Entertainment And News

Server Fired After Splitting Generous $2,200 Tip With Entire Restaurant Staff

Photo: Grant Wise
Server receives $2,200

An Arkansas restaurant is in hot water after firing a server after she received a $2,200 tip.

Server Ryan Brandt received a $2,200 tip from a 40-person dinner party.

Brandt, who had worked at Oven and Tap in Bentonville, Arkansas, for over three years, served a party of more than 40 patrons along with one other server. At the end of their dinner, the two servers received $4,400 in tips from their guests to split with each other.

"I was hosting a $100 Dinner Club where each person at dinner tipped $100 to give to the servers," real estate marketing coach Grant Wise explained in a GoFundMe post he started in support of Brandt. "We were able to raise $4400 in tips to be shared with two servers from our attendees and our social media channels."

Wise claimed that he had reached out to the restaurant before the dinner to secure a reservation and clarify the restaurant's tipping policy, wanting to ensure his servers would indeed receive the large amount he intended to tip his servers.

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At the end of the dinner, however, the restaurant required the two servers to split the tip with their coworkers.

“I was told that I was going to be giving my cash over to my shift manager, and I would be taking home 20%,” Brandt told NBC affiliate KNWA, with the other 80% to be split amongst restaurant staff including bartenders and hosts. After being "overwhelmed with joy and gratitude" after receiving the tip, Brandt told CBS 5 News that hearing she'd have to split the tip "was kind of disheartening because we don’t tip share in any way.”

According to Brandt's lawyer, before that night, the restaurant automatically deducted 7% of a server's food and beverage sales from their paychecks for that reason. The restaurant's owners, however, told KNWA that their tip policy has always given 6% of bar sales to bartenders, 2% of food sales to the kitchen and 1% of food sales to server assistants. They also denied speaking to Wise about their tipping policy before the incident.

After Brandt reached out to Wise to thank him for the tip and let him know she wasn't able to keep all of it, Wise asked for the tip money back from the restaurant so he could give it to the servers directly.

"We tried to contact the owner in an effort to ensure that everything was going to be ok but were unable to connect with her outside of a few text messages that eventually stopped," he wrote in the GoFundMe page.

The restaurant then fired Brandt.

According to Brandt, who claimed the restaurant fired her over the phone, she was let go for violating policy by telling Wise about the company's decision to seize the tip.

“They fired me from Oven and Tap over the phone and I’ve been there for 3.5 years and that was really heartbreaking,” Brandt said to CBS 5 News. “Especially, because I didn’t think I did anything wrong."

Wise learned about her firing and decided to help her even further by spreading her story and creating a GoFundMe, which raised over $18,000 while it was active.

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The restaurant denied firing Brandt over the tip.

“The employee that was terminated was not terminated for retaining the tip. Due to the privacy and the respect of our employees," Oven and Tap co-owner Luke Wetzel told KNWA. 

"Oven & Tap has always been committed to providing fair and quality compensation to all members of our restaurant team," the restaurant said in a statement. "We recognize and regret that a recent incident in our restaurant could have been handled differently by reminding our team how we would be splitting any tips prior to the event, however, our policy has always been to participate in a tip pool/share with the staff. 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.”

Brandt started a new job and she and Wise continued to pay it forward.

In a GoFundMe update, Wise shared that Brandt had completed her first shift at a new job shortly after being fired from Oven and Tap. 

While they originally shut the GoFundMe down after achieving their original goal, Brandt and Wise decided to reopen the GoFundMe and use any excess funds to "'pay it forward' to the next group of restaurant staff who would get the tip," Wise wrote.

Despite the setback this specific $100 Dinner Club faced, Wise continues to pay it forward. In 2022, he hosted his third $100 Dinner Club in Florida, raising a total of $2,500.

It seems he may have learned from this experience, however, as he specified that the server would get $1,500 of that, with the rest to be dispersed amongst others involved.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice and relationships.