Backlash over ‘Brad’s wife’ puts restaurant chain over a barrel
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
The Internet has fallen in love with Brad's wife. Well, maybe it's more like an infatuation. Either way, it has left Cracker Barrel Old Country Store in a tough spot.
According to Internet reports, the restaurant chain fired Nanette Byrd from the Corydon, Indiana, location after 11 loyal and hard-working years. Her husband, Brad, later asked for an explanation on the company's Facebook page, with no response. Once comedian Amiri King posted about the situation on Twitter, memes and hashtags flourished — especially #JusticeForBradsWife.
How should Cracker Barrel react? Should the company defend itself in response to this negative criticism? Should it just ride the wave of attention with the attitude that "there's no such thing as bad publicity"?
So far, Cracker Barrel has stayed silent on the matter. When an employee is dismissed, rarely are the reasons disclosed publicly, especially for a rank-and-file worker.
Brad, however, has posted occasional updates discouraging boycotts, especially of the Corydon location where the couple's friends still work. He has encouraged his followers to ask Cracker Barrel for a reason for the dismissal. His March 25 statement on Facebook corrected the misconception that Nanette was fired on his birthday, and repeated that the Byrds still had not heard from Cracker Barrel.
Still, we have not heard publicly from Brad or Nanette, hence the earlier reference to the Internet as the lone source of the information on the topic. We've learned that we can't always trust the Internet.
Cracker Barrel's innocent Facebook posts have been absorbed into the fray. Messages about Easter decorations or menu items for sale at the restaurant and store have been hit with comments about Brad's wife. For a time, the Cracker Barrel Wikipedia page was altered to show that the chain had 70,000 employees, minus Brad's wife. A Change.org petition demanding an answer from Cracker Barrel has topped 20,000 signatures.
Engagement in Cracker Barrel's digital content shot up 226 percent after the incident, Adweek reported. In a six-day stretch, 90 percent of the company's digital content engagement was related to the issue, Adweek stated, attributing the data to Amobee. The hashtag #JusticeForBradsWife was referenced in 8,000 tweets, and #Bradswife in 5,000.
Other restaurant chains are taking advantage of the social media spotlight. A Chick-Fil-A restaurant in Amarillo, Texas, posted a photo of its outdoor message board that stated, "Now Hiring Brad's Wife," and a Hooters restaurant expressed the same sentiment on its outdoor sign.
The situation has brought a slight amount of fame to Corydon, a southern Indiana city of 3,100, which served as the state capital in the early 1800s. "Well now they're going to be saying, 'Corydon, we fired Brad's wife,'" Corydon native Colin LaMure told TV station WHAS.
The buzz is similar to the Internet-generated storm that followed the shooting death of Harambe, a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens that was killed by zoo officials after a child fell into his enclosure. Memes, hashtags and online petitions have lived on long after the 17-year-old gorilla, who received write-in votes in the 2016 presidential election, though not nearly the 11,000 to 15,000 that the Internet originally claimed.
The issue offers no easy answer for Cracker Barrel. The company has tried to ignore the reaction and conduct its business as usual, only to see that attempt fall victim to commenters. But bad publicity is still publicity. Perhaps the company is waiting for Brad's side to play out the story. It's possible that other information will come to light.
The attention surely will wane, sooner or later. And it's possible that the entire situation is a hoax, which the Internet has been known to accomplish.
If the company offers its position, it could be viewed as desperate, no matter how well-meaning. The band Smash Mouth learned that when trying to correct Twitter users about the group's hits. Still, Smash Mouth has gained notoriety for its Twitter account, a point that occasionally puts its name back in the headlines.
@jacobdotexe News to us? We already had a #1 hit with "WalkinOnTheSun and "AllStar" was already Top10 before Shrek was released.— Smash Mouth (@smashmouth) April 4, 2015
Inc. empathized with Cracker Barrel, warning posters that are demanding public answers to consider the consequences. "Is this really how you want things to play out should you ever be so unfortunate as to lose your job?" Suzanne Lucas wrote on Inc.’s website.
No matter what the case is, once again the Internet has generated a way to capture users from around the world on a common topic.
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