Applebee’s Restaurant Social Media Fail

Applebee's Woodbury Common

She should have left her pen in her pastoral purse.

Instead, Alois Bell, a learned St. Louis Pastor, added this to her Applebee’s restaurant check:

G-d gets 10% from pastor applebee's

That showed some class, huh?


I Was In The Restaurant Business

Although I never worked for Applebee’s, I do have real-life experience as a server, Maitre’d, and manager in the food-service business. I also know a few things about franchise social media.

First off, that pastor never should have never penned that insult to her server. As a former server, (who made $2.01 an hour + tips) I can tell you that if I had received a note like that, it would have messed me up for at least that day. It’s really insulting.

Now, I worked in the restaurant business pre-social-media. (If I told you that cell phones at the time weighed 3 pounds or more, you could probably guess when I was in the business.)

Regardless, I would have shown the note to my manager, and he or she would have had a little chat with Ms. Bell. (Maybe)

It’s a bit tricky, though. I probably would have said something to the lady if I was the manger at the time-not the server. That’s because I know that servers rely on tips…not their hourly wage. I would have asked this customer what the problem was, and I probably would have explained our tipping policy. (At Applebee’s for example, an 18% tip is added to parties of 8 or more-automatically.) So, if that was the case, unless the customer felt that the service was lousy, I would have gently stood by my server. But, I would have had to put the customer first, in my conversation.


Applebee’s Restaurant Social Media Fail

I read a great post that my friend, Laura Petrolino shared with me.

It was written by R.L. Stollar, who’s is an investigative writer at the Eugene Daily News.

He wrote the following:

Applebee’s fired the waitress in question, named Chelsea Welch. This created a fury of rage on the Internet, with social media users taking to their weapons of choice and lambasting away, thousands at a time, against the restaurant’s decisions. Numerous ‘Boycott Applebee’s’ groups sprung up on Facebook, along with ‘Rehire Chelsea Welch’ and other similar groups. Applebee’s website has a “’What’s the Buzz’ widget, that shows what people are saying on Twitter about the company. It’s been non-stop attacks, all publicly displayed on Applebee’s own page.”

In his post, Stollar goes through the Applebee’s social media timeline, which strangely enough seemed to have most of it’s activity 3:00 AM.

That’s not how to do social media, people.

I’d like to gently suggest that the social media team at this Applebee’s franchise location read “The Top 10 Tips For Social Media Marketing.” (It was written by my good friend, Suzanne Vara.)

Here’s another good post-this time on social media policies for franchisees, from my good friend, Paul Segreto.


Use This Company For Franchise Social Media Marketing


It’s Not About The Pastor

The Pastor has apologized. Big whoop. If you were a server, would you want to serve her at a restaurant?

I actually hope that she get’s refused service by servers who recognize her.

I’d actually like to help make that happen…here’s Pastor Bell’s picture.

10 percent applebee's franchisee

(Picture courtesy of

Do you think I’m being a jerk?

You wouldn’t, if your current or previous career included being a server.

I know that I would refuse to serve her.

This entire debacle-the stupid, classless note, and Applebee’s social media #fail is really about the server who was fired.

It’s actually about every server who gets paid a shit wage, and has to rely on the whims of customers for his or her income.

Lots of customers are cheap…they leave a 10% tip, and think that it’s okay. Some customers actually don’t even know what the customary tip is for a waiter or waitress. (It’s 15% of the amount of the check, before taxes.)

I almost always leave a 20% tip. Sometimes even more. And if I ever do leave a 10% tip, it would be for disastrous service. ( I have left 10% tips)

No Tip From This NBA Player

One more thing: I still know a lot of people in the restaurant business. One of my friends shared this with me, and it wasn’t the first time I had heard of it.

When (insert the name of an ex-Cleveland basketball player who’s 6″8 and rich-beyond belief) comes in to our restaurant, he never leaves a tip. Instead, he signs the tablecloth.”


When I was in the business, I took care of several celebrities and corporate big-wigs. Here’s how they tipped:

Don Rickles- 20%

Art Modell- 20%

Frank Sinatra Jr.- 20%

Telly Savalas- Generous

Joseph Gorman (TRW) – 20%

Charles Bolton– 20%+

JP Maloney, (Cole National) – 20%

Jerry P. (Bodyguard for a union president) – 20%

There are a few more, but you get the point.

Leave a good tip. You’ll be remembered-and you’ll be taken care of very, very, well.

Are you a server? Tell me, what would you have done? Would you like to share some tipping stories?

The comment section below would be the perfect place to do it.


*Image courtesy of Applebee’s Woodbury Common by goodiesfirst, on Flickr



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  • Disappointing

    Hey Joel – RL is in Orgeon, right? So his post complete discounts the timezones where most of the U.S. lives…yes? I’ve seen the posts (which conveniently have timestamps removed in RL’s blog) and his times are quite inaccurate. Characterizing “most of the social media response” as happening at 3 AM (6 AM EST) clearly demonstrates you haven’t looked into this beyond reading a single blog post – take a look at their Twitter feed and their actual Facebook wall and you’ll see how terribly inaccurate this is. Shame on you and the other “experts” for your opportunism.  

    • The Franchise King

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Even if you’re correct about the time-zone mistake (?), clearly, I’m more of an “expert” on this topic than the folks who were doing some serious comment deleting with the added bonus of copying and pasting on the Applebee’s FB page.

      No matter what time of day it was.


      • Disappointing

        If you think anyone who is managing a situation of this volume has time to go through deleting comments I’d absolutely question the narcissistic “expert” tag. Go read the thread (which was not deleted – here’s the link: and show us where the copy pasting happened…or just accept everything you read on someone else’s blog as fact. That’s what all the other “experts” are doing, too.

  • The Franchise King

    I’d like to share the story of MY biggest tip ever.

    And, it was from one of the people I named up above.

    I was a server on Opening Night at a fancy Cleveland restaurant. I had 2 tables that evening; the first one was a party of 12-the 2nd was a party of 2.

    The party of 12 ordered some assorted premium bottles of wine, along with lots of high-priced appetizers and entrees. Plus dessert.

    Their bill came out to around $700.00. 

    The leader of the group gave me a tip of $140.00 (20%) on the credit card.Nice tip.

    But, as this leader was leaving, he calmly walked over to me and said “great job,” and handed me a crisp $50 bill.

    So, my tip was $190.00!

    My biggest tip ever!

    One more thing; the table of 2 that I took care of that night…they gave me a $40.00 tip.

    I made $230.00 that night, and even when I worked in Las Vegas, I never topped that night’s total.



  • Rhonda

    My waiter at Gibson’s whose name is Moe is beloved by all. Celebrities in Chicago or visiting only ask for Moe.  Johnny Depp gave him a $4000 tip which made the news but his tab was $20,000 so he gave him 20%. Sometimes I leave Moe $100 on a bill of $250.  That’s because Moe works with a whole team and splits all the money–which ignorant people like Ms. Pastor up there don’t understand.  And frankly if she gives 10% of her money “to God” then she’s even a bigger ass because I don’t think he needs the dough.  Stop preaching and start living in the real world Ms. Biatch Pastor.  

    • The Franchise King

      Hi Rhonda!

      Moe sounds like The Dude.

      Next time I’m in your fine city, maybe I’ll ring you up and we’ll have dinner at Gibson’s.

      Good point on the sharing, or as is called in the restaurant business-the “pooling” of tips.

      Like you, I’ve left more than 20% several times, and still do, for outstanding service.

      people- leave 20% at least, if your service was good.