NEW YORK — Cracker Barrel's Facebook page doesn't normally spark much discussion, but that changed when the company said this week that it is adding a plant-based sausage patty to the restaurant chain's menu.
Suddenly, customers swarmed the page, with some calling the decision a "crock" and "garbage" and vowing never to return. By Thursday morning, the Facebook post had drawn more than 7,000 comments, compared with the usual 100 or so replies to a typical Cracker Barrel post.
"Are you kidding me? Who do you think your customer base is?" one person wrote. "I still order the double meat breakfast and it's not even on the menu anymore."
Added another, "Go Woke, Go Broke!"
In response to the negative comments, supporters of plant-based options and menu choices entered the fray, with one commenter noting, "Imagine being this triggered by breakfast."
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To be sure, restaurants have been adding or testing plant-based options for years with little fuss, including fast-food giants such as McDonald's and Burger King. But Cracker Barrel seems to have stepped smack into the nation's culture wars by offending some customers who view the chain as a bastion of old-fashioned values, such as serving real meat with every meal.
With 660 company-owned locations in 45 states, Lebanon, Tennessee-based Cracker Barrel is known for its menu of Southern and country staples, such as chicken and dumplings and country-fried steak.
In an emailed response about the Impossible Sausage backlash, Cracker Barrel told CBS MoneyWatch that it "appreciate[s] the love our fans have for our all-day breakfast menu." The company added that it wants to add choices "to satisfy every taste bud — whether people want to stick with traditional favorites like bacon and sausage or are hungry for a new, nutritious plant-based option like Impossible Sausage."
That emphasis on more choices aligns with some the pro-Impossible Sausage comments on the company's Facebook page, with many commenters pointing out that meat is still on Cracker Barrel's menu and that customers don't have to order the veggie patty if they don't want to. Others with dietary restrictions praised the addition of a plant-based menu item.
"For everyone saying this is stupid. It's pretty good for those of us with kidney issues who have to follow plant based diets," one commenter wrote. "Nobody is taking your sausage away and now I can have something when I go besides veggies and grits."
Others were content to poke fun at the outrage over the vegetarian option.
"I also hate the idea of a menu having options that I specifically don't want to eat! Restaurants should limit their options to exactly my specifications and nothing more! How dare they cater to anybody other than myself!" one Facebook user wrote.
The real test will be whether customers order the Impossible Sausage patty at Cracker Barrel, rather than any social media backlash. McDonald's, for one, has ended its trial of a plant-based burger, with some analysts citing low demand for the product, according to Restaurant Dive.