Move over Chick-fil-A, fast food is gettingÂ political again.
Papa John’s came under fire this week whenÂ CEO John Schnatter floated a plan to cut worker hours to reduce spiking employeeÂ health care costs under the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known asÂ Obamacare.
Now, Applebee’s is being boycotted after aÂ major New York area Applebee’s franchise owner Zane Tankel threatened a hiringÂ freeze and possible layoffs as a result of the president’s healthcareÂ plan.
Twitter immediately erupted with calls for aÂ boycott.
‘BOYCOTT APPLEBEES NOW,’ read another.
‘Add @Applebees to the list of unpatrioticÂ businesses who are firing people because Barack Obama won,’ tweetedÂ another.
The Twitter uproar is in response to a FoxÂ News interview Thursday with ZaneÂ Tankel, chairman and CEO of Apple-Metro, which owns 40 New York-area Applebee’sÂ restaurants.
“We’ve calculated it will [cost] someÂ millions of dollars across our system. So what does that say — that says weÂ won’t build more restaurants. We won’t hire more people,” TankelÂ said.
Apple-Metro employs from 80 to 300 people atÂ each of its Applebee’s. Obamacare requires businesses with more than 50 workersÂ must offer an approved insurance plan or pay a penalty of $2,000 for eachÂ full-time worker over 30 workers.
‘If you have 40 or 50 employees at aÂ restaurant, and the penalty is $2,000, and you’re going to pay $80,000 orÂ $100,000 penalty, there goes the profit in your restaurant.’
Tankel also hinted that lay-off and reducingÂ employee hours were another possibility
‘I want to simply say we are looking at it,Â we are evaluating,’ he said. ‘If it’s possible to do without cutting people back,Â I am delighted to do it, but that also rolls back expansion, it rolls backÂ hiring more people, and in a best-case scenario, we only shrink the labor forceÂ minimally. Best case.’
Earlier this week Papa John’s CEO JohnÂ Schnatter told shareholders in aÂ conference call this week thatÂ Obamacare would cost the company 11 to 14 centsÂ per pizza, a cost that would beÂ passed on to customers.
The response on Twitter was immediate, andÂ largely unfavorable.
‘First Chick-fil-A, now Papa John’s. WhatÂ does it say about the US when fast food has become the tool for politicalÂ catalyst?’ tweeted one person.
‘Thanks 4 letting us know how CHEAP you are.Â 10 cents?! REALLY! Officially on my DO NOT BUY LIST even if you don’t up theÂ price.’
Schnatter defended his plan.
‘That’s what you do, is you pass onÂ theÂ costs,’ Schnatter told Naples News. ‘Unfortunately, I don’t think peopleÂ knowÂ what they’re going to pay for [Obamacare].’
Schnatter isn’t alone among chain restaurantsÂ looking to balance the costs of health care reform.
As the program mandates that onlyÂ employeesÂ working more than 30 hours a week are covered under theirÂ employers healthÂ insurance plan, chains like Olive Garden and RedÂ Lobster are alreadyÂ considering reduced worker hours.