By JOHN CLARKE
PUBLISHED: 10:23 EST, 11 November 2012 | UPDATED: 10:23 EST, 11 November 2012
Move over Chick-fil-A, fast food is getting political again.
Papa John’s came under fire this week when CEO John Schnatter floated a plan to cut worker hours to reduce spiking employee health care costs under the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.
Now, Applebee’s is being boycotted after a major New York area Applebee’s franchise owner Zane Tankel threatened a hiring freeze and possible layoffs as a result of the president’s healthcare plan.
A Times Square branch of the Applebee’s restaurant chain in New York City
Boycott: Calls to boycott Applebee’s erupted on Twitter after Zane Tankel, owner of 40 New York-area Applebee’s, said he won’t hire because of Obamacare Petition by Frederick Noble Atlanta, GA We, the undersigned, support Pierre Roti’s mural on University Avenue as a piece of public art that enlivens and enhances our community. We strongly oppose it being removed. Art in the public space helps improve the visual appearance of neighborhoods, particularly in areas with many bare, concrete walls and empty industrial buildings. Roti, an internationally-renowned street artist from Paris, spent many weeks working on this blank wall near the downtown connector, creating an impressive and elaborate piece of public art. We want it to stay.
Twitter immediately erupted with calls for a boycott.
‘So far I’ve seen Papa John’s and Applebees threatening to fire people since their choice didn’t win the election. Disgusting on either side,’ read one tweet.
‘BOYCOTT APPLEBEES NOW,’ read another.
‘Add @Applebees to the list of unpatriotic businesses who are firing people because Barack Obama won,’ tweeted another.
The Twitter uproar is in response to a Fox News interview Thursday with Zane Tankel, chairman and CEO of Apple-Metro, which owns 40 New York-area Applebee’s restaurants.
“We’ve calculated it will [cost] some millions of dollars across our system. So what does that say — that says we won’t build more restaurants. We won’t hire more people,” Tankel said.
Reaction: Tankel at a New York event last year
Apple-Metro employs from 80 to 300 people at each of its Applebee’s. Obamacare requires businesses with more than 50 workers must offer an approved insurance plan or pay a penalty of $2,000 for each full-time worker over 30 workers.
‘If you have 40 or 50 employees at a restaurant, and the penalty is $2,000, and you’re going to pay $80,000 or $100,000 penalty, there goes the profit in your restaurant.’
Tankel also hinted that lay-off and reducing employee hours were another possibility
‘I want to simply say we are looking at it, we are evaluating,’ he said. ‘If it’s possible to do without cutting people back, I am delighted to do it, but that also rolls back expansion, it rolls back hiring more people, and in a best-case scenario, we only shrink the labor force minimally. Best case.’
Healthcare Costs: Tankel and Miss USA Rima Fakih appear at Applebee’s Neighborhood in 2010
Earlier this week Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter told shareholders in a conference call this week that Obamacare would cost the company 11 to 14 cents per pizza, a cost that would be passed on to customers.
The response on Twitter was immediate, and largely unfavorable.
‘First Chick-fil-A, now Papa John’s. What does it say about the US when fast food has become the tool for political catalyst?’ tweeted one person.
‘Thanks 4 letting us know how CHEAP you are. 10 cents?! REALLY! Officially on my DO NOT BUY LIST even if you don’t up the price.’
Schnatter defended his plan.
‘That’s what you do, is you pass on the costs,’ Schnatter told Naples News. ‘Unfortunately, I don’t think people know what they’re going to pay for [Obamacare].’
Schnatter isn’t alone among chain restaurants looking to balance the costs of health care reform.
As the program mandates that only employees working more than 30 hours a week are covered under their employers health insurance plan, chains like Olive Garden and Red Lobster are already considering reduced worker hours.