After 180 diners at a Florida restaurant received a free meal from a stranger on Sunday night, locals (and soon, the Internet) were buzzing that the generous benefactor was the 84-year-old woman who recently won the largest Powerball jackpot in history.
While the woman who picked up the nearly $2,600 tab at Buddy Freddy's in Plant City resembled lottery winner Gloria C. MacKenzie of nearby Zephyrhills, Fla., it turned out to simply be an anonymous kind soul helping the lucky diners hit their own little jackpot on the dinner bill.
“It was not her,’’ Buddy Freddy's manager Stephanie Reaves told TODAY.com on Friday. “It turns out it was another angel to come in here and spend that kind of money.’’
The woman came with a younger man and another woman and ate a meal in the early evening on Sunday, according to Reaves. After leaving, they returned and the woman said she was picking up the tab for 180 diners while declining to give her name. She also left $50 tips for five servers as diners stood up and applauded and thanked her, which Reaves said she had never seen in her 35-year restaurant career. While the woman was still in the restaurant, Reaves and another employee pulled up a picture of MacKenzie online to see if it was the local woman who just claimed a $590 million jackpot.
“We looked for Miss Gloria online and it was not her,’’ Reaves said. “She looked similar, but it wasn’t her. We also went and asked the woman (if she was the Powerball winner), and she said no. Plus, you knew they weren’t from around here. They had to be from the West or up North.
“The reason she bought so many meals is because she met so many nice people, and she wasn’t used to that," Reaves explained. "Down South, we’ll come up and hug you for no reason and are just friendly people. When they left and got down the road, I think they thought, ‘Let’s go back and bless those people.’’’
The real MacKenzie has not been in Buddy Freddy’s before to Reaves’s knowledge.
“She probably doesn’t even know where we are,’’ Reaves said. “She lives such a common life, she’s probably scared to go out after winning.”