Applebees Goes on the Defensive Over Fired Server/Lousy Tipping Pastor

The terminated Applebee’s server / lousy pastor tipper saga continues today as Applebee’s president Mike Archer released this statement on the company’s corporate website and posted links to it on social media approximately one hour ago:

Statement from Applebee’s President Mike Archer 

I appreciate the chance to explain our franchisee’s action in this unfortunate situation.

Please let me assure you that Applebee’s and every one of our franchisees values our hard working team members and the amazing job they do serving our guests. We recognize the extraordinary effort required and the tremendous contribution they make, and appreciate your recognition and support of our colleagues. 

At the same time, as I know you will agree, the guests who visit Applebee’s — people like you — expect and deserve to be treated with professionalism and care in everything we do. That is a universal standard in the hospitality business. That includes respecting and protecting the privacy of every guest, which is why our franchisees who own and operate Applebee’s have strict policies to protect personal information — even guest’s names.  

With that in mind, here is what happened in St. Louis:

  • A guest questioned the tip automatically attached to her large party’s bill by writing: “I give God 10%. Why do you get 18?” on the check.
  • A different server, who did not even wait on the group, photographed the receipt, posted the photo online and commented about the incident.
  • The guest subsequently heard from friends who identified her from the posting, where her name is clearly visible, and the restaurant was notified. There was no further communication with the guest.
  • The team member was asked about posting the receipt and admitted she was responsible.
  • When she was hired, the team member was provided the franchisee’s employee hand book which includes their social media policy and states:
“Employees must honor the privacy rights of APPLEBEE’s and its employees by seeking permission before writing about or displaying internal APPLEBEE’S happenings that might beconsidered to be a breach of privacy and confidentiality. This shall include, but not be limited to, posting of photographs, video, or audio of APPLEBEE’S employees or its customers,suppliers, agents or competitors, without first obtaining written approval from the Vice President of Operations.” The policy goes on to specify “Employees who violate this policy will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.”
  • As a result of her admission to violating a clear company policy intended to safeguard guests, the team member is no longer employed by the franchisee. 
Our franchisees are committed to acting in the best interests of guests and team members. This is a regrettable situation and we wish it had never happened. However, the disregard for an important policy left the franchisee no choice but to take the action they did. 
I recognize that you may still disagree with the decision, but I hope this may have provided some additional insight.
It seems that someone at Applebee’s corporate finally got the memo that they’re hemorrhaging money over this new PR fiasco (the latest in a string of bad moves for them including their Obamacare fiasco). Notice the phrase I highlighted above in red. It begs the question – knowing that the situation was already public, and that the public’s opinion would definitely side with the server against that awful woman who used her religion as an excuse to deprive a service industry worker the gratuity she had rightly earned – why did they go for the jugular?

The president of the company even admitted that the pastor has had no further communication with Applebee’s (after she called in and demanded that everyone connected to the recent – managers included – be fired). If customer followup wasn’t the motivating force behind the termination, what was?
I mentioned on Facebook today that going straight to the end game – terminating the employee – was akin to throwing gas on an already steady fire. So many other potential disciplinary alternatives existed that would have mitigated their company’s losses and prevented the constant, brutal attacks the company is suffering on Twitter and Facebook. Why do the one thing you know will spark even more outrage when other alternatives exist? More importantly, why terminate the employee at the height of the outrage (rather than putting her on leave or taking her off the floor and making her do side work or cleaning temporarily until the outrage subsided). 
Pastor Alois Bell
Pastor Alois Bell
This entire situation – including the typical “we only did what we thought was right – it’s right there in our procedures!” response from the president – highlights what is wrong with corporate America. Say what you will about the server – she clearly wasn’t completely in the right. Then again, the outrage over this (as well as the public shaming of the customer) is justified in my opinion. Having worked as a server – particularly on busy Sundays where I made next to nothing in tips from similarly-minded individuals – I think it’s high time people like Paster Alois Bell are made to answer for their childish and petty behavior. 
Like most real-life scenarios, this isn’t a black and white, open and shut case where one person is completely right and the other completely wrong. The pastor wanted to stiff a server based on her religion, and that was wrong. And while the cathartic nature of calling her out on a national scale feels great for every man and woman who has ever served an Alois Bell, it doesn’t justify the invasion of privacy the woman has (and will continue) to endure. Similarly, the original server did not deserve to have to deal with this woman, nor should her coworker have automatically lost her job over being outraged at the treatment of one of her peers. Based on the sheer number of people supporting her, I’d say she’s not totally in the wrong for feeling outrage over how her coworker was treated. Was Applebee’s within their right to fire her? Of course. Was it the right thing to do both for the server and for their bottom line? Definitely not.
Ultimately, Welch (the terminated server) will find work elsewhere. Pastor Bell will go back to treating those who serve her as if they should be paying *her* for the right to serve food rather than accepting a tip. Applebee’s though? They seem to never learn that treating everyone with human decency – including those you employ – is paramount. And when failing to treat anyone with a modicum of human decency, the internet (and the public at large) now have the collective power to take notice and do something about it.

Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he’s worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations. You can learn more about him at his personal website.


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  • That's why i said Christian talking-heads – as they're usually the least Christian of the bunch. Sorry if I wasn't clear on that. I'ma ll about my real Christian friends/relatives – it's just the ppl like Bell that give them a bad name.

  • Amanda S.

    Hey-o. You know I love you, Tim, but don't lump all Christians together. This is the crazy evangelicals who make the rest of us look bad. I try to speak up when I can – but I believe that God is God (or even, in atheist cases – Science) – and it doesn't matter what you believe. Faith is personal and I find this pastor's actions deplorable.

  • Palto

    That's what you think. Multiply this person's $$$ by thousands

  • I agree with everything you said here. It is unfortunate when big companies hide behind policy rather than do what is right. There were so many ways to teach this young lady the value of discretion (though in this modern age of technology why anyone is surprised that there are no secrets leaves me shaking my head). Although indiscreet, that girl was outraged on behalf of a friend/peer and was in her own misguided way, attempting to show support, something that doesn't happen very often these days. The action may have been less than desireable, but the sentiment behind it is becoming a rarity. No wonder!
    As for the minister using God as her excuse to be cheap? Completely unacceptable. I don't know where she met her God, but mine was all about basic decency, human kindness, fairness and charity. I'm also pretty sure she felt pretty powerful and self righteous as she left her "tip". Bet she's thinking twice now… I'll also bet that most servers will be running in the opposite direction whenever she goes out to eat. Hope she felt her behavior was worth the backlash she is now facing.
    As for me…Applebee's just joined my list of places to never spend a dime in again.

  • Wayne

    I have been warned.

  • That would make sense as this is a liberal blog. You're more than welcome to espouse your opinion here as long as you're civil; however, ad hominem and flame-warring will not be tolerated.

  • Wayne

    It ceased being news when you offered you liberal opinion. While I am new to this site I will be around from now on. My job is to refute the misinformation you write. Thanks for giving me a platform.

  • Poor choices I made? This is a news story. Please take your trolling elsewhere.

  • Let's see – brand new account created just to leave two comments on this entry. Troll perhaps?

  • Wayne

    Ah shut up. They wont miss any of your money.

  • I agree with all your thoughts here. Our country is far too quick to jump on the "you violated my rights" bandwagon. Don't want your name to appear on the internet? Don't do something to deserve it. We're adding Applebee's to the growing list of companies who will not get another dime out of me because of the way they disregard the little people who made them rich.

  • Wayne

    Have you always been this full of shit. Or was it only after you decided whining about any thing which required morals or hard work. There are bad in all facets of life. Your bitching is only to justify the poor choices you made. Grow up.

  • With all the hub-bub from Christian talking-heads about religious tolerance, it seems that their followers and brethren are usually the ones committing the most egregious acts against those of opposing religions. It's sad.

  • CM Thompson

    I have never waitress, but I was in a situation where I had given a lot of personal (and requested) attention as a customer assistant. Because it was Samhain (Halloween) I was wearing a pentagram that had fallen out of shirt by evenings end. These 2 women came in with their 2 kids and I assisted them (again at their request). They seemed nice, we had a decent, generic conversation and after this time, I'd say about 45min., my thanks was a chictract and one of the women said "May God save you and stay the hell away from my children." BTW, the tract was about a coven of witches who lured children into their home to sacrifice to Satan. Awesome, right?

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