Despite being a national chain restaurant, Applebee’s has always promoted itself as part of a “neighborhood,” a place where locals regularly gather to eat and hang, a place where everybody knows who you are. It’s evident in slogans like “Eating good in the neighborhood.”
Two mysterious Pennsylvania patrons are taking that good neighbor spirit to a new level.
On Tuesday, September 26th, a mother named Jolie Welling was celebrating the birthday of her 6-year-old daughter, Sofia. She invited a group of friends and family out to dinner at Applebee’s.
With 16 guests in total, they didn’t expect the bill to be light.
“We had drinks, appetizers, full-course meals,” Welling told WTAE. “We brought our own dessert… but that’s pretty expensive right there.”
So imagine their shock when the waitress arrived at their table with what they thought was the bill—and instead gave them some good news.
“She came over and announced to the table that an anonymous person paid our whole tab.”
The party had no idea how to react.
“We were like, ‘What? Who?'” Welling recalled to WTAE. “She was like, ‘I can’t tell you, they want to be anonymous.'”
“The next thing, when we finally realized it, we started tearing up.”
Even their server, Samantha Powell, couldn’t hold back her emotions.
“I was almost in tears,” Powell told KDKA. “It touches me, too.”
She knew who the mysterious benefactor was—but was sworn to secrecy.
“He approached me to tell me to give him the check for that table,” she recalled. “[They] wanted to know who it was, but I would not tell them.”
It turns out, this wasn’t the first time he’s picked up someone’s tab at the restaurant.
The mysterious man and his wife randomly buy someone’s meal two to three times a month.
According to Powell, they’ve been at this for years. She wouldn’t reveal their identity, but did say that they owned a business in the area.
Powell added that whenever she spoke to the man, he gave a very simple answer about why he was being so generous.
“He always says, ‘I grew up poor and now I’m not,’ and that is all he says.”
Darla Pepper-Miller, the music director of the Church of the Covenant, also recalled receiving the couple’s generosity a few months ago. She had been out celebrating the birthday of one of the choir members when the server announced the bill was taken care of.
Pepper-Miller was touched by the act of kindness.
“Just gratitude because of everything going on in the world and so much turmoil and protests and hatred,” Pepper-Miller told KDKA, “It’s good to know that there are people that care about each other and give, pay it forward.”
She said the good deed inspired her to pay it forward, and purchase a meal for somebody else.
Likewise, it was a reaffirming moment for Welling—who was especially grateful her young daughter was a witness to the kindness.
“Life is so complicated as it is, and you just work and work and work and struggle, and you try to enjoy every moment you can,” she told WTAE.
“Having my 6-year-old see that someone did this act of kindness really shows her that there are good people in this world.”
“It made me happy,” added the 6-year-old.