In the midst of all the panic and chaos from the coronavirus outbreak, an anonymous couple gave a glimmer of hope to the employees of a Houston restaurant.
Irma’s Southwest was just one of many restaurants in the Houston area to receive the news Monday that all eateries in Harris County would be required to shut down their dine-in options starting Tuesday in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
After a couple who regularly eats at Irma’s caught wind of the news, they went in for an early dinner on Monday evening and left the staff a $9,400 tip.
— ABC13 Houston (@abc13houston) March 17, 2020
“We didn’t expect it, to be honest with you,” restaurant owner Louis Galvan told CNN. “They left a gratuity for the entire kitchen and service staff, which is unexpected.”
The couple added the large tip — $1,900 in cash, and $7,500 on a credit card — to a $90.12 bill.
On the bill, the couple left a note asking the restaurant to pay out the money to its employees once the shutdown began.
The note read: “Hold tip to pay your guys over the next few weeks.”
Galvan said he isn’t sure when the restaurant, which is now a takeout-only establishment, will be able to reopen.
But KTRK reported that the mandate was set to last for a minimum of 15 days.
Galvan explained that he will be able to split the money between his 30 employees so that they all walk away with about $300 each.
“They were amazed that a client would care enough about them to leave that amount to help them get through this tough time,” Galvan said.
“We’re just trying to make it to that window where everyone has a consistent paycheck,” he added.
Galvan told CNN that his whole staff deep-cleaned the kitchen on Tuesday to prep for to-go orders.
The full menu is not available to order, though takeout options include local favorites like fajitas, enchiladas and tamales
The restaurant is offering the community a 15 percent discount on all orders until things are back to normal.
Galvan said employees will continue to work at the restaurant, even though he may not be able to pay them fully.
“We’re not even worried about profitability at this point. We’re in survival mode,” he told CNN.
“Ultimately, they’re volunteering because we have no idea how long we’re going to be in this situation,” Galvan continued. “It could be 15 days, it could be 150 days, we don’t know.”
He added that his goal in this time of crisis is to simply support his community and his employees to the best of his ability.
“We’ve been in Houston since the ’80s and, we just want to make sure whether we’re doing 10 meals a day or 100 meals a day that we’re here for our residents as much as we can be,” Galvan said.
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