Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., is a chain of 557 "Old Country Stores" (as of 2007), each combining a retail store and a restaurant.
As of June 2006, the company, founded and based in Lebanon, Tennessee, was operating 577 full service locations located in 41 states in the United States. In 2007, Cracker Barrel was ranked as the top "family dining" chain for the 17th consecutive year in Restaurants & Institutions magazine "Choice in Chains" annual consumer survey.
The Cracker Barrel chain serves traditional Southern comfort food. Their outlets have traditionally been located along interstate highways, though the company policy on this appears to be changing. Breakfast is served all day, though the breakfast menu is kept separate from the one for lunch and dinner. Both menus include a low-carb section.
The outer porch of a Cracker Barrel store has rows of rocking chairs for guests to enjoy before or after eating, and there is usually a fireplace and a checkers table within the dining area for an added country feel. The interior walls of the dining area are decorated with antiques such as photographs, advertisements, and household items.
The retail store carries mainly nostalgic merchandise, collectibles, old time toys, classic candies, scented candles, and items used in making Cracker Barrel entrees. Also, a lot of merchandise sold at Cracker Barrel is holiday themed, depending on the time of year. It is known for selling Christmas ornaments and other decorations.
Cracker Barrel has been embroiled in controversy through the years, first with gay rights groups and then with claims of racial discrimination and sexual harassment.
Discrimination against LGBT employees
In 1991, Cracker Barrel instituted a policy requiring employees to display "normal heterosexual
values which have been the foundation of families
in our society
." According to the text of Understanding and Managing Diversity
, by Carol Harvey, 17 LGBT
workers were fired because they admitted or were assumed to be gay after the first few months that the policy was created. The company refused to change their policy in the face of protest demonstrations by gay rights
groups. After 10 years of proposals by the New York City Employees Retirement System
, a major shareholder, the company's shareholders voted 58% in 2002 in favor of rescinding the policy. The board of directors
immediately added sexual orientation
to the company's nondiscrimination policy.
Racial discrimination: Customers
In the early 2000s and again in 2006, Cracker Barrel faced accusations including a pattern of racial
discrimination in its treatment of customers. After national press attention to these accusations, the company announced explicit policies intended to address the charges, and paid 2 million dollars for race and sexual harassment
at three Illinois
restaurants. Stores now display a sign in their front foyer clarifying this policy, as has become the policy after a similar incident involving Denny's
Unlawful political campaign contributions
Cracker Barrel was one of eight companies indicted and accused of making alleged illegal corporate campaign contributions to the Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee
(TRMPAC), started by Rep. Tom DeLay
. Less than five months later, however, all charges against Cracker Barrel were dropped.
In May 2007 Cracker Barrel temporarily removed hamburgers from its menu at many of its locations after a patron ate a metal fragment resembling part of a razor blade in her hamburger at a restaurant in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina