(NEXSTAR) – A mid-level executive working for an Applebee’s franchisee has been terminated after sending an email to colleagues which suggested that rising gas prices and inflation would allow the franchisee to hire employees at lower wages.
The executive, who was employed by the Missouri-based Apple Central Group, was fired on Monday, Applebee’s confirmed this week.
In a leaked email sent to his colleagues on March 9, the executive — believed to be Wayne Pankratz — said inflation gave the franchisee a new “advantage” as it would “increase application flow and has the potential to lower our average wage.”
“We are no longer competing with the government when it comes to hiring,” the email’s author explained. “Stimulus money is no more, supplemental unemployment is no more. This benefits us … people who [were] relying on unemployment money, simply will have less money to spend. It will force people back into the work force.”
The executive also acknowledged that “most of our employee base and potential employee base live paycheck to paycheck,” and some “will need to work more hours or get a second job” to maintain their current standards of living.
“Do things to make sure you are the employer of choice,” he advised. “Get schedules completed early so they can plan their other jobs around yours. Most importantly, have the culture and environment that will attract people.”
The leaked email was later shared to social media platforms including Reddit and Twitter, where it drew immediate backlash. An Applebee’s manager in Lawrence, Kansas, told the Springfield News-Leader that he quit his job the same day he became aware of the email, but not before printing out “a couple dozen” copies and posting them throughout the restaurant. Another employee at the restaurant claimed that approximately 10 other workers had quit as well, according to the outlet.
In response to the leaked memo, Applebee’s released a statement appearing to confirm its legitimacy while distancing itself from the opinions of its author. This week, the company added that Pankratz had been fired.
“This is the opinion of an individual, not Applebee’s,” said Kevin Carroll, the chief operations officer at Applebee’s, in a statement shared with Nexstar. “The individual has been terminated by the franchisee who owns and operates the restaurants in this market.
“Our team members are the lifeblood of our restaurants, and our franchisees are always looking to reward and incentivize team members, new and current, to remain within the Applebee’s family.”