ATLANTA -- Comments from an Applebee's franchise owner about the Obama Administration's Affordable Care Act have spawned outrage not only against the single restaurant owner, but against the chain as a whole.
Applebee's franchisee Zane Tankel, who owns 40 Applebee's restaurants in the New York City area appeared on Stuart Varney's Fox Business Network program, saying he would not be hiring any more workers and that he was considering cutting the hours of some of his current employees, due to costs associated with the health care act.
Tankel said in the interview that his restaurants employ between 80 and 300 people per location. He said his restaurants cannot raise prices in the current environment.
Olive Garden and Red Lobster's Florida-based owner Darden Restaurants, said they would be looking to employ more part-timer workers in an effort to reduce their health care costs. Management at other restaurants, including Papa John's, White Castle and Jimmy John's, have made similar statements in recent months.
Under the act, businesses that employ more than 50 workers are required to offer an approved insurance plan or pay a penalty of $2,000 per full-time worker over and above 30 workers.
In a statement, Applebee's International chairman Mike Archer distanced the chain from Tankel's statements, and emphasized that they are not indicative of the entire chain.
"Recent public comments by one Applebee's franchisee about the possible implications of the ACA on jobs within his individual company were not the views or opinions of either Applebee's or other franchisees, although we respect his right to speak freely as an American. Importantly, it is also worth noting that this franchisee opened a new restaurant last week that created approximately 200 jobs, and will be opening another restaurant next month with a similar number of positions," Archer's statement said in part. "Applebee's and our franchisees remain committed to growing our business and providing opportunities for employees in the future."
Archer's statement has not stopped an online backlash from protesters who promise to boycott Applebee's due to Tankel's statements, many of whom took to Twitter and Facebook to express their feelings. Other online protests have popped up against Papa John's, Jimmy John's and Darden's Olive Garden & Red Lobster chains.
Some online protesters point to Papa John's founder and CEO John Schnatter's 40,000 square foot home and 22-car garage, insisting that since he owns these things personally, that Papa John's as a chain should not cut employees' hours due to the affordable care act.