Cracker Barrel has found itself in unfamiliar territory with a social media controversy over a fired employee.
The hashtag #JusticeforBradsWife gained popularity after Bradley Reid Byrd posted a question to the restaurant chain’s Facebook page trying to find out why a manager at a Corydon, Indiana, store fired his wife after 11 years of service—on his birthday, no less.
Comedian Amiri King shared Brad’s gripe with his 2 million followers:
“There is a absolute s–t show going on at the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store facebook page,” King wrote. From there, #JusticeforBradsWife took off.
Now, a quick visit to Cracker Barrel’s Facebook page shows that it’s been flooded with calls for the restaurant’s social media team to answer for what happened to Brad’s wife.
Cracker Barrel must be aware of the situation, though it has chosen to remain silent. Instead, it’s gone on sharing posts about its partnership with singer Alison Krauss and mulberry pancakes.
This comment on the Alison Krauss post has around 17,000 likes:
Michael Perry, vice president and partner of Vehr Communications, has the following suggestions on how Cracker Barrel should handle the situation:
1. Don’t ignore the masses. It just encourages them. Say something. Just don’t turn your back on people who could be customers. Something as simple as, “While we appreciate the interest in Cracker Barrel, please understand we cannot comment on personnel matters for privacy reasons.”
Yes, it’s corporate speak, and you might take some different kind of heat for that—but at least that acknowledges the dialogue. Being silent only further alienates the crowd.
You can’t keep posting about your food and pretending this conversation is not happening.
2. Turn the beat around. Come up with a clever way to join in and show you’re not taking yourself too seriously.
Perhaps you can feature current employees from all over the country with a photo, quote and hashtag: #johnswife, #joanshusband or #sallysbrother. You could also offer a free dessert this weekend to any wife of someone named Brad.
3. Bring her back. Without talking to company officials, we have no idea why #bradswife was really let go. There are so many reasons these days why employees are fired—some legit, and some not.
Can you imagine rehiring Nanette and turning her into a company celebrity of sorts—an ambassador for Cracker Barrel who can go on talk shows and claim how the company did her wrong, but then brought her back and treated her like a queen? Talk about free publicity.
If you were Cracker Barrel’s brand manager, how would you handle this crisis? Clearly it’s not going to blow over any time soon.