ORLANDO, Fla. – Big Fin Seafood Kitchen surprised its employees with a cash bonus upon returning to work.
Like most restaurants, Big Fin had to shut down when the coronavirus pandemic hit and had to furlough its 35 employees in the process. For Melody Pierce, a server at the restaurant for more than two years, it wasn’t easy.
“I was very concerned,” Pierce said. “I have four children, and I have a husband who was injured at work, so he hasn’t been able to work as well. So needless to say, we were in a trying situation.”
Big Fin was able to keep the lights on, thanks to take out orders and tips. After the first weekend, general manager Michael Venutolo proposed the idea to set aside the tip money and give it back to the staff.
“We as a management team discussed it as a whole,” Venutolo said. “It wasn’t just my decision. We decided it as a group. We were still getting paychecks. However, our hard-working staff was not and we felt it was the right thing to do.”
The managers saved $5,000 in cash. And when owner Philippe Villain got word of it, he decided to double the amount to make it $10,000.
"My partner Kevin and I decided that we would match all that and sort of double the load for our staff," Villain said. "So you know we feel all very sorry for our staff that weren't able to earn money during the time we were closed, and we're doing the best we can to help them out."
The additional check is a surprise for the employees. For those like Pierce, it’s a sigh of relief.
“I was very taken aback to be honest with you,” Pierce said. “I was already grateful that we have the owners that we have. They were able to keep things afloat and obviously they had to have been hemorrhaging. So that was very unexpected.”