Food industry workers have been some of the hardest hit by the pandemic.
With fluctuating or no work, safety risks while on the job, and often less-than-appreciative guests, it has been nothing short of a challenging time, especially for waitstaff. But there’s a new trend of people coming together to do something a little extra to show their support!
It started as — what else!? — a TikTok challenge, where @lexylately started crowd-sourcing money to leave an extra big tip for waitstaff in her home city of Nashville. It works well because people can contribute as little or as much as they are able, but if enough people participate every $1 adds up to a lot of help for a worker.
And now it has made its way locally to here in NYC! First, Krista Stucchio (@hashtagfoodpic on Instagram) started this past summer, after she saw the Venmo challenge on TikTok.
“I was showing my family and family friends her videos one day and they asked why I don’t do that on my Instagram page,” she told us. “I never thought about it being an ‘Instagram thing’ but I figured I would try it out. we decided to collect for our dinner that night. It was a short collection time, but we still raised over $150 for our server.
“He was so incredibly grateful and sent the sweetest messages over the next 24 hours,” she continued. “It was such an amazing feeling to have an impact on someone’s life like that and the pandemic is not ending any time soon so I knew I wanted to keep it going.”
Though Krista lives in Hoboken and started there, she has been bringing the extra tips over the bridge into NYC. In the summer she dined out at the new LouLou in Chelsea, leaving $311 for the two waiters who came to her table (along with the regular 20% tip). The funds come from her followers, who range from NYC residents to NJ to Philly.
Then, this past week, she went to Wayla on the Lower East Side, where she left another $360 for their waiter Ken. You can see the reaction here:
The highest she ever raised was a $2,000 tip on Christmas Eve!
She said the process is pretty simple — she shares the news on her Instagram Story and personal Facebook that she’s collecting Venmo donations for an extra big tip for a server. “I usually don’t say where I am going, but this time I let everyone know it would help someone in NYC because everyone knows how bad they are struggling there,” she told us. “I give a deadline (sometimes it’s extended) and people Venmo me. I coordinate getting the cash ready on my end and the tip goes to the server in addition to our 20%+ tip for our meal.”
Local Queens Instagram account @AStoryofAstoria also started doing Venmo challenges around the holidays, first giving a $500 tip to a delivery person, and then leaving $1,000 for a group of waiters while outdoor dining in the neighborhood. Watch the heartwarming reactions here:
Michelle, who runs the account, said they have another one planned for later this month.
We love that this is becoming a trend in NYC, and only hope to see more of it, as food industry workers deserve it so much!