An anonymous diner who left a $16,000 tip on a $38 bill is being praised for his generosity and kindheartedness, especially after the coronavirus pandemic devastated the restaurant industry.
The tip was left on a bill at the Stumble Inn Bar & Grill in Londonderry, New Hampshire, on June 12. Restaurant owner Mike Zarella told TODAY Food that the man, who wanted to remain anonymous, had seemed like a regular diner until he paid the bill.
"A gentlemen came in at the bar and ordered a beer and a couple of chili cheese dogs, and then he ordered pickle chips and a Patron (tequila) drink," Zarella said. "At around 3:30, he asked the bartender … for the check. She gave it to him and walked away, and then he said to her, 'Don't spend it all in one place.'"
Zarella said that, because the restaurant was busy, the bartender didn't look at the check right away, waiting to "get a break" before submitting the payment. However, when the diner joked about not spending it "all in one place" multiple times, she went and looked at the amount.
"She said, 'Oh my god, are you kidding me?' She said, 'No, no, that's crazy,' and he said, 'No, I want you to have this," Zarella said. "He's come in a few times since then … Last Saturday night he came in, I sat with him to talk with him for a couple of minutes. I told him that we were all uncomfortable with that kind of money, and he said no, he wanted this to happen."
"He’s kind of a mystery man," bartender Michelle McCudden told NBC Boston. "I’ve been doing this a very long time and I never thought anything like this would happen to me."
Zarella said the amount will be split among the eight bartenders who work at the establishment, which refers to employees as bartenders instead of servers. Some money will also be distributed to kitchen workers. He also said he waited until June 21 to post about the act because he wanted to make sure that the payment would go through, but now that it's cleared, the restaurant staff is looking forward to the extra money, which he compared to receiving a "double or triple paycheck."
"People that are well-deserving got a huge tip," said Zarella. "Last week, they were worried it didn't go through, so they didn't count on it. Now they're like, 'Wow.' Some of them are single moms, now planning a vacation. They're getting good money out of it. They're really overwhelmed. They're like, 'Wow, I can go do this this summer. I didn't budget for that, now I can do that.' It's really fantastic."
Zarella said the money is especially welcome after a difficult year, when the pandemic forced more than 110,000 restaurants and bars to close.
"It just says there's good, kindhearted people out there that realize that people might have to struggle," he said. While the restaurant has a "very good customer base" and New Hampshire "didn't get hit as hard" as other areas, they've still struggled with enforcing safety rules and meeting various restrictions. "Maybe this gentleman saw how hard it was."