Pederson, a Cracker Barrel employee, had helped move about 30 people into the restaurant's back kitchen and then went to the front to look at the oncoming storm.
"I was facing south and saw a massive debris wall coming right at me," Pederson said. "I went in and told everybody to get down, and about 15 seconds later I felt my ears pop.
"Then it was just massive, massive destruction. The kitchen was about the only thing that survived."
Customers hid under tables and some sat on the floor, but no one was injured in the restaurant, he said.
"Actually, it was very silent," he said. "Nobody screamed, nobody yelled, nobody cried. I think everybody was just in shock and awe."
Pederson re-entered the dining room and discovered a Penske rental truck had been blown into the room. At the front door was the trash bin of a neighboring restaurant.
"We don't know where our Dumpster is," said Mike Hull, associate manager of the restaurant.
Pederson said the Hampton Inn near the restaurant was also damaged by the tornado.