HOUSTON - A Heights restaurant got a heart-warming surprise in its tip jar this weekend.
Cavatore Italian Restaurant has been family-run for 36 years, and like most restaurants, it’s struggling to keep employees paid during the COVID crisis.
“It’s definitely a scary time, but our patrons have kept our morale going and our business open,” says owner Federico Cavatore.
“It’s hard as a business owner to know that you can’t do anything except put all that you have in this business and come up with new ideas and try new things,” he says.
Cavatore is selling kids take-home pizza kits, putting on car washes and drawing in customers through funny videos on social media laughs, anything he can think of to add to his employees’ payroll.
“They’ve been behind us 100%. They are here. They’re working.
They have a great attitude, and they don’t show what you would typically see on somebody that’s hurting right now,” says Cavatore.
But some unexpected help came Friday night with a takeout order.
He says a long time customer ordered a meal, and the total came to a $19.49 But when the customer signed the receipt, she filled out a hefty thousand dollar tip which left the server speechless.
“Handed it to me and just said, Look!” he says. “[They] didn’t know what else to say. When the staff found out, you could hear cheers go through the restaurant. We needed that.”
The gift of a grand was split between four servers working that shift, but the biggest payoff could have been the lift in their spirits.
“You should’ve seen how everyone stepped it up and the laughter. It was like we weren’t closed for regular business,” says Cavatore.
The customer also wrote the message “stay strong” on the receipt.
“You see the best in people when you don’t think it’s going to happen,” says the owner.
He says he knows the big tipper well and called her to say thanks.
He hopes her kindness uplifts their extended family of staff and customers and sends them a message of renewed strength.
“Stay safe and keep living,” adds Cavatore.
He also started a GoFundMe page for money to go directly to employees. You can show support by visiting their website or picking up a to-go order at their location at 2120 Ella Blvd.