There's no denying that the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election was a polarizing one, with conflicting views, tensions, and emotions running high. Chefs and operators even chimed in on which candidate they believe would benefit restaurant and hospitality the most, Foodable's poll leaning marginally in Trump's favor. However, they weren't the only voices speaking out about this split decision. Major food industry titans, such as PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, expressed their surprise and concerns for Trump's campaign rhetoric, but focused on comforting their employees by reaffirming their own promise to diversity and gender equality, all while encouraging unity moving forward.
Renowned restaurateur Danny Meyer even expressed his deep remorse for his team, writing "Like others, I am working hard to sort out my own feelings so that I can be there for my family and for you. I'm not going to [sugarcoat] it: this is tough. ...Donald Trump will be our next president. ...Acceptance of reality is never a bad first step to healing. We are an incredibly resilient country and company, and there is no way that the results of this election are going to erode our ability to pick ourselves up and to persevere."
But while most industry leaders took a took a tone of placating warmth, Grubhub CEO Matt Maloney took an inflamed, fired-up path — and although well-intentioned, it may have backfired. So much so that the company's stocks have dropped 4.8 percent.
What was deemed "the wrong way for a CEO to respond to Donald Trump's election win," the food-delivery executive boldly burned Trump's "hateful politics" and called for employees with "hateful attitudes" to resign.
"While demeaning, insulting and ridiculing minorities, immigrants and the physically/mentally disabled worked for Mr. Trump, I want to be clear that this behavior — and these views, have no place at GrubHub. Had he worked here, many of his comments would have resulted in his immediate termination," he wrote in an email. "We have worked for years cultivating a culture of support and inclusiveness. I firmly believe that we must bring together different perspectives to continue innovating – including all genders, races, ethnicities and sexual, cultural or ideological preferences. We are better, faster and stronger together."
"As we all try to understand what this vote means to us, I want to affirm to anyone on our team that is scared or feels personally exposed, that I and everyone else here at GrubHub will fight for your dignity and your right to make a better life for yourself and your family here in the United States. If you do not agree with this statement then please reply to this email with your resignation because you have no place here. We do not tolerate hateful attitudes on our team," Maloney continued.
Initially an effort to show solidarity for concerned staff, GrubHub may have gotten more than it bargained for. While some viewed this as a stand for employees' honor, others saw this as a call against Republican voters. An angry backlash stormed through Twitter with the hashtag #boycottgrubhub, and it doesn't seem like it will quell soon. Conservative consumers who felt targeted for supporting Trump have taken to social media, vowing to never use those Grubhub's services again. Originally highly-rated at 4+ stars in the iTunes App Store, Grubhub's app now is at 1-and-a-half stars, citing Maloney and terrible service. Investors, fearing a potential fallout, are choosing to forgo their shares.
Still, Maloney told Fox News that 20 percent of his employees personally thanked him for his memo, and that he is not embarrassed by it.
“I want to clarify that I did not ask anyone to resign if they voted for Trump,” he stated in a follow-up email. “To the contrary, the message of the email is that we do not tolerate discriminatory activity or hateful commentary in the workplace, and that we will stand up for our employees.”
Will this be enough to repair the damage? It seems unlikely in the near future, but only time will tell. Perhaps this is a prime lesson on how business and politics do not mix well. Most business leaders choose not to intersect their companies with divisive and volatile topics, but will this change now that a businessman — not a politician — will be seated in the Oval Office?
The future of the restaurant industry is still up in the air, but one thing is certain: the passionate people within it have — and always will be committed — to service and the happiness of the guests who walk through the doors. No legislation will compromise that.