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Former NFL star leaves $1,000 tip on $37 tab to help restaurant employees during the pandemic

Chad Johnson played for the Cinncinatti Bengals from 2001-2010
Marc Serota

Former NFL star Chad Johnson is doing his part to help restaurant employees during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, the retired athlete left a $1,000 tip for his server at Havana's Cuban Cuisine in Cooper City, Florida. His meal cost $37, meaning he tipped about 2,703%.

"Congrats on re-opening, sorry about the pandemic, hope this helps. I love you," the 42-year-old Florida native wrote on the receipt.

After being closed for about two months due to the coronavirus pandemic, Havana's, along with other restaurants in the same county, got the go-ahead to reopen for dine-in service at 50% capacity the day Johnson stopped by. The Cuban spot thanked him on their Facebook page, writing: "We greatly appreciate your generosity to our employees now during these most difficult times."

The restaurant had to lay off half their staff and reduce hours for the employees currently employed, a spokesperson tells CNBC Make It: "We opened for dine-in at 50% capacity this last Monday, but have not seen too many people come to dine in. ... It was a very slow start, but it seems to be getting better at a very slow rate."

The waitress who earned the tip shared it with her coworkers, the restaurant confirmed.

Other generous tippers have emerged during the coronavirus shutdown, including one couple that left $9,400 after their $90 meal at a restaurant in Houston, Texas, just before it had to close in March. They wrote on the tab, "hold tip to pay your guys over the next few weeks," CNN reported.

The restaurant industry has been hit hard as the efforts to slow the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep Americans at home. The National Restaurant Association estimates that 3 million industry employees have already lost their jobs, and U.S. restaurants are expected take a $225 billion sales hit through May.

Tipping is one way to help servers at your favorite local joint. You can also buy gift cards to help out small businesses right now.

"A great way to support restaurants is to order in a little bit more than usual," New York City-based food truck owner Howard Jeon tells CNBC Make It. And, "When this is all over, go out and eat out as much as you can."

Being friendly also goes a long way, adds Jeon, who was forced to close the food truck he co-owns in March and delay the grand opening of his restaurant. "If you do see a restaurant owner or a restaurant employee, just be nice."

Don't miss: These New Yorkers were set to open a restaurant in March—then the coronavirus pandemic hit

Check out: The best credit cards of 2020 could earn you over $1,000 in 5 years

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How the pandemic affected this NYC food truck
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