FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The owners of Oven and Tap restaurant, where a $4,400 tip was followed by a server’s firing, want to explain their side of the story.
“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 Arkansas restaurant, said Sunday.
On Dec. 3, tears of joy ran down Ryan Brandt’s face after she and another server received the huge tip to split.
The two waited on a group of 30-plus that goes by the name the $100 Club because everyone tips $100 at the end of a meal.
Happy tears soon turned to tears of sorrow when she was fired from the restaurant.
“I was told that I was going to be giving my cash over to my shift manager, and I would be taking home 20%,” said Brandt.
She said she told the $100 Club that she wouldn’t be able to keep her portion of the money without splitting it with the entire restaurant, which she said led to her firing.
Brandt and her attorney signed a release that permitted both owners to share why she was fired, but they still said it wasn’t their place to comment.
“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.
After news of the firing went viral, the customer raised more than $9,000 for the server in an online fundraiser.
“How awful to treat people like this,” one donor wrote on the page.
“Bad bosses lose good employees. In the end you will be better off,” another said.
Wetzel and Mullis say their tip policy is clear.
Six percent of bar sales go to bartenders, 2% of food sales go to the kitchen, and 1% of food sales go to server assistants.
“That practice did not happen,” said Wetzel.
Brandt said that amount typically comes out of her paycheck, not from the cash tips she leaves with at the end of the night.
Grant Wise, the organizer of the $100 Club, said he called ahead to make sure Oven and Tap was not a restaurant that pools tips.
Mullis disputes that statement.
“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 did ultimately leave with her cut of the cash, but she has been met with a cease-and-desist order from Wetzel and Mullis.
Both Mullis and Wetzel say outside of their normal tip-out policy for support staff, pooling tips with everyone in the restaurant for larger parties is a common practice.
Brandt said in her time at Oven and Tap, they only ever split tips evenly with the servers who actually worked the function.