An Arkansas restaurant is disputing a fired server’s and customer’s story that the waitress was terminated for receiving a generous $4,400 tip from a large party.
"We did not know walking into this experience how much money and what this generous act really looked like," Mollie Mullis, co-owner of the Bentonville restaurant Oven and Tap, said Sunday, KNWA/KFTA reported.
Waitress Ryan Brandt and another server waited on a party of more than 30 people on Dec. 3. The members of the dining party are known as "the $100 Club" because everyone tips $100 at the end of the meal.
"We knew servers were really hit hard through COVID, and it was something that we had come up with to help give back," diner Grant Wise, who owns a real estate company, told CBS 5.
The diners each chipped in $100 that day, leaving a tip totaling $4,400 for the two servers to split.
"To be able to stand right there, next to her and let her know what people, that she had no clue who they were, from out of the country had done, it was an amazing, amazing feeling," Wise said of Brandt’s reaction.
But Brandt’s happiness soon drained when she was told she could only take 20% of the tip and hand over the rest to her shift manager for the restaurant to divvy it up. She said the tip then led to her firing.
"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 Fox 59.
"They fired me from Oven and Tap over the phone and I’ve been there for 3 1/2 years and that was really heartbreaking," Brandt told CBS 5. "Especially because I didn’t think I did anything wrong."
Wise said he demanded the restaurant hand over the $2,200 to Brandt after he found out about the incident. She ultimately received the money, but was fired the next day.
Wise also said that before the tip was made, he called the restaurant to make sure the tip would go to the servers.
Mullis says that’s not true.
"They did not call ahead and ask about our tipping policy nor did they email," said Mullis. "Because of the customer’s request, we honored it and handed it out to the servers that they asked us to distribute it to."
Brandt and her lawyer signed a release that allows the owners to reveal why she was fired. But the co-owners told KNWA/KFTA it wasn’t their place to say why she was terminated, only explaining it was not 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, we do not discuss employee affairs," the co-owner of Oven and Tap Luke Wetzel said.
Oven and Tap did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment on whether the owners will reveal why she was fired.
"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 added in a statement. "The other two servers who received generous tips that evening from the Witly organization — including one who also received $2,200 — are still members of our team."
They did explain that the restaurant’s tipping policy is clear to servers: 6% of bar sales go to bartenders; 2% of food sales go to kitchen staff; 1% of food sales go to server assistants.
"That practice did not happen," said Wetzel.
Wise launched a GoFundMe page for Brandt after she was terminated, which has nearly $9,000 as of Tuesday morning.