Kevin Wilcox was so popular among his customers that many of his regulars were in tears at Bury St Edmunds’ Prezzo restaurant yesterday when they heard he had died.
In 2014, Kevin, 53, was the first winner of the Customer Service Award in the Bury Free Press Business Awards and Sehmi Kulpid, operations director of Prezzo described him as ‘the greatest server I have ever met’.
Bury Prezzo general manager Zoltan Szabo said Kevin, who was a floor supervisor, would be deeply missed by staff and customers and was a great loss to the business. He died in West Suffolk Hospital after driving himself there with chest pains and is thought to have had a heart attack.
“He was absolutely brilliant in what he was doing,” Mr Szabo said. “I was his manager because he never wanted to step up – he put all his energy into doing what he loved, into his guests.
“We get good guys in this business, but he was special. I couldn’t do what he was doing – I tried to follow his footsteps, but it comes from the heart.
“He was so genuine and a very warm person.
“On Sunday regulars came in and many were in tears.”
Mr Szabo said he was particularly good at engaging with children, often encouraging them to help bring dishes to the table.
Originally from Middlesborough, he had worked at Prezzo from when it opened five years ago and lived nearby in Chantry Court.
Mr Szabo said: “On Thursday night he was working with me and he went home saying ‘see you on Saturday, boss’ and next day I got a message from my colleagues saying he was dead.”
The restaurant put a picture of Kevin on the bar, saying he had died, and has started a book of condolence.
Kevin’s brother Gary said: “In his eyes the customer was always first. We’re gradually realising how popular he was down there.
“It’s been a great shock to us because it was all of a sudden and we’re still trying to come to terms with that.”
He never married and is outlived by his mother, two brothers and a sister.
Gary added: “He had a lot of nieces and nephews and all of them are deeply shocked.”
Mark Cordell, chief executive of Ourburystedmunds who sponsored the Customer Service Award Kevin won, said: “I’m very shocked to hear this sad news and Kevin will be sadly missed as his priority was always providing a high level of customer service.
“Many of his customers knew him personally and he will be a loss to the town. He was very convivial and always had a smile and a happy disposition. He was a very very positive and friendly host.”
The reaction from Kevin’s customers to the news of his death has been stunning, with more than 16,000 people reading this story in 17 hours.
On our Facebook page in the same time 88 people posted comments on how he made their visits to Prezzo special.
Here are some of the comments:
“He would always make sure we were well and looked after and often would pull up a chair for a quick chat... Having worked in catering and eaten out in many places over the years he was by some distance the loveliest, most efficient and pleasant member of staff I have ever met.” Mara Botwright
“I remember it was one of the first places I took my little girl, and was rather nervous and I remember he just picked her up and ran round the restaurant with her. All you could hear was them laughing. Lovely memory.” Sarah Crissell
“He was unfailingly cheerful and always ready with a smile and some cheeky banter. A huge loss and so young, my thoughts are with his family.” Sarah Stamp
“So sad. He was great with elderly customers too. My mum & dad ate at Prezzo regularly because of ‘the Kevin effect’. Such a warm, kind, quick witted man who understood how to communicate with people, make them feel like the were the centre of attention & brighten up their day. He will be sorely missed.” Nicki Hayes
“This is so sad by far the best waiter in town. My nine year old is very sad about this.” Rozanna Keeble
“In total shock what a lovely man and made every visit to Prezzos amazing Only in there a week ago and he made my 6-year-old’s birthday amazing. So sorry for his family at this awful time thinking of them.” Susan Littlechild
“I in shock at this news. I have had the pleasure to have been served by him and, having worked in customer services myself for over ten years, I have to say that his customer service was FANTASTIC and he was such a lovely genuine man. Such a sad loss. Thoughts with friends and family.” Emma Louise Byford
“What a lovely man! Very rare when someone makes such an impression in a restaurant. He was always very friendly, funmy and professional. A great loss.” Naomi Daglish
“Sad news, our little ones loved his parmesan snow trick - every time!” Jo Potter (He would sprinkle parmesan onto the dish from above the child’s head.)
Kevin’s niece Samantha Wilcox replied with her own post: “Thank you so much everyone, as Kevin’s niece it makes me incredibly proud to read everyone’s lovely memories. He meant the world to us and we knew what a special guy he was and that his job meant the world to him! Your words mean so much at this very difficult time.”