No, you’re not seeing things. Cracker Barrel, a Southern restaurant chain that has come under fire for discrimination and lack of inclusivity in the past, is celebrating Pride this June. Some of the restaurant chain’s iconic rocking chairs might be sporting a rainbow, part of a new campaign to bring “the front porch to Pride.”
“We are excited to celebrate Pride Month with our employees and guests. Everyone is always welcome at our table (and our rocker). Happy Pride,” a Facebook post from Cracker Barrel reads.
While most customers on social media praised the Tennessee-based Southern restaurant and country store chain for openly supporting the LGBTQ+ community in the more than 10,000 comments on the post, others unsurprisingly vowed to never to eat at Cracker Barrel again, saying the restaurant is now too “woke”.
“We take no pleasure in reporting that Cracker Barrel has fallen,” ultra-conservative organization the Texas Family Project tweeted. “A once family friendly establishment has caved to the mob.”
Calls for a boycott are being drowned out by people praising the company’s move toward inclusivity, many who’ve chosen not to darkened the doorstep of a Cracker Barrel for years due to its previous intolerance toward the LGBTQ+ community.
“I’ve avoided Cracker Barrel for as long as I can remember, not knowing if my family was truly welcome,” one person commented. “We’ll be sure to stop by our local location soon!”
Another commenter wrote, “This is so heartwarming to see and makes me want to go get breakfast at the closest one tomorrow! Don’t let hate win. We need more of this.”
The company has a long history of discriminatory practices toward both employees and customers leading to multiple lawsuits and scandals over the years. In 1991, the Cracker Barrel corporation fired several LGBTQ+ staff members, saying it would no longer employ anyone from the gay community. The policy was eventually reversed. There was also a 2006 lawsuit in which Cracker Barrel paid $2 million to 51 employees at three Illinois restaurants for sexual harassment in the workplace and discriminating against Black staff members and customers. In 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Cracker Barrel for violating federal law after refusing to hire a qualified dishwasher candidate in Maryland because he was deaf.
The company since then has made some strides toward inclusivity, including adding vegan sausage patties to its breakfast menu last year. The Impossible sausage patty option is part of Cracker Barrel’s build your own breakfast menu and is filling a food need for a new customer base. As if on cue, that move also prompted naysayers to call out the restaurant chain for being too “woke” for its own good and saying they would never eat there again.
Cracker Barrel’s public stance in support of LGBTQ+ people and Pride comes at a time when the rights of this community are under serious threat at the local, state, and federal levels.
According to the ACLU, 491 anti-LGBTQ bills have already been introduced in states across the country during the 2023 legislative session. This includes in Tennessee where Governor Bill Lee signed an anti-drag bill into law in March and in Georgia where Governor Brian Kemp signed a controversial bill earlier this spring limiting certain medical treatments for transgender minors in the state.
“The south is also the site of the majority of 400 bills proposed that are anti-LGBTQ,” executive director of the LGBTQ Institute Tim’m t. West told the AJC in March. “So you have this confluence of a stronghold of LGBTQ people who live in the south and at the same time they face mounting adversity and challenges.”
Cracker Barrel includes over 660 locations across the United States, located mostly along major interstate highways. Florida features the largest number of Cracker Barrel locations in one state, followed by Texas, Tennessee, and Georgia, with more than 45 locations statewide.