FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Friday, Ryan Brandt was one of two servers waiting on a party of more than forty people at Oven and Tap in Bentonville.

When it came time to pay the bill, each person left a $100 dollar tip for a collective $4,400 for the two waitresses.

“It was an incredible thing to do and to see her reaction was awesome, to see what that meant to her the impact that it’s had on her life already,” says Grant Wise. 

Wise owns the real estate company Witly. He says he called ahead to the restaurant and asked about the tipping policy, to make sure everything would go smoothly.

But he says, things did not go according to plan.

“I was told that I was going to be giving my cash over to my shift manager, and I would be taking home 20%,” says Brandt. 

Brandt says the restaurant asked her to share the tip with her co-workers. Something she says has never happened in the three and a half years she worked at Oven and Tap.

Wise says pooling tips with those who didn’t wait on his party, was not his intention. He asked the restaurant to return the gratuity and he gave the cash to Brandt outside.

Brandt says after that she was fired, leaving her no way to cover her bills.

“It was devastating, I borrowed a significant amount for student loans. Most of them were turned off because of the pandemic but they’re turning back on in January and that’s a harsh reality,” says Brandt. 

Brandt says the restaurant told her she was let go because she violated policy by telling Wise about pooling the tips.

KNWA asked Oven and Tap if that was true. They declined to talk with us but did provide KNWA with a statement. 

“After dining, this large group of guests requested that their gratuity be given to two particular servers. We fully honored their request. Out of respect for our highly valued team members, we do not discuss the details surrounding the termination of an employee.”

Oven & Tap owners Mollie Mullis and Luke Wetzel released a statement via email on December 10 to KNWA:

“We commend the organization that dined with us and generously gave to our staff. They have an absolute right to tip whoever they want, and we honored that request.

Oven & Tap doesn’t deliver terminations lightly. Because we value our employees and highly respect their privacy, we never discuss personnel issues. 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 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. 

Oven & Tap has always been committed to providing fair and quality compensation to all members of our restaurant team. We recognize and regret that a recent incident in our restaurant could have been handled differently by reminding our team how we would be splitting any tips prior to the event, however, our policy has always been to participate in a tip pool/share with the staff. Tip sharing is a common restaurant industry practice that we follow to ensure all of our team members are adequately compensated for their hard work.”

Now, Wise has started an online fundraising campaign to help Brandt out.