Applebee's executive's leaked email sparks mass resignation: "It just tipped everyone over the edge."
With the rising cost of living, many people are facing financial strain. This makes having a job critical, causing some people to take advantage of the situation for their selfish gain.
That's exactly what happened when Applebee's franchise group executive Wayne Pankratz suggested they start paying their workers the lowest wage rates.
In a leaked email, Pankratz stated his belief that the confluence of inflation, high gas prices, and an end to prolonged COVID-19-related unemployment benefits would work in the company's favor, as it presented an opportunity to cut wages as workers would be living paycheck to paycheck.
Applebee's Employees Were Livid
According to reports, Pankratz had sent the email to other executives in the company, but someone leaked it to the public.
The email read:
"Most of our employee base and potential employee base live paycheck to paycheck. Any increase in gas prices cuts into their disposable income."
"As inflation continues to climb and gas prices continue to go up, that means more hours employees will need to work to maintain their current level of living. The labor market is about to turn in our favor."
Jake Holcomb, a manager at an Applebee's in Lawrence, Kansas, was the first to read the leaked email, and he was so furious that he quit his job on the spot.
Holcomb, however, didn't leave immediately as he made sure to let everyone know about the email. He printed about twelve copies of the email and then showed it to the rest of the employees, who were just as enraged.
The manager also stuck the copies of the email all over the store — on the tables, the bar tops, the host stand, the doors, and computer terminals. He then advised the customers who were present at the restaurant at the time not to pay.
Speaking to Vice, Holcomb said:
"I gave everyone in the restaurant their food for free. We didn't even close the store."
The Leaked Email Sparked Mass Resignations
After Holcomb exposed the email, a mass resignation happened at the store. Four out of six managers and at least ten other workers either quit on the spot or handed in their notices.
The tone-deaf email, screenshots later posted on Reddit, was the breaking point for some workers.
They told Vice that they have been overworked, mistreated, and underpaid by the company during unprecedented stress in the service industry.
One of the former managers, Jenna Willis, who arrived at the restaurant after Holcomb's shift and read the emails, spoke of the day the email was leaked.
"Oh my gosh, I was so mad."
"I let the staff that showed up to open that morning read it, and they were livid. So I told them if we wanted to make money, we would open, but I didn't really feel like we should at that point."
Willis added that the staff then agreed to shut down the store for several hours.
"How can we continue to work for a company that doesn't care about us?"
Adrian Kelley, a bartender, and server at the Lawrence Applebee's, also quit. He said:
"This was kind of a straw that broke the camel's back situation where everyone was feeling unappreciated [and] we were understaffed."
"And then this email was so atrocious that it kind of just tipped everyone over the edge."
Pankratz Has Since Been Fired
After the leak, Applebee's and the owner of the Lawrence restaurant — American Franchise (AFC) Brands — criticized the email, saying it was an embarrassment.
AFC Brands and Apple Central LLC spokesperson Scott Fischer later confirmed Pankratz had been "terminated."
Applebee's chief operations officer Kevin Carroll also said in a statement that Pankratz's email was "the opinion of an individual, not Applebee's."
Willis and Holcomb, however, begged to differ as they claimed Pankratz had much influence and authority at the company.