What is in this article?:
- Health care views cause clash between restaurant companies, franchisees
- Changing the message
Restaurant operators consider various options to deal with possible increased costs, some of which have created tension between brand executives and the franchise operators
Schisms are appearing between franchisors and franchisees as restaurant operators become more vocal with their views on the looming health care act after presidential election results took its possible repeal off the table.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act impacts the restaurant industry more than most, said Chris O’Cull, senior restaurant analyst with KeyBanc Capital Markets, in a report last week. “Restaurants have a disadvantage to non-service businesses when it comes to penalties because of the high number of part-time and low-wage employees,” he said.
As a result, restaurant operators have begun to consider various options to deal with possible increased costs associated with the act, some of which have created tension between brand executives and the franchise operators.
Immediately after the general election, Zane Tankel, chairman and chief executive of Apple-Metro, a 40-unit Applebee franchisee for the New York City area, appeared on Fox television and said the Affordable Care Act would cost his company millions of dollars, and he hinted that it would stifle expansion and reduce hiring.
Mike Archer, president of Applebee’s, followed up with a statement from the corporation, saying: “Because final regulations and guidance are still pending from government agencies regarding the Affordable Care Act, exactly how our franchisees will implement the law when it takes effect in 2014 is still uncertain.
“However, we do know that our franchisees will comply fully with the law and take every measure possible to continue doing right by their employees,” Archer continued.
The Affordable Care contretemps at Applebee’s was echoed at Denny’s, as well. Last week, John Metz of RREMC Restaurants LLC of West Palm Beach, Fla., which operates Denny’s and Dairy Queen franchises, told the Huffington Post that he was considering adding a 5-percent surcharge to checks and letting guests decide whether to reduce the waiter tips by that amount.
In reaction to the comments from Metz, John Miller, Denny’s chief executive, put wide distance between the corporation and the franchisee in a statement issued late on Friday.
“While we respect the decision of an independent business owner to speak out on this or other topics and express their personal views,” Miller said, “his statements do not capture the respect by Denny’s, the Denny’s Franchisee Association or our franchise community at large for our hardworking employees or for our valued customers.”
Miller also acknowledged that the Florida franchisee’s stance could be confused with the entire system. “Unfortunately, the comments of this franchisee, who represents less than 1 percent of our system and who owns restaurants in other concepts, has been portrayed as reflective of the entire Denny’s brand,” Miller said.
Then on Monday, Metz issued a retraction. "We regret that the statements we made may have been interpreted as representative of the Denny’s brand or of other franchisees, which they are not,” he said in a statement.
“Our stores do not have a 5-percent surcharge,” Metz continued. “Despite recent media coverage, RREMC Restaurants is committed to exploring viable and effective ways to deal with the changing economic climate, including the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. We have always been and will continue to be 100-percent dedicated to our employees and customers and will work tirelessly to find solutions that are in their best interests. It is our intention is to fully comply with the law."
His public relations firm said Metz would not give any more interviews.