Rules That Cracker Barrel Employees Have To Follow

Since 1969, Cracker Barrel has become a restaurant that strives to act as a home away from home for its customers. With over 660 locations across 45 states in the U.S., Cracker Barrel is synonymous with country-style cooking and hospitality. Founded by Danny Evins in Lebanon, Tennessee, the restaurant chain seeks to provide a wholesome experience for customers based on Evins' memories from his childhood.

With over 77,000 employees, Cracker Barrel expects a lot from its staff. With its "Pleasing People" mission statement, the restaurant aims to treat its employees like family. In a 2014 interview with Nation's Restaurant News, former Cracker Barrel CEO Sandra Cochran described her treatment of her employees. "You have to take care of your people," she said. "If you do, they'll take care of your customers."

But like with most large families, there can be a few differences of opinion from time to time. To make sure that all family members play by the same rules, Cracker Barrel enforces relatively strict employee policies. Keep reading to check out some of the rules that Cracker Barrel employees have to follow.

Outside employment is heavily regulated

Like most employers, Cracker Barrel encourages its employees to focus their undivided attention on the company while on the clock. However, the country-themed restaurant takes that desire one step further by putting very strict rules in place to discourage full-time employees from seeking additional employment elsewhere. Cracker Barrel employees are asked to devote their time and energy to the restaurant. The restaurant boasts about its Personal Achievement Responsibility program which is available to all hourly employees. The program is designed to develop the employee's understanding of Cracker Barrel's culture, promoting loyalty to the company. 

For anyone in the workforce, it's not uncommon to work two or more jobs just to make ends meet. Service industry employees are no different. Some can even be seen working at two different restaurants on the same day. While Cracker Barrel doesn't directly prevent employees from working multiple jobs, it does however prohibit employees from working for direct competitors or suppliers. This rule oddly prevents employees from even asking a Cracker Barrel competitor or supplier to hire a relative as well. Additionally, the restaurant chain asks all employees to refrain from work that interferes with their Cracker Barrel obligations. This rule applies to all 77,000 employees currently under contract with the restaurant.

The employee dress code is strictly enforced

Most chain restaurants enforce a dress code to ensure a level of professionalism throughout each of the store's locations. Despite its country store aesthetic, Cracker Barrel's front-of-the-house employees are all required to don a business casual look. The company requires collared shirts for its FOH employees. This includes either solid button-up Oxford shirts or polos. Cracker Barrel also instructs its servers and hosts to wear pastel colors in blue, yellow, white, and pink. While small designer logos are acceptable, the shirt must not have any accents or colored borders. Logos of any size on the sleeves are also prohibited.

The company dress code informs employees that all clothing must also be neat, pressed, and clean at all times. Perhaps one of the weirdest rules is reserved for the long-sleeved Oxford shirts. If an employee wishes to roll their sleeves, the sleeves must be rolled under, at no more than two cuffs length. Similarly, while skirts are allowed for employees, wearing socks with the skirt is against the rules. To go along with their collared shirts, employees must wear dark brown, black, navy blue, or khaki pants or skirts made from cotton or polyester. Cracker Barrel employees are also forbidden from wearing white shoes, cowboy boots, or high heels. However, the company accepts all other slip-resistant footwear as long they are brown, black, navy blue, or burgundy. Surprisingly, Crocs are also acceptable, as long as they are slip-resistant.

Tattoos are frowned upon

Years ago, it was often said that showing up to a job interview with an exposed tattoo would hurt your chances of being hired. Tattoos were regularly considered unprofessional and conflicted with most employers' idea of a respectable workforce. According to Pew Research, the tide is turning when it comes to tattoos. In an August 2023 survey, over 30% of respondents claimed at least one tattoo. With tattoos becoming more commonplace and widely accepted, being turned away from a job because of your ink is becoming a rare occurrence. That's not to say that every company has the same policies when it comes to tattoos.

Cracker Barrel's employee dress code suggests that its guests should focus on their server, not the server's body art. While tattoos are allowed for employees, they are closely monitored for vulgarity. Cracker Barrel believes that if you can't say it out loud in the restaurant, then it shouldn't be visible on your body. And just in case you might have a backup plan to cover your body art, there's some bad news. Using bandages to cover up any tattoos is non-permissible. The restaurant also prohibits tattoos that cover an employee's face or throat. This applies to both front or back-of-the-house employees.

