Working in the restaurant industry reveals some hard truths about customer service.
Restaurant owners and staff deal with everything from drunk and disorderly customers to people who dine and dash on their tabs.
Pubs are a popular place in the U.K. to watch local soccer games
Local restaurants can become popular establishments in certain neighborhoods, which is certainly the case at Kilimandjaro restaurant in Middlesbrough, United Kingdom.
Pubs like Kilimandjaro are popular with football (a.k.a. soccer) fans.
A restaurant with a Caribbean twist
Kilimandjaro restaurant was owned by a man named Apollo, who was originally from Burkina Faso.
His restaurant boasted Caribbean food with an exotic twist and became a crowd favorite in Middlesborough, the English town famous for its soccer club.
Serving up fan-favorite food
Soccer fans in the area frequent Kilimandjaro to watch the local Middlesbrough F.C. team play.
The restaurant's trademark dish, the Waka Waka Chicken, is considered a fan favorite.
Not all customers are the same
Apollo had to learn the hard way more than once that not all customers are created equal.
In fact, one particular group of customers left the restaurant owner feeling defeated and angry.
It started out as a regular gameday Friday
It was a regularly busy soccer game day at Kilimandjaro. Customers had flooded the restaurant for the soccer game, and business was booming.
But what started out as a regular morning at the restaurant eventually descended into chaos for the staff.
Some soccer fans dined and dashed
Some guests from out of town arrived and dined at the establishment, racked up a tab, and then left without paying.
Apollo and his staff members were left annoyed and exhausted after the rush.
Apollo was away from the restaurant at the time
Apollo wasn't at the restaurant for this particular game— his staff had done this many times before.
At the time, he was with his family and the last thing he expected was a phone call from his manager.
The men weren't locals; they had a different accent
The manager reported that three men had come through the door for lunch that day.
It was easy to tell that they weren't locals because they didn't know anyone else, and their accents were very distinguishable.
They ordered the restaurant's most popular dish
The men who had wandered into the restaurant sat down and ordered food and drinks. The waiter specifically recalled their order.
Two of the men ordered the popular Waka Waka Chicken with cheese, but their friend preferred no cheese.
The food was excellent, there were no complaints
When the food was served, staff members overheard the men describe how much they loved the meal.
About 30 minutes later, the men had finished eating and called for the bill.
The Kilimandjaro's hot sauce was the hot topic at the table
The men at the table had become visibly distracted by Kilimandjaro's secret, signature sauce.
They tasted the sauce and found it similar to Nando's but with its own unique flavor.
They were told they can't pay with card
The three men had called for the checks and each had their credit cards out to pay the tab. Unfortunately, the server informed them that the restaurant accepted cash only.
Their tab was 35 pounds, which is about $43 today— it wasn't overly expensive.
The server gave them time to run to a bank or ATM
The server left to attend to other tables and give the men time to use an ATM or run to a nearby bank.
However, the three men never made it to the ATM.
The men left without paying
When the server returned she was shocked to find the table completely vacant.
The men had left without paying and they had taken all of their bags and belongings, with what appeared to be no intention of coming back.
The staff decided to call Apollo and tell him what happened
When the server reported the incident to the manager, they made the decision to call Apollo and let him know about the seemingly delinquent customers.
As expected, he wasn't thrilled about the whole situation.
Apollo prides himself on honesty
Apollo, who was born in Burkina Faso, admitted he was angry to hear what had happened.
He prides himself on honesty and credits his values to his home country, which is known as "The Land of Honest People."
He was annoyed about the incident
Now living in the United Kingdom, Apollo sees integrity as one of the most important qualities in his staff and customers.
Understandably, he was annoyed that the reputation he had been building was impacted by these three non-local men.
He was losing faith in customers
Apollo even admitted that people like the men who didn't pay have caused him to lose faith in humanity.
In response to the incident, Apollo instructed his staff to remain at tables until a transaction was complete. Still, he hoped that the clients would return one day to settle the tab.
Apollo waited at the restaurant for the men to possibly return
A few days went by, and Apollo made a point of staying at the restaurant during business hours in case the three men decided to return.
But time went by, and there was no sign of them. Apollo had almost given up on the incident altogether. He was working in the office one day when he heard a knock on the door.
One day Apollo received a letter
When Apollo opened the office door, he was surprised to see one of his servers holding an envelope.
The employee said they had an important message that he needed to read right now. Apollo opened the letter.
The envelope included cash and a typed note
When Apollo opened the letter, he shook the contents out onto his desk and was shocked to find £40 (about $50) in notes.
He spoke to a local news outlet, the Gazette Live, and recalled his shock to find the money.
The letter was from the men who had left without paying
Along with the cash in the envelope was a typed letter explaining what the money was for and who it was from.
The letter was signed "Tim, Alex, and Harry."
They explained what had happened that day
The letter explained that the party of three had left the restaurant in search of an ATM, commonly referred to as a "cash machine" in the U.K.
But they didn't end up making it.
The men nearly missed their train and chose to run for it
The letter explained, "On our search for an A.T.M, it was apparent that the last train to our hometown was shortly about to depart."
The men had to make a last-minute decision.
They forgot about the ATM and the tab and raced home
The letter continued: "This diverted our attention away from finding an ATM machine and led to us running down to the train station and just making our train."
When the men realized that they were not going to be able to pay their bill they came up with a plan to send the letter and cash by post.
When they realized what they had done they knew they needed to apologize
They admitted, "It was at this point, being too late, we realized our actions and decided to write this letter of apology with £40 enclosed in this envelope."
An apology and cash were not the only things that the customers offered.
They sent back the money and promised to leave a five-star review
The customers also promised to leave a "positive five-star review of [the] establishment on Trip Advisor."
They signed their letter with "Apologies" and told staff it is with their "deepest regret" that they are not able to make it to Kilimandjaro's to apologize in person.
It was a genuine mistake
Apollo was moved by the situation. He said "We can tell it was a genuine mistake. It was just amazing."
Before adding that even his staff were shocked by the gesture, “Everyone was shocked and people are finding it really touching."
The men didn't include a return address
Unfortunately, Tom, Alex, and Harry forgot to include a return address on the stationary.
They also didn't include a phone number, which left Apollo with no proper way to contact them and thank them.
Apollo shared the story on social media in hopes of finding them
So Apollo decided to share the letter on social media in hopes that Tom, Alex, and Harry might see the post on Facebook.
The post racked up dozens of likes from locals in the area who were moved by the gesture.
Tom, Alex, and Harry reminded Apollo that people are mostly good
Working in the restaurant service industry can be both rewarding and exhausting.
But customers like Tom, Alex, and Harry prove that not every situation is as it appears on the surface. Sometimes, an apology might be on the way in the mail.
"I thought those kinds of people had disappeared from the planet"
Nobody was more surprised by the incident than Apollo himself.
He told the Gazette Live, "I didn't think people still did that. I thought those kinds of people had disappeared from the planet."