Tiana Burton with a tray of lobster rolls at The Taste of Maine Restaurant. Contributed photo

With inflation on the rise and business slow, Taste of Maine Restaurant servers Ashleigh McElman and Tiana Burton were stunned when they received extremely large tips from a customer this past Fourth of July weekend.

Burton has been working at the restaurant for over a year now and couldn’t believe the $400 tip she received after deciding to cover a shift for her co-worker.

“Receiving that tip was an absolute blessing, especially on a busy holiday,” Burton said. “I picked up a shift so that another co-worker could have the day off. But spending the Fourth at the restaurant was like spending the day with my extended family. I was happy to be there.”

The same customer returned with their family two days later, leaving an $800 tip for McElman.

McElman and Burton are keeping mum as to who the customer is, out of respect for the customer’s privacy.

McElman has been working at the restaurant for 16 years and said her customers have always been generous but said she was “blown away by this tip.”


Maine state law requires that all tipped employees make a minimum of $12.75 per hour, but that hourly wage includes whatever tips they collect. Servers at the Taste of Maine Restaurant get to keep 100% of the tips they make.

“A tip like that goes a long way, especially in these times where it feels like everyday expenses have increased tenfold,” Burton said. “It makes going to the grocery store or gas station hurt a little less, at least for the moment.”

Having dipped into her savings to pay for her dog’s cancer treatment, McElman said the $800 tip cushioned that financial blow.

“An act of kindness like that made me cry,” McElman said. “I’ve had the pleasure of waiting on this family before and they are always so friendly. Even one of their children, who must be around 10 years old, asked if I had a broom that he could use to sweep up the crumbs on the floor from the baby dining with them.”

Burton and McElman said business has been slow and believe it’s due to the high gas prices but hope things will pick up in the next few weeks.

“Last year was a crazy busy season as the COVID-19 restrictions let up and everyone was itching to get out,” McElman said. “This season has been a bit slower and upon asking surrounding restaurants and businesses this seems to be the general consensus.”


The Maine Office of Tourism reported that 15.6 million visitors came to Maine in 2021 and hoped to reach 16.5 million in 2022. However, with a semi-successful 2021 tourist season and a promising 2022, it won’t repair the damage done in 2020 to the hospitality industry.

Portlandfoodmap.com reported over 20 restaurant closures in the last two years in the Portland area alone.

McElman said she has her fingers crossed for a lucrative summer season for all Mainers.

“It’s been a rough couple years for everyone,” McElman said. “We’re all in this together and it’s important to treat each other kindly, not even financially but with common courtesy and compassion. Being in the service industry it’s refreshing to experience guests who are laid back, happy and considerate of us as well.”

Ashleigh McElman working at Taste of Maine Restaurant. Facebook photo

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