Muffin Break general manager Natalie Brennan has issued a statement apologising for comments about Millennials and unpaid work that went viral over the weekend.
The Foodco-owned franchise chain and its GM copped a major online backlash after Brennan said in an interview with news.com.au that young people were no longer willing to do work experience, internships or unpaid work to advance their careers.
"The recent article does not reflect my values or those of Foodco," Brennan said in a statement published on the Muffin Break Facebook page on Monday morning.
"Every day for the last 25 years I've worked with young people who are motivated, passionate and hardworking. This is as true today as it was when I started my career.
"I don't expect anyone to work unpaid and Foodco Group policy is, and has always been, that all employees including interns, employed either directly or through our brands are paid according to relevant awards.
"The unpaid work I referred to was supervised programs run through schools, TAFEs or universities, which provide valuable gained experience to people before they enter the workforce full-time. I want to apologise for any misunderstanding or upset caused by my comments."
In the original interview, which drew criticism from the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Brennan said she had noticed a steep drop-off in university students and graduates "about 10 years ago".
"There's just nobody walking in my door asking for an internship, work experience or unpaid work, nobody," Brennan said.
"You don't see it anymore. Before that people would be knocking on your door all the time, you couldn't keep up with how many people wanted to be working. In fact I'd run programs because there were so many coming in.
"In essence they're working for free, but I can tell you every single person who has knocked on my door for an internship or work experience has ended up with a job. Every single person, because they back themselves.
"I think everybody thinks social media is going to get them ahead somewhere. There's definitely that inflated view of their self-importance because they have X amount of Instagram followers or this many likes. That's dangerous."
Many seized on the comments to highlight instances of Muffin Break franchisees underpaying staff. It comes as a parliamentary inquiry into Australia's franchise sector prepares to release its final report.
One Muffin Break franchisee said in a submission to the inquiry last year he was told to "to consider underpaying staff that I can trust". Foodco said in response at the time that it "strongly refutes this false allegation".