Classified documents have been found in at least 37 Applebee’s restaurant locations, according to letters from the fast-casual chain’s representatives to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
In a letter dated Jan. 18 to Kate Dillon McClure, the acting director of NARA’s Restaurant Liaison Division, Todd Buffalo, in-house counsel for Dine Brands, the parent company of Applebee’s, wrote that a Line Cook had first discovered documents at one of the chain’s Columbus, Ohio locations.
“As he was unpacking bags of our famous Boneless Wings, a cook noticed two documents marked ‘classified’ stuck to the bottom of the box,” the letter read. “After smoking a cigarette, reading the documents, and uploading pictures of them to social media, he immediately notified his manager, who notified our corporate office.”
A search was performed, and additional documents were found at the location, leading the chain to engage outside counsel with experience in handling classified materials to search their remaining locations and review their document handling practices.
In a subsequent letter dated Jan. 23, Buffalo informed the NARA that 79 additional documents potentially containing sensitive or classified information had been found across 36 restaurants and that the search was still ongoing.
A former FBI official said that while Applebee’s is indeed the most popular restaurant amongst government employees with top-secret clearance, it is extremely unusual for classified documents to be handled so carelessly.
“Government agents love Fiesta Lime Chicken and Chicken Wonton Tacos, and it’s common to see them reviewing classified documents at Applebee’s locations across the country,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous. “But the level of carelessness is shocking. Given the seriousness of this country’s classified materials and the great care everyone generally takes to ensure their security, it’s distressing to see them strewn about a fast-casual restaurant like this. It would not surprise me if government agents were required to double or even triple-check their belongings before leaving Applebee’s locations in the future.”
The discovery of classified material at Applebee’s locations follows similar discoveries at the personal homes of former Vice President Mike Pence, former President Donald Trump, and President Biden.