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TikTok star ignites debate by pranking waitress who was too slow to serve him amid staffing shortage

An actor and TikTok star is under fire for playing a prank on restaurant staff because they were too slow to serve him.

Tommy Bracco, who performed in the Broadway musicals Pretty Woman and Newsies, posted a video last month on TikTok showing his party pretending to have fallen asleep at their table while waiting for service.

“Our waitress was never coming so we took a nap to try to get her attention,” he wrote, adding under his video: “It’s been literally an hour.”

“As a server and restaurant [owner], not funny,” said one commenter on Monday. “Service industry is suffering now ‘cause no one wants to wait on humans like this.”

“Very childish. Are you still in high school?” said another on Tuesday. Some commenters joked that they would have quit if a patron did that to them.

Many urged Mr Bracco to be more sensitive, leaving comments such as: “Restaurants are understaffed. Be kind to those who showed up,” and “please be patient with waitresses, we are short staffed and doing our best”.

Mr Bracco did not respond to a request to comment.

Three quarters of all restaurant owners in the US now report hiring and retention as their biggest problem, according to the National Restaurant Association’s mid-year report for 2021.

Some owners have blamed the situation on pandemic unemployment benefits, but the shortage has continued even after the benefits were taken away.

Instead, many restaurant staff say that they have reached their limit with an industry where long hours, unpredictable working patterns, abusive management and terrible pay are endemic, as well as the safety risks from Covid-19.

“I never imagined the toll of a toxic workplace on my mental health, and now I wonder if life really has to be this way,” wrote former restaurant worker Jane Brendlinger last month. “In March 2020, most of us were cast off as overhead.”

In the comments of his video, Mr Bracco made clear he did not blame the restaurant staff and was aware of the shortage. “Lmaoooo this is 100 per cent a joke everyone. We know it’s her fault and we always tip generously,” he said. “It definitely wasn’t the waitress’s fault. The place was clearly understaffed.”

Many commenters were not convinced. “Tell me you’re white without telling me you’re white,” said one, while another referred to it as “gross”.

Others, including some who said they worked or had worked as waiters, applauded the stunt, saying they would take it in good humour or arguing that there was no excuse for customers having to wait so long.

“People trying to make excuses for the server when it’s legit been an hour. Even if it was one waiter/waitress for the whole place, it shouldn’t take [that long],” said a comment on Monday.