Despite its infamous past of openly discriminating against its gay employees in the 1990s, Cracker Barrel has moved towards inclusivity and diversity over the past decade.
On Thursday, the company, which is headquartered in Lebanon, Tennessee, took many by surprise and shock after it posted an image on Instagram of one of its restaurants with a rainbow-coloured chair to announce the celebration of Pride Month.
“We are excited to celebrate Pride Month with our employees and guests. Everyone is always welcome at our table (and our [rainbow emoji] rocker). Happy Pride!” the post read.
The company has been celebrating the month over the past few years while pushing for rainbow-themed souvenirs in its popular quirky gift shops.
However, the company’s transformation towards inclusivity has sparked anger among critics, who have criticised the restaurant chain for being too “woke”.
“These woke companies are hell bent on destroying themselves,” a Twitter user said, slamming the company for its campaign.
“Sad that they care more about money and themselves than their customers. Oh well, another place never to give my hard earned money to! Enjoy going broke @CrackerBarrel”, another user tweeted.
Several people, however, welcomed the change and said it was heartwarming to see a company embracing change.
“Love that. I’ve always loved Cracker Barrel. Love them even more now. It’s a small gesture, but you know what? It’s those small gestures of kindness that matter the most. Responding to only positive posts by users, Cracker Barrel has thanked people for their support,” a user said.
“Wonderful news! I’ve avoided Cracker Barrel for as long as I can remember, not knowing if my family was truly welcome. We’ll be sure to stop by our local location soon!” another said.
The company is still remembered by many for its intolerant past, when it the restaurant fired several gay employees.
The company had said it would no longer employ anybody from the gay community after dismissing at least nine gay employees in 1991. The policy was rescinded the following year.
Coming a long way from its previous stance, Cracker Barrel said it had a zero-discrimination policy in 2019 after it again landed in controversy over an anti-LGBT+ pastor saying he would hold an event in one of its stores.
“We take pride in serving as a home away from home for all guests and in showing our communities and our country that the hospitality we practice is open for everyone,” the company said.
Amid the backlash, Cracker Barrel has reiterated its support for the LGBTQ+ community. On the company’s Facebook page, where many customers have applauded the chain for its support, Cracker Barrel wrote: “We will always choose to stand for what’s right no matter what.”
The Independent has contacted Cracker Barrel for comment.