There are some pretty silly things that go viral on social media and some trends that are less than good for your health, cue the ‘tide pod challenge’. People enjoy following and performing these challenges, especially if they can get a good post out of it.
But one waitress could never have prepared for the way one man got his kicks. What had her manager said to the man to warrant this?
Making Ends Meet
For most servers, their job is a way to make ends meet and definitely not a way to get rich quick. Laura Dally worked as a bartender and waitress at Blue 44 for years, but she was still no closer to her dream of becoming an occupational therapist.
She was used to having good and bad nights. Ultimately, it all boiled down to the tips she received.
Lately, Laura hadn’t been taking home as much money as she used to. She’d noticed that patrons actually seemed to be tipping less and less.
Studies have shown that people are in a tipping slump – and almost 50 percent of all diners have no idea how much they should be tipping. So what is the right amount?
More Than You Think
If you didn’t already know it, between 15 and 20 percent of the bill is the recommended amount you should budget for when dining out.
But people participating in one particular challenge are upping the ante, like this regular at Blue 44 in upper Northwest Washington. In fact, his tip came with a catch.
Chris Nardelli, the owner of the four-year-old restaurant, said one particular customer who prefers to remain anonymous lives in the area and frequents the bistro a few times a month. His favorite meal at the restaurant is most definitely the gumbo, which features a chicken and andouille sausage base with a dark roux, paired with an Old Chub Scotch Ale.
The only problem was that the gumbo isn’t on the menu.
Laura recognized the regular customer immediately and bustled to seat him and make him comfortable. It was Memorial Day and the restaurant was serving Blue 44’s famous fried chicken. But the man didn’t want the chicken – he wanted the gumbo.
Laura tried to explain that the kitchen only prepared it on certain days, but the man was insistent.
Making A Plan
Laura ran to her manager to try to make a plan, and luckily the chef had made a fresh batch of gumbo for the following day. He even gave the man a few extra servings to take home – free of charge.
Thinking that her dealings with the man were over, Laura focused her attention on the other diners who were patiently waiting for service. But he wasn’t done with her yet.
The mystery man finished his food and drinks, got the bill, paid and left. But it wasn’t until later that anyone noticed anything unusual. After all the guests had left, Laura noticed the bill on the table.
Aside from the enormous tip he had left, there were some instructions written inside. She knew this must be Chris’ doing.
Laura was stunned that anyone could leave such a gigantic tip on a $48.76 bill, but was left floored by the man’s instructions.
She had picked up the leather folder as everyone else was cleaning up and getting ready to close, but when she peeked inside she immediately went to go get her manager, Chris.
Is It Real?
But the owner, bartender, and chef at the restaurant on Connecticut Avenue said they were shocked when the patron left a really, really big tip — $2,000, to be precise.
Laura said: “I was in an utter daze… I was completely speechless. I had to do a double-take.” She ran to her boss and said, “We need to talk.”
The two went back to his office, and she showed him the receipt. “I didn’t know what to say,” Chris recalled.
“This is the kind of stuff you see in the restaurant business that happens to some guy in the Midwest or the West Coast,” he said. But what was the catch?
Along with the credit card slip showing the $2,000 tip was a note including details of how it should be divided among the three staff members — $1,000 for chef James, and $500 each for Laura and Chris.
But just what was the reason for someone to leave such an incredibly large tip? What had Chris done to elicit such a response from his customer?
Above And Beyond
Occasionally, Chris Nardelli and the chef James Turner would e-mail over food pairings and beer selections to keep the customers informed of new happenings at the restaurant in a bid to attract more diners.
Recently James, under Chris’ instruction, went so far as to email the patron personally, asking him for advance notice on the next time he would be in the restaurant so he could make the gumbo he liked.
The next day, Chris sent a “thank you” e-mail to the man and got an explanation for the crazy tip. “He said he’s very happy with what we’ve built and that he’s proud to be a customer,” Chris said.
The patron also said in the e-mail, “I’m very happy to express my gratitude in that way.”
Each person is using their sudden windfall wisely, too. Chris said he plans to use his money to help offset his toddler’s monthly day-care bill and believes that James will spend his money on his family as well.
Laura, a 29-year-old Silver Spring resident, said she plans to use her $500 to pay for a summer class at Montgomery College. She is working to become an occupational therapist.
“You think, who are these people who give these extraordinarily generous tips that just made a server or bartender’s day? And then, sure enough, it happened to us,” Chris said happily. He shared the story on Facebook.
Chef James also posted a picture of the bill on social media with the caption: “Umm… well, I won’t forget this Memorial Day at Blue44!” But none of them were ready for the explosion that followed.
Soon, Blue 44’s phone was ringing off the hook. People from all over town were calling in to make reservations to try James’ now-famous gumbo. If one customer had tipped $2,000 for it, it must be worth it!
Seeing a golden opportunity, Chris and James put the gumbo on the menu permanently as “Generosity Gumbo”. Soon, the restaurant was packed and business was booming.
With all the attention on social media, local news stations soon caught wind of the story and Blue 44 made national headlines. “We got a lot of calls about our gumbo after that,” Chris says with a laugh.
“It used to be just a soup of the day, but it’s on the menu now.”
A Testament To Good Service
The restaurant’s website also makes mention of the tip that made their gumbo famous. “Since opening, the restaurant has been a three-time consecutive winner of the Washington City paper’s Reader’s Award for Best Fried Chicken” The website reads.
“…written up both nationally and internationally for receiving a $2,000 tip (a testament to the quality of food and service)”
She’d Never Seen Anything Like It
“It’s flattering,” Chris said. “It’s nice to see somebody appreciate what we do and they’re willing to leave something like that for us. It’s hard to believe anyone deserves a tip like that.”
Laura added that in her 10 years of working off and on as a hostess, server or bartender she has “Never! Never have I gotten a tip this big. Never.” And a there was also note on the back of the bill — “Thank you for the Gumbo!”