Applebee’s Franchise Exec Fired for Saying to Pay Workers Less

  • An executive at an Applebee’s franchise group has been fired after suggesting locations pay workers less.
  • Wayne Pankratz said rising gas prices and inflation make people desperate for work, so they can be hired at lower wages.
  • Ironically, his email concluded, “Most importantly, have the culture and environment that will attract people.”

An Applebee’s franchise group executive said restaurants should pay workers less because rising gas prices and inflation mean people are more desperate to make ends meet.

Now he’s the one looking for a job.

Wayne Pankratz has been fired after his email containing the suggestion was leaked and roundly roasted online.

Pankratz’s now-deleted LinkedIn page listed him as executive director of operations of American Franchise Capital, also known as AFC Brands, which owns dozens of Applebee’s and Taco Bell restaurants in the Midwest and on the East Coast.

When reached for comment, Applebee’s said Pankratz was employed through franchisee Apple Central LLC, which is owned by AFC Brands.

“This is the opinion of an individual, not Applebee’s,” said Kevin Carroll, Chief Operations Officer at Applebee’s, in a statement to Insider. “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. “

A viral tweet last week showed an email Pankratz penned with the subject line “Why gas increase is good for hiring.” The email appeared to pertain to an Applebee’s in Lawrence, Kansas.

“Everyone has heard that gas prices continue to rise,” Pankratz began in his email. “The advantage this has for us is that it will increase application flow and has the potential to lower our average wage. How you ask?”

“Most of our employee base and potential employee base live paycheck to paycheck,” Pankratz continued. “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.”

Pankratz went on to say that the end of pandemic unemployment assistance and stimulus checks would also help the franchisee.

“As prices rise, people who [were] relying on unemployment money, simply will have less money to spend, “he wrote.” It will force people back into the workforce. “

He added that rising prices mean some small businesses will “not be able to hold on,” further bumping numbers into the franchisee’s hiring pool.

“The labor market is about to turn in our favor,” Pankratz concluded. “What can you do? Besides hiring employees in at a lower wage to decrease our labor (when able) make sure you have a pulse on the morale of your employees.”

Wrapping up his message, he wrote, pretty ironically, “Most importantly, have the culture and environment that will attract people.”

Multiple employees at the Lawrence restaurant reportedly quit after learning the email.

Four of six managers and at least 10 other workers there have walked off the job or handed in their notices in the past week, according to VICE News.

“How can we continue to work for a company that does not care about us?” a former manager, Jenna Willis, told the outlet.

Scott Fischer, director of communications for Apple Central, told The Lawrence Journal-World that Pankratz’s comments were “embarrassing” and that the franchisee does not have a policy about using higher gas prices to justify lowering wages.

“We are still scratching our head about what this gentleman was thinking,” Fischer said.

AFC Brands and Taco Bell did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Apple Central LLC could not immediately be reached for comment.

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