In recent years the media have reported many stories of people who suffered significant professional consequences because of statements they made on social media platforms. But just after Thanksgiving in Ann Arbor, some laid-off workers took to social media to air grievances against their former employer – and what began as an internal business matter quickly became a community conversation.
Phillis Engelbert and Joel Panozzo had opened Detroit Street Filling Station as an upscale vegan eatery just three months before the November incident. Engelbert and Panozzo, who also own both locations of the Lunch Room, had determined by Turkey Day that DSFS wasn’t financially viable and that they needed to recalibrate the restaurant’s look, atmosphere, price point, menu, and staff in order to stay in business.
So on Saturday, November 25th, at around 9:30 p.m., as the night’s last customers lingered in the restaurant, DSFS’ owners reportedly gathered their on-duty managers outside and told them that the restaurant would be closing indefinitely, in hopes of reopening with a new concept.
Following this meeting, DSFS closed up for two days. Engelbert and Panozzo scrambled to make the space look and feel more casual, and worked with cooks to develop a new menu, recipe books, prep sheets, and produce shopping lists. Meanwhile, a press release about DSFS’ new vision was sent out.
Some former DSFS employees received an invitation via email to stay on at DSFS 2.0, while eight others (two managers, four cooks, and two servers) received a termination of employment message later shared on DSFS’ Facebook “reviews” page. The email stated that Engelbert and Panozzo were reconfiguring to “a smaller, more casual concept that will require far less staffing,” informed employees that their health insurance would continue through December, and encouraged them to ask for a job reference.
The former DSFS employee who shared the email on social media was Jamie Seely, a server. “I didn’t know anything was wrong,” Seely says. “I got the email that night, after I’d worked a busy Saturday night. … I’ve never been contacted (about a layoff) through email before. I’ve always been sat down and talked to.” READ THE REST HERE