The tranquility of the Cracker Barrel campaign was apparently shattered on Monday when the chain announced on Facebook that customers could customize their breakfast plate with a plant-based protein in lieu of traditional smoked bacon or sausage.
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“Discover new frontiers of meat,” Cracker Barrel wrote in his post. “Experience the out-of-this-world flavor of plant-based Impossible ™ sausage the next time you build your breakfast.”
The backlash was immediate and intense. The comments, hundreds and hundreds, were divided along ideological, generational and political lines.
The most conservative takes:
“All the more reason to stop eating at Cracker Barrel. This is not the goal of Cracker Barrel, “wrote one person.
“I just lost respect for a big Tennessee company,” added another.
“If I wanted a salad … I would actually order a salad … stop the plant-based ‘meat’ crap,” wrote a third.
“Oh Noes … the Cracker Barrel Woke Up !!! They really are the end of time… ”commented another.
The most liberal views:
“Thanks Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, you understand in which direction the world is heading. Whether you are doing it for marketing, profit or personal reasons, vegans appreciate that there will be less suffering in the world due to your choice to offer cruelty free food, ”wrote one animal lover.
“Lone star tick disease is spreading and some of you yayhoos will have to eat a metaphorical crow with your vegan sausages after the ticks make you allergic to meat,” one person wrote, referring to the bite of a Lone Star tick. which can cause some to become allergic to red meat.
“Imagine getting angry that there is a menu option in a restaurant. Relax, Trumpers, ”added another.
Then there were the comic, cruel, anti-boomer invectives:
“This swings, now I have an option for me and the noisy boomers will not be there because they are afraid of the plants!”
“How can the US survive with * check notes * more menu options in Cracker Barrell?”
“Some of you are working on your third Cracker Barrel heart attack, being so angry about something you don’t even have to eat.”
A Cracker Barrel spokesperson sent a statement to the Washington Post about dusting off Impossible:
“We appreciate the love our fans have for our all day breakfast menu. At Cracker Barrel, we always explore opportunities to expand the way our guests experience breakfast and provide choices to satisfy every taste bud, whether people want to stick with traditional dishes like bacon and sausage or are hungry for a new one. nutritious plant-based option such as the Impossible Sausage “.
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The Facebook post puts Cracker Barrel squarely in the crosshairs of America’s culture wars. It is a place familiar to numerous restaurants, although they have been limited mainly to dining rooms in urban areas, where a politician or a Supreme Court judge might try to enjoy a meal shortly after a controversial decision or decision goes into effect. politics.
Founded in 1969 in Lebanon, Tennessee, Cracker Barrel is a publicly traded company with more than 660 stores in 45 states, according to the third quarter investor report. In its more than 50-year history, the company has faced much more controversial issues than adding a plant-based sausage to its menu.
In 1991, Cracker Barrel was targeted by gay rights activists after a leaked memo indicated that the chain would fire employees whose “sexual preferences fail to demonstrate the normal heterosexual values that have been the foundation of families in our society “. According to a 1991 Los Angeles Times article, numerous employees were reportedly fired as a result of politics.
Cracker Barrel withdrew from that policy and the company released a statement. “We have revisited our thinking on the subject and believe it is only good business to continue hiring those people who will provide the quality service that our customers have come to expect from us,” the Times reported.
Between the late 1990s and early 2000s, the company was indicted in numerous lawsuits accusing it of discriminating against customers and employees on the basis of race. In 2004, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Cracker Barrel. The agency said it found evidence in about 50 Cracker Barrel restaurants in seven states that managers and servers separated customers by race, seated white customers before African American customers, and provided inferior service to African American diners.
Cracker Barrel quickly settled the case. The company accepted a five-year authorization decree in which the company did not admit any wrongdoing but said it will, among other things, adopt effective non-discrimination policies and implement enhanced training programs. According to a USA Today story at the time, Cracker Barrel said it “has long had policies that prohibit discrimination.”
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For years, the company has had a hard time losing its image.
“Even recently, in the 2016 election season, political pundits used the company as an abbreviation, referring to Cracker Barrel and Whole Foods counties,” wrote the Knoxville News Sentinel in 2019. “The implication meant rural at best. of the hypotheses and backward or alienated in the worst case scenario. “
Cracker Barrel, the same news report noted, made a “surprising cultural breakthrough” by rejecting discrimination and embracing inclusiveness.
The current vegetable protein brouhaha at Cracker Barrel can tell as much about the American cultural divide as it does about the company.
As a philosopher king noted in the Cracker Barrel post:
“That is why this country is doomed. Social media has prompted most people to live in a personal echo chamber where no one EVER disagrees with them or has a different, no less opposite point of view. All this makes people almost 100% intolerant towards anything that is not in line with all their personal beliefs ”.