-sale transaction went through, Shepherd still checked the next day to make sure the money was still there.
It was. All $10,000 of it.
According to The Gainesville Sun, a man eating at the restaurant with his wife and child had gathered the staff of 10 who were working at the restaurant on August 17 and thanked them for their hard work. Then he paid his $144 bill and added $10,000 on top of it for the employees to split.
"Watching these guys get their check was almost as good as Christmas morning," Shepherd told The Sun.
The restaurant shared a photo of the bill with the tip included, writing:
"On Tuesday night, a customer asked our entire restaurant staff to come to the dining area. He thanked them for showing up and working hard.
Then something incredible happened. He told them he was giving them $1,000 each.
Our staff couldn't believe it.
Wahoo Seafood Grill's owner, Shawn Shepherd said, 'I'm not usually an emotional guy, but this really got me. I'm blown away. We're ALL blown away by his generosity.
The last year and a half hasn't been easy on this industry. We're hurting and we're exhausted, but this incredible act of kindness has restored our faith in humanity.'
Our whole staff would like to thank this generous customer from the bottom of our hearts. We are all going to pay it forward in our own ways. Even the smallest acts of kindness can have a giant ripple effect.
We're just a local, veteran-owned seafood restaurant doing our best to weather this storm — and this is truly the last thing we expected to happen on a regular Tuesday night.
By sharing this, we hope you feel inspired to do something nice for someone today. Be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people."
One of the employees who was called into work that night was a mom whose child has been in and out of the hospital. "It's been absolutely a really stressful time for her," Shepherd said, so the tip was an especially welcome surprise.
Shepherd said the employees working that night had stuck with the business during the past 18 months of upheaval, so he was extra grateful to be able to distribute the generous tip to them.
Wahoo had closed temporarily in late March of 2020 and like thousands of other businesses hit hard by the pandemic, Shepherd had to figure out how to stay afloat and pay employees.
"I knew nothing about curbside, I knew nothing about delivery and take out. We weren't prepared for that. We didn't even have the containers to do it," Shepherd told The Sun, noting that he lost $30,000 worth of food.
With the help of The Florida Restaurant Lodging Association and the Alachua County Chamber of Commerce, he was able to receive emergency funding to pay employees, but even after the restaurant reopened, business was abysmally slow.
"We had no business coming through the front door," Shepherd said.
Shephard said he was indebted to the loyal Wahoo employees who have stuck with him and helped keep the restaurant afloat. How wonderful to see a customer share the same appreciation and use their resources to provide a little relief to people who have been through so much uncertainty.
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