Customer leaves $1,300 tip to support Texas restaurant on day it reopened after coronavirus shutdown
By Alicia Lee, CNN
(CNN) -- The lights were on and tables set at Frog & The Bull on Friday, as the restaurant in Austin, Texas, welcomed back customers to its dining area.
It was already an unforgettable day for owner David Fernandez, who for weeks had looked forward to reopening after the coronavirus stay-at-home order was lifted.
But one customer's welcome back gift made the restaurant's return even more special for Fernandez and his employees.
A man and his family, who had visited the restaurant before, on Friday ordered a filet mignon, scallops, grilled steak and other items. The check came out to a hefty $337. But then the customer asked his server to double charge him.
The server, 18-year-old Josh Pikoff, had never received such a request, so he brought out Fernandez to help.
"He said charge me double for everything and I asked, 'Are you sure?' Fernandez recalled. "He said, 'yes.'
But after the customer received his updated check with the double charge, he then added a $300 tip for Pikoff and another $1,000 "for the house," according to a picture of the check. His total came out to be $2,029.
"I was really shocked at first because I didn't understand why he was giving it to me," Pikoff told CNN. "But he said that he was extremely grateful that we were open and putting ourselves at risk to serve the community."
"I didn't really know what to say," Fernandez told CNN. "It was extremely generous and I was just so wowed by it."
The Frog & The Bull, an Iberian-inspired tapas restaurant, wasn't even five-months-old when the coronavirus pandemic led to an early closure on St. Patrick's Day.
Like most of the restaurant industry in the US, the restaurant was hit hard due to the coronavirus crisis, and Fernandez had to lay off most of his employees.
The skeleton staff tried to keep the restaurant going with a carryout and delivery menu. But the momentum the restaurant had gained in its first five months was lost, and Fernandez said he and his staff were "scraping for survival, literally from payroll to payroll."
"We literally overnight reinvented ourselves from an upscale casual dining establishment into what I told my executive chef had to be a badass food truck without wheels," Fernandez said.
So when Texas' stay-at-home order expired on April 30 and establishments started opening back up Friday, Fernandez was excited.
"We were well prepared to deal with all the advisories," he said. "For example, we can only seat 25% max capacity so we have a very strict seating scheme that's timed out to keep people safe."
The extra money from the generous customer will help the restaurant get back on track with its bills, Fernandez said.
While he doesn't know any further details about the customer, Fernandez said he will make sure the customer is well taken care of the next time he comes around.
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