Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are two of the most powerful men in the world.
As the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett built what was once a struggling textile mill into a financial conglomerate now worth $472 billion. Gates co-founded Microsoft, which helped revolutionize personal computing and boasts a market cap of more than $767 billion. Both captains of industry are billionaires many times over: Buffett is worth $81.4 billion according to Forbes, and Bill Gates is worth $92.3 billion.
So you might imagine that when the two meet for a meal, it's serious business.
Not so, Ellen Augustine tells CNBC Make It. Augustine is a part-time waitress at Gorat's, one of Buffett's favorite steakhouses in Omaha, Nebraska. And previously, she worked for 16 years at another one of Buffett's Omaha favorites, Piccolo Pete's Italian steakhouse, before it closed in 2016.
Augustine says she has waited on Buffett dozens of times — more than a hundred perhaps — since he first started coming to Piccolo's (in May 2005, according to the restaurant's former general manager, Scott Sheehan). And Buffett would frequently bring along Gates, who is a close friend to the legendary investor.
"Mr. Buffett is always himself," says Augustine, who has a full-time day job teaching economics to sophomores at Omaha South High School. "I've waited on him with big head honchos of GE, Bill Gates, Alex Rodriguez, Ben Stein and he acts pretty much the same exact way as he does when I wait on him and his family.
"He's always excited," she explains. "Every time I've seen him, I've never heard a complaint; I've never seen a bad look on his face. It's just like he has this natural high all the time."
Several years ago, Ryan Basye, a Nebraska real estate agent captured one such lunch in a selfie — it shows Buffett and Gates eating at Piccolo's in the background.
"I live in Omaha so you see him around town," Basye tells CNBC Make It."We were just so close that I decided to do it. We weren't going to bother them or anything."
At Piccolo's, Buffett usually did most of the talking while Gates did most of the eating, Augustine jokes.
"[Buffett] never ate much," she says. "I've never seen him finish his plate. He'd kind of pick at it, but he likes to talk. So if you're talking, you're not chewing."
Buffett liked to order veal with no gravy and a side of lemon, or chicken parmesan for lunch, or chicken noodle soup, she recalls. He was also fond of the T-bone and fillets of steak. Most meals came with a Cherry Coke to drink, though "For a short time he did a Diet Coke with lime, but that didn't last," says Augustine. And there was often a root beer float for dessert.
Unlike Buffett's nibbling, "Bill Gates would clean his plate: a large T-bone, baked potatoes, side of spaghetti and drink the really large root beer float," Augustine laughs. "Mr. Buffett would tease him, 'You know you want a second, just order it!'"
The billionaire pals would stop by Piccolo's together at least twice a year, she says, often after playing in a nearby bridge tournament (a card game of which both Gates and Buffett are avid fans). Buffett, who lives in Omaha, came much more frequently with a variety of guests.
Piccolo's was an institution in Omaha for 81 years, according to the Omaha World-Herald. It was run by sisters Donna Piccolo Sheehan and Dee Piccolo Graves, relatives of the original founder, Joseph Piccolo. He first came to Omaha from Italy in 1909.
The restaurant's famous sign is inspired by a photograph of Joseph's son Anthony.
Although the restaurant is closed today, former GM Scott Sheehan (Donna's son), has opened a food truck to keep the cuisine alive.
It's called Anthony Piccolo's, and while Buffett hasn't eaten from the truck yet, Sheehan tells CNBC Make It that he has come by for a tour.
A representative for Warren Buffett confirmed to CNBC Make It the details of his meals with Gates.
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