WESTLAKE, Ohio (WJW) — The return of patio season is a breath of fresh air for the staff at Panini’s in Westlake, after weathering the COVID-19 storm that shut down the restaurant’s dine-in business in March.
“We had to change gears. We went to carry-out, with the advertising that we did, our local support here, our good customer base, they came in and they got us through. It was difficult so we did enough just to pay the bills,” said owner Nick LaVigna.
The owners of Panini’s decided to reopen on Memorial Day and the staff had the responsibility of enforcing social distancing guidelines.
“People can’t get out of their chairs and roam around and interact like they normally do, and they get really upset with you, but we try to tell them, ‘we don’t like telling people they have to sit down,’” said assistant manager Tonya Busa.
A Westlake woman and her husband, who are regular customers, were so happy to be back on the Panini’s patio after the shutdown, and so impressed with how employees handled the new guidelines, that they opened a second tab for one cent, and gave a $1000 tip, to be shared by all of the employees of the restaurant.
Server Becca Laule told FOX 8, “Completely stunned, utterly shell-shocked; I mean, it was super nice of them. It was great that they had everybody split it. It was awesome.”
“It’s overwhelming that they were so generous, that they appreciate everything we do for them; I mean, these customers have been customers here a really long time,” added Tonya Busa.
FOX 8 News spoke with the couple that left the generous tip. They asked that we not identify them, but they also told us that they consider the gratuity their way of showing their appreciation for the team at Panini’s.
While deflecting any attention away from themselves, the couple said that they would be happy if their act of kindness would inspire other customers to support the hospitality industry, as workers get back on their feet from the shutdown. “I saw that it had 100 and some shares or something already, and I was like ‘holy cow,’ like it took off, maybe it’ll rub off on other people,” said Becca Laule.