If you’re unhappy with an employer, going out in a blaze of glory is sometimes the best you can hope for. This certainly seems to have been the prevailing wisdom amongst a group of disgruntled, now-ex Sonic workers, who last week left their posts in spectacular fashion. The walk-out was triggered after rumours began to circulate that the company planned to reduce employee wages to $4 per hour, plus tips.
Speaking in the aftermath of the incident, an anonymous source told reporters that, "Circleville, Lancaster, and Grove City crews have all walked out and quit after the franchise was bought out by corporate." They went on to add, "The regional director, two district managers and four general managers have all been let go. All of which have been working for the company in management for 7+ years."
In order to make it abundantly clear how unhappy they were with the situation, staff at the Circleville restaurant left a detailed and brutally honest appraisal of the new owners. In a note, pinned to the door of the restaurant for any and all to see, the employees wrote:
"Due to terrible management, the whole store has quit. The company has been sold to people that don't give a f**k about anyone but themselves. Sorry for the inconvenience, but our team refuses to work for a company that treats their employees like they are s**t when they have put everything into this [store]. We have worked to hard for to long. We are all off to better things. So to the New Owners F**K YOU! Sincerely, Ex Sonic Crew [sic]."
Clearly, the express outrage of previously loyal staffers made for some bad press for Sonic, who were quick to respond to the situation. Initially, the company sent out a relatively positive release from the office of Christi Woodworth, Vice President of Public Relations, where they wrote, “Under new management, guests and the community can look forward to improved service and the famous food, beverages and treats for which SONIC is known. Employees working for the local drive-in can look forward to fun, fast-paced work on which they can build a career, if they choose.”
However, it soon became apparent that this glossing over wasn’t going to cut it. Two days later, the business issued an updated message, adding, “We recognise that changes like this can be difficult for employees to understand, and most current employees were offered the opportunity to continue working at the drive-in.”
Sonic also denied that there were any plans in place to decrease wages, revealing, "No wage rates at any level decreased in this transition, although SONIC carhops often receive tips in addition to their wages. Additionally, employees may now have their paycheck direct deposited and general managers are now eligible for a new bonus program. SRI has increased the total number of employees at the eight drive-ins in the Columbus market and will continue to invest in employees, technology and infrastructure at these drive-ins in order to deliver outstanding guest service." It remains to be seen whether this is enough to prevent further walk-outs.