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On Friday, Ryan Brandt was one of two servers waiting on a party of more than 40 people at Oven and Tap in Bentonville, Arkansas. She was fired after receiving a $4,400 tip from customers.

Grant Wise, a local real estate company owner, organized a "$100 Dinner Club" to dine at the Oven and Tap, with each member contributing a $100 tip. Wise presented one of the waitresses, Brandt, with a cheque of $4,400 to split between her and another waitress who served the group.

Wise had come up with the "$100 Dinner Club" idea during the pandemic knowing that many servers were struggling under COVID-related shutdowns. He hosted a real estate conference in Arkansas and started the Oven and Tap event to pay forward. He said that the restaurant confirmed that they did not have a policy regarding sharing tips with the whole servers beforehand.

"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," recalled Wise. He called ahead to the restaurant and asked about the tipping policy to make sure everything would go smoothly. But he told KNWA things did not go according to plan.

Brandt said that restaurant managers directed her to split the tip with all of her co-workers. According to Brandt, it was something they have not requested in the three and a half years she has worked at Oven and Tap. She was told to give the cash over to the shift manager and get just 20% of the total tip.

Wise said collecting tips with those who didn't wait on his party was not his intention. He asked the restaurant to return the cash and he gave it to Brandt outside. Brandt said after that, she was fired, leaving her with no source of income 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," said Brandt.

According to Brandt, the restaurant said that she was fired because she violated policy by telling Wise about tips policy. Brandt, who studied Spanish at the University of Arkansas, was devastated as she had planned to use the tip to help pay off her student loans. Now, Wise has started an online fundraising campaign to help Brandt out.

Oven and Tap was asked to confirm the issue. They declined an interview 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."

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