All over the world, whole cities, and even countries, are on lockdown in a bid to fend off infections from COVID-19. Offices, restaurants, stores – practically all establishments have been ordered closed or face the risk of a shutdown, and everyone advised to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus.
While some businesses and their staff will have the luxury of working from home, many other business owners and daily wage earners, such as store workers, laborers, and restaurant staff, are now in limbo. The situation is particularly worrisome as it is expected to play out for a few months.
With incomes screeching to a halt because of the shutdown, employees are left wondering how they can support their families. A generous couple in Houston, however, has sent a message of positivity in these uncertain times.
According to Louis Galvan, owner of the popular Houston restaurant Irma’s Southwest, the patrons left a huge tip, amounting to $9,400, after learning that the lockdown required that all restaurants in the county close their dining rooms, and only offer takeout and delivery services. The couple had come for an early dinner, and were regular customers at the restaurant.
Established in 1998, Irma’s Southwest traces its roots to a sandwich shop opened by Irma Galvan in 1988. After converting the menu to Mexican fare, Galvan’s tasty dishes merited a James Beard award, and features on the Food Network.
The touching gesture was not only a way of showing appreciation for their service, but also concern for welfare of the staff who are victims of the shutdown. Louis Galvan said, “We didn’t expect it, to be honest with you. They left a gratuity for the entire kitchen and service staff, which is unexpected.” After dining, the pair, who wish to remain anonymous, left $1,900 in cash and put another $7,500 tip on a credit card. And their bill? The whole meal cost $90.12.
Health officials are implementing widespread and aggressive restrictions to keep COVID-19 at bay, and prevent the healthcare system from buckling. Everyone will be affected, but whole swathes of the population will suffer even more. The couple encouraged the staff with a note on the restaurant receipt, “hold tip to pay your guys over the next few weeks.”
Galvan said that the amount would be split among the 30 employees in the business, so each member of the staff will get $300 each. He said, “They were amazed that a client would care enough about them to leave that amount to help them get through this tough time.”
As to when things will go back to normal, Galvan is unsure, although he estimates that it will be a minimum of 15 days. “We’re just trying to make it to that window where everyone has a consistent paycheck,” he said.
The restaurant, as with many other businesses, have adjusted to working under the new restrictions. Irma’s Southwest has been cleaned and disinfected in preparation for a limited service, offering take out and food delivery only.
The restaurant also limited its menu, focusing on popular items such as fajitas, their famous tamales, and other popular Mexican dishes.
Galvan shared, “We’re not even worried about profitability at this point. We’re in survival mode.” He added that the staff will continue to come to keep to work even though their wages may not be paid on time.
The aim is simply to keep the restaurant open and afloat. “Ultimately, they’re volunteering because we have no idea how long we’re going to be in this situation. It could be 15 days, it could be 150 days, we don’t know.”
While some restaurants will be letting go of their workers until the COVID-19 crisis is over, Galvan is intent on supporting this employees. He is also helping the community with a 15% discount on all orders.
“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.”
To learn more about this amazing act of generosity to help restaurant staff survive during the shutdown, watch news video below: