After an Applebee’s franchise executive suggested in an email that the company’s best response to increasing gas prices would be lowering new worker wages, an outpost in Kansas saw a mass resignation. 

The employees at the Applebee’s in Lawrence, Kansas were made aware of the already leaked email, from American Franchise Capital exec Wayne Pankratz, when manager Jake Holcomb printed out two dozen copies and scattered them all over the restaurant, per Vice. Holcomb quit on the spot, before four of the location’s six managers—and at least 10 other workers—did the same. Pankratz has since been terminated following the email, per Restaurant Business Online. 

“I gave everyone in the restaurant their food for free. We didn’t even close the store,” Holcomb said. 

Adrian Kelley, a 22-year-old server at the location, told Vice that the incident was “a straw that broke the camel’s back situation,” after employees already felt “unappreciated” and “understaffed.” Kelley explained that the email “was so atrocious that it kind of just tipped everyone over the edge.”

“Oh my gosh, I was so mad,” former manager Jenna Willis said. “I let the staff that showed up to open that morning read it, and they were livid. So I told them if we wanted to make money, we would open, but I didn’t really feel like we should at that point.” 

The email read that “as inflation continues to climb and gas prices continue to go up, that means more hours employees will need to work to maintain their current level of living.”

Kelley said that problems persisted even before the email was sent. As Kelley points out, they work in a “college town,” so when the bartender is the only one on a shift alongside the chefs and the manager, it can get “busy out of nowhere.” Willis, who shared that servers were making close to $60 a night at the location, said that the store couldn’t get “anybody to actually show up to the store after being hired.” 

“I really hope that more and more people see what’s happening and see the support that the community has given everybody that chose to leave,” Holcomb said. “I hope that people realize they don’t have to be walked all over by the company that they work for.”

Company COO Kevin Carroll explained the email by saying it was an “opinion of an individual, not Applebee’s.

“The individual has been terminated by the franchisee who owns and operates the restaurants in this market. Our team members are the lifeblood of our restaurants, and our franchisees are always looking to reward and incentivize team members, new and current, to remain within the Applebee’s family,” he added.