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8 Scandals Cracker Barrel Hopes You'll Forget

It’s not always down-home charm at the “Old Country Store”
FACT CHECKED BY Meaghan Cameron

To read about Cracker Barrel on the company's own About Us page is to get a story about a restaurant chain (and eclectic retail store) with "a mission of pleasing people [and commitment to] strong values and genuine hospitality." Which is all quite in keeping with the image of this folksy, friendly fixture of the American roadside. What's not in keeping with Cracker Barrel's intended ethos and stated mission are the scandals that have struck the company time and time again.

In its nearly 55-year history, the first Cracker Barrel location having opened in 1969, people working for the company have committed myriad blunders and, in some cases, ostensible crimes. At other times, there have been seemingly institutional problems with the chain that relate to racism and intolerance. Granted, the company always releases statements officially condemning such occurrences, but they have occurred enough times that it does seem something is rather amiss at the Old Country Store.

Here are eight Cracker Barrel scandals that the company wishes you'd forget.

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A decorative noose?

cracker barrel

In one of a number of race-related incidents at Cracker Barrel restaurants, a Connecticut Cracker Barrel was accused of hanging a decoration in its dining room that looked for all intents and purposes like a noose. Per Business Insider, the decoration was actually an antique soldering iron with a wrapped cord that looked like rope, but the resemblance to a noose was so clear that the company admitted to the fault and removed it from the restaurant.

A toxic beverage

cracker barrel service
Courtesy of Cracker Barrel

A Tennessee Cracker Barrel served a diner a "beverage" that was actually a glass full of the industrial cleaning chemical Eco-San, per CNN. The toxic and corrosive substance caused chemical burning in the man's mouth and throat. Cracker Barrel was subsequently burned with a $9.4 million lawsuit.

A racist code word

cracker barrel grandmas breakfast sampler
Courtesy of Cracker Barrel

In the second of three racist incidents we're covering, a Cracker Barrel employee at an Arizona location shared on TikTok that fellow members of the staff had created a code word to refer to Black customers, per Newsweek. When African American diners came into the restaurant, some of the workers would refer to them as "Canadians." Cracker Barrel responded through a spokesperson and said, "Obviously, racism has no place at Cracker Barrel and any actions like the ones described in the video would be against our policies, beliefs and who we are as a company."

The salmonella shutdown

Cracker barrel sunday chicken family meal
Courtesy of Cracker Barrel

A Cracker Barrel in Kalamazoo, Mich. just could not overcome a salmonella outbreak, according to Fox 17 Online. In June 2018, health department officials first inspected the restaurant after reports of foodborne illness, and the location temporarily closed for heavy cleaning. It reopened, but later that same year another person was hit with salmonella poisoning from the same location. Unable to expunge the bacteria, the restaurant instead shuttered itself permanently.

Siding with anti-LGBTQ people

cracker barrel Duck Commander collection
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store / Facebook

In 2013, per USA Today, Phil Robertson, the gruff, bearded patriarch on the show Duck Dynasty, said some seriously ugly things about gay people. Cracker Barrel, which sold a number of Duck Commander items in its stores—Duck Commander being a company run by the Robertson family—pulled many of these items off its shelves, which was the right thing to do. When many customers complained, the chain put all the merchandise right back and apologized. This was a craven reversal that some thought indicated siding with the anti-LGBTQ faction of the nation.

Systematic racism

The earlier mentions of racism at Cracker Barrel were limited to single locations. Sadly, that's not the case with bigotry and the chain writ large. In early 2014, per Fox News, the chain agreed to settle multiple lawsuits brought by the NAACP. The suits included allegations of Black customers being segregated from Caucasians—often relegated to smoking sections—and of people of color experiencing longer wait times and poorer service.

Underpaid staff


In the spring of 2021, Cracker Barrel was hit with a major lawsuit alleging it was not properly paying many of its workers. The complaint alleged that the chain violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by applying a tip credit to the hourly wages of servers even though these servers were required to spend more than a fifth of their working hours doing duties for which they could not earn tips from customers.

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The whip

cracker barrel logo close up

First, it was what looked like a noose, then it was what looked like that other worst symbol of America's racist past, a whip. Per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a social media frenzy was kicked up a couple of years back when a myth appeared online claiming the logo contained a disguised image of a whip and that the barrel itself was a traditional way slaveowners stored such abusive hardware. These claims were unsubstantiated, but they dealt the chain a blow just the same.

Steven John
Steven John is a freelancer writer for Eat This, Not That! based just outside New York City. Read more about Steven