Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar was challenged in the social-media realm this past week after firing a server for posting a customer's receipt.
A guest left a note critical of tips on her credit card receipt at an Applebee’s franchise location in St. Louis, Mo., and a server who worked there was fired for posting part of that receipt on Reddit.com and violating company policy on the release of the data.
Dan Smith, spokesman for Kansas City, Mo.-based Applebee’s, said Monday that the team member involved did not wait on the guest but apparently did post the photo of the receipt, on which the guest, a church pastor, had written: “I Give God 10% Why do you Get 18.”
“We are absolutely not excusing the guest’s behavior in this matter,” Smith said. “We’re simply not taking sides.
“The guest did cross out the auto gratuity, but the guest actually did pay the auto-gratuity,” Smith said. “The actual bill was $34.93 plus an 18-percent auto-gratuity, and that was what was charged to her card.” That amount was $6.29 added for a total of $41.22, he said.
Applebee’s later posted several company statements — one on Jan. 31 and two on Feb. 1 — to its corporate Facebook page, which have drawn more than 36,000 comments.
“Since Thursday, Applebee’s has not manually deleted a single comment nor have we manually blocked a single person that has come to our Facebook page,” Smith said. Some automatic Facebook filters have hidden offensive or vulgar posts, he said.
Smith said the corporate strategy for dealing with the situation remains two-fold. “The first piece is we’re trying to explain the situation in as clear of terms as possible,” he said, “and we fully understand that some people might not agree with our position. Our simple goal here is to provide the public with the facts.”
The second aspect, Smith said, “is the engagement piece.” The company is devoted to social media in listening to and responding to as many guests as possible, he said. “The over-arching piece in this is we want to hear from people,” Smith added. “Believe me: every Tweet has been read; every Facebook message has been read. Our guest relations team is taking every phone call and responding to as many emails as they can.”
Applebee’s, a division of Glendale, Calif.-based DineEquity Inc., has more than 1,990 restaurants in 49 states and 15 other nations.
Here’s a look at some of the posts on social media sites and other websites about the Applebee’s receipt and the ensuing controversy.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: February 4, 2013 An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the Facebook filter functions.