One customer washed dishes while another brewed coffee at a Waffle House in Alabama

By Rachel DeSantis
November 13, 2019 12:02 PM
Waffle House
Credit: Raymond Boyd/Getty

A late-night Waffle House run turned into a chance to do some good for a group of customers who got to work upon realizing that the restaurant’s lone employee needed the help.

Ethan Crispo was headed home from a friend’s party early Nov. 3 when he stopped at a Waffle House in Birmingham, Alabama for a midnight snack.

Upon arrival, he noticed that one worker, a man whose name tag indicated his name was Ben, was doing it all, from taking orders and cleaning dishes to busing tables and making food.

“It’s becoming clear I’ll be going home with an empty stomach,” Crispo told “From the blue, a man from the bar stands up. Asks Ben for an apron, and begins to work behind the counter. It was a transition so smooth I initially assumed it was a staff member returning to their shift.”

It wasn’t, but that didn’t stop the mystery man from helping out to the best of his ability, stepping in to help do dishes while Ben handled the rest.

Eventually, other customers did the same, including Alison Stanley, who volunteered her services brewing coffee even though she was wearing a dress and stiletto heels.

“I don’t think it’s anything that’s special,” she told TODAY. “He needed help, so I got up and helped out.”

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Crispo’s photos chronicling the night soon went viral, and he said that an additional customer helped out, too, over the next hour, taking care of the more than 25 patrons who’d come to the restaurant seeking grub.

Pat Warner, director of public relations and external affairs for Waffle House, said in a statement to PEOPLE that Ben wasn’t supposed to be the only staffer on duty, but was because of a “communication mix-up.”

“That left Ben, our cook, alone in the restaurant with hungry customers. He worked the grill and got the orders out,” the statement read. “We are blessed that many of our customers feel like they are part of our Waffle House family. There is a sense of community in each and every one of our restaurants, and we appreciate the fact that they consider our associates like family.”

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Warner also thanked Ben for keeping the restaurant open: “He is a testament to our Waffle House culture by always putting the customer first.”

As for Crispo, he said he was thrilled to have witnessed people joining forces for a good cause.

“It was the most fascinating thing,” he told “It was just one of the most wild instances of really, really cool people just coming together.”

He added to TODAY, “Humanity truly isn’t good, it’s great.”

Meanwhile, Warner joked that if the mystery customer doing dishes was “looking for a side hustle, I hope he comes in and fills out an application.”