Restaurant staff have had to face stressful working conditions in recent months.
Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images
  • A diner left a $10,000 tip – the equivalent of some R150,000 – for staff at a US restaurant this week.
  • "He said he appreciated that they showed up and what they've been through," its owner told Newsweek.
  • Restaurant staff have faced Covid outbreaks, maskless patrons, and longer hours during the pandemic.
  • See more stories on Business Insider SA's home page.

A diner left a $10,000 tip – the equivalent of around R150,000 – at a seafood restaurant in northern Florida, CBS4 first reported.

Shawn Shepherd, the owner of Wahoo Seafood, told Newsweek that the diner asked to see the 10 members of restaurant staff that were working during his visit on Tuesday.

"He said he appreciated that they showed up and what they've been through," Shepherd said. "He said that he wanted to give everyone a $1,000 tip."

In comparison, the diner spent $144.66 on his meal, a photo of the receipt the restaurant shared on Facebook shows.

Shepherd told Newsweek that this was the biggest tip staff had ever received in his 35 years owning the restaurant.

"The last year and a half hasn't been easy on this industry," Shepherd said in the Facebook post. "We're hurting and we're exhausted, but this incredible act of kindness has restored our faith in humanity."

The pandemic has devastated the restaurant industry in America. Between March 2020 and March 2021, one in 10 US restaurants shuttered permanently, according to a report by food-industry research firm Dataessential, triggering thousands of layoffs.

At restaurants that did stay open, staff have had to face stressful working conditions compounded by Covid-19 outbreaks, maskless customers, and the labour shortage.

While many white-collar workers have worked from home during the pandemic, restaurant staff have largely continued working in person. Even during times when states closed restaurant dining rooms, many continued offering takeout and delivery.

Fast-food workers are "especially vulnerable" to Covid-19 community transmission, a damning report by UCLA and UC Berkeley found. Between July and December 2020, around 15% of Los Angeles County's documented coronavirus workplace outbreaks were at fast-food restaurants, the report found.

Alongside this, restaurant staff have also had to deal with increasingly difficult and impatient customers.

A KFC worker, for example, said in an OSHA complaint that she was threatened, harassed, and even shot with a BB gun on the job during the pandemic, while a restaurant told The New York Times that diners had threatened to sue it after they didn't get the specific table they had requested.

Some of the diners' behaviour is directed towards Covid-19 safety measures, too. One 19-year-old McDonald's worker told Insider she was assaulted after asking a customer to wear a mask. In another case, customers threatened to spit on and cough at front door staff at The Alembic in San Francisco after being asked to show proof of vaccination, Insider's Allana Akhtar reported.

Some restaurant workers said they were afraid to enforce Covid-19 safety precautions in case they miss out on tips.

Finally, the labor shortage means that workers in the hospitality industry are facing longer hours and harder work. A server at a restaurant in Tennessee told CNN that servers were over-stretched, which means customers got worse service and paid lower tips.

One restaurant in Massachusetts even shut down for a day after rude diners swore at staff and made them cry, telling The New York Times that diners seemed unprepared for the longer wait times and limited menus associated with the current staffing and supply shortages.

Get the best of our site emailed to you every weekday.

Go to the Business Insider front page for more stories.