Applebee and its new owners are not the first chain to be forced to change.
But they are the first to make the transition so smoothly, in the way that Starbucks has done it over the past several decades.
And with Applebee in the midst of a renaissance, the company is showing no signs of slowing down, even as it faces some of the same challenges it did as a fledgling food and beverage company.
Applebee opened its first restaurant in New York City in 1959, and today the company employs more than 3,000 people in more than 100 countries.
But the chain’s long history of labor strife—the company’s main source of revenue—has not gone away.
The fast-food giant was the subject of a federal investigation last year that found its workers were routinely underpaid and mistreated, while also making a series of unsafe working conditions.
Applebees employees say they have complained to supervisors about how much overtime they receive, but Applebee insists that all employees receive paid time off and vacation, among other benefits.
“The only way to fix this problem is to put an end to labor strife,” said Robert Rochon, an analyst at Jefferies, in an interview.
“It’s a huge issue, and it’s one that has to be addressed.”
But there’s a growing chorus of discontent, including by Applebees workers themselves.
In interviews with The Verge, many of them said they were frustrated with the company’s lack of transparency about its labor practices.
Many of the complaints about overtime are related to the company providing employees with a one-time $3,000 bonus for signing up for the company-sponsored Costco Club, which Applebee uses to pay for their own grocery shopping.
Apple is the only chain to use Costco Club as a source of profit.
But Costco is not the only source of income for the chain.
Apple’s annual revenue from its business is $15.4 billion, according to its latest financial reports.
And while Applebees earnings are not in line with that, they have been growing faster than the overall economy.
That growth, along with Apple’s move to become a fully digital company, has led to a surge in the number of online Applebee locations, as well as more frequent visits from customers.
But for many of those who work in the fast-casual eatery, it’s not just about the perks.
It’s also about the way they feel about Applebee, and what they see as its increasingly negative culture.
“There are certain things that are just so alien to the culture of Applebee,” said Michael Laughlin, a former manager at the restaurant who now works at a coffee shop.
“When I first started working there, we were like a family.
I don’t know if that’s still the case anymore, but there’s just a certain amount of disconnect between that.”
And that disconnect is evident at Applebee.
While employees have complained about being treated poorly, they also have felt they are being left out of the chain, said Laughlin.
“They just don’t understand the way the whole company works,” he said.
“That’s really the biggest problem for me.
There’s a certain level of hostility towards Applebees staff that I feel is pretty common.”
The company’s workers have been calling for a new leadership team to replace the company chair, who is a former executive who resigned in 2016 amid a controversy involving alleged sexual harassment.
Apple has also faced criticism for a series in which the company did not pay its workers in 2016.
A new report by the Labor Department found that in the year ending June 30, 2016, Apple paid workers in the U.S. less than $11 an hour.
A year earlier, Apple was paying workers about $17 an hour, and a year earlier it was paying $18.
Apple did not respond to requests for comment about the Labor department report.
“I think we’re seeing some signs of a change in leadership,” said Lavin, the former employee.
“Some of the leadership, especially in the executive team, they’ve got a very different attitude toward workers, especially when it comes to labor issues.
It just doesn’t make sense.”
Laughlin also pointed to a different reason why the company has been slow to reform its workplace culture.
Apple doesn’t have an independent union, he said, and there are no workers at its stores who have organized.
“If they’re not going to have workers, they’re just not going get them,” Laughlin said.
The company is also grappling with the fallout from its $19 billion acquisition of Beats Music, a company that was once the most valuable music service in the world.
It was the first major tech company to get into the music business and quickly made it a major player in the mobile and streaming services.
But Beats’ long history with its workers has been marred by