‘Cracker Barrel has fallen.’ Southern restaurant chain is latest to get criticized for inclusion campaign
‘Cracker Barrel has fallen.’ Southern restaurant chain is latest to get criticized for inclusion campaign© Uncredited

Has Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores gone woke? The meat loaf and fried steak purveyor, founded in Middle Tennessee and overwhelmingly concentrated in Old Dixie, has been criticized for a diversity, equity and inclusion campaign.

“We take no pleasure in reporting that Cracker Barrel has fallen,” tweeted the Texas Family Project. As evidence, the Texas group cited a two-page flyer from the restaurant chain celebrating Pride month, and its participation which seemingly looked to be a few rainbow-colored sponsored rocking chairs.

“Discrimination, overt or through unconscious bias, has no place at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store,” concludes the company, which over the years has been criticized for its conduct.

In 1992, it asked, and was granted, a so-called no-action letter from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to exclude shareholder proposals dealing with its employment policies — and in particular, its policy, stated in a press release, that it would not hire gay or lesbian employees. After public and shareholder pressure, Cracker Barrel reversed that policy, and in 1998, the SEC withdrew the no-action letter.

During the George W. Bush administration, Cracker Barrel settled a lawsuit with the Justice Department that alleged a pattern of discrimination against African-American customers, based on conduct in 50 restaurants in seven states.

Culture wars have engulfed a number of companies of late, in particular Anheuser-Busch InBev, which ran a social-media campaign with Dylan Mulvaney, featuring her holding a personalized Bud Light can with her picture on it marking the anniversary of her gender transition. U.S.-listed Anheuser-Busch InBev shares have dropped 10% over the last month as Bud Light, and other of its beer brands, have seen sales skid in the U.S.

As for the Cracker Barrel situation, many on Twitter lampooned the concern.

As for Cracker Barrel’s financial performance, just this week the company said its 7.4% comparable-store restaurant sales growth during the April 28-ending fiscal third quarter was below expectations, citing a decline in traffic toward the end of the quarter. “The Company anticipates the near-term environment will remain challenged due to heightened economic uncertainty, lower discretionary spending, and weaker consumer confidence,” it said of the present period.

Cracker Barrel shares have lost 7% over the last five sessions.