The four pillars of the 'People Promise'

Most restaurants have their own set of house rules that employees have to follow. As a restaurant that strives to offer its guests a true homestyle experience, Cracker Barrel has designed its mission statement and code of conduct around its family theme. The "People Promise" centers around a foundation of four cultural pillars. Those pillars include Belonging, Responsibility, Team, and Mission. Recently appointed Cracker Barrel CEO Julie Felss Masino points to the four pillars as one of the most important requirements of any employee. "You play a critical role in maintaining our culture of compliance and integrity," she writes in the employee guidebook

As the first cultural pillar, "Belonging" encourages Cracker Barrel employees to be true to themselves while celebrating the differences of those around them. The company refers to its workforce as a family and believes in fostering a close-knit working environment. Cracker Barrel also values accountability among its employees, which is why "Responsibility" is considered crucial to the restaurant's foundation.

Since Cracker Barrel views its employees as a family, the company believes that functioning as a "Team" is vital to its success. According to the Cracker Barrel Code Of Business Ethics And Conduct, "Families work together. Pleasing People takes a team." That's why the "Mission" acts as Cracker Barrel's fourth cultural pillar. The restaurant encourages all of its employees to always be on the lookout for ways to improve the overall guest experience.

The code of conduct must be adhered to at all times

Once new Cracker Barrel employees familiarize themselves with the four pillars of the "People Promise," they are expected to uphold the company's code of conduct (which is based on the "People Promise") at all times. Similar to Cracker Barrel's view of its family-first approach, the company expects each employee to be held accountable for their actions. This goes for everyone currently employed by Cracker Barrel. From part-time kitchen employees to key corporate officers, every employee is expected to maintain the company's standards. Cracker Barrel expects its employees to report any violations of the code of conduct immediately to the proper chain of command.

While every employee is held to the same standard of ethics, managers and supervisors are given the additional responsibility of ensuring that their team is in compliance. This also applies to any outside vendor that managers and supervisors interact with on a daily basis. Cracker Barrel instructs its management team to hold the vendors to the same standards. Although the company requires accountability, it also offers employees several methods to report any violations of the code of conduct. For any employee uncomfortable with raising their concerns that may require legal action, the employee may choose to remain anonymous, though they are still expected to cooperate with any ongoing investigation. 

Social media use is closely monitored

Like most employers, Cracker Barrel expects its staff to uphold the code of conduct on and off the clock. Any violation of its code could result in disciplinary and/or corrective action, even resulting in employees being terminated for their actions outside of work hours. In some cases, Cracker Barrel has pursued legal action for any behavior that the company believes to be untenable or in violation of local, state, or federal laws and regulations. Cracker Barrel insists that all of its employees have a responsibility to fulfill the company's "People Promise" mission statement.

Cracker Barrel's code of conduct also extends to employee's social media usage. In October 2022, there was a Cracker Barrel controversy when one former employee alleged that she was terminated for what the company considered to be an offensive TikTok (via Daily Dot). In her video, the former employee encouraged her co-workers to do the "Dougie," a hip-hop-style dance, while they were in the middle of their shift. The former employee claims that her manager fired her for language that they deemed to be racist. 

If you have time to lean, you have time to clean

For anyone who's ever worked in the service industry, you've likely heard the phrase "If you have time to lean, you have time to clean" uttered by a shift manager at some point. The phrase can send a chill down the spine of any employee looking for a brief reprieve from the daily grind. In line with its overall operating procedure, Cracker Barrel values giving customers as good of an experience inside its restaurants as possible. This experience also extends to enjoying a clean and welcoming dining area.

To ensure a well-maintained restaurant, the company expects its employees to accept full responsibility for a clean workstation. This goes for both the front-of-the-house and kitchen staff. Workers are often assigned a task list of cleaning assignments before they are able to clock out and head home. This ranges from polishing silverware to making sure the restrooms are kept in top shape. Even when the restaurant closes, the cleaning at Cracker Barrel never stops. The company employs a small force of cleaners to deep clean each location when the restaurant closes. The cleaning crew even cleans the decorations that adorn the walls at every location. 

Employees have to earn stars to get promoted

One of the richest aspects of the Cracker Barrel lore are the stars that employees wear on their aprons. Similar to how the military can award decorated soldiers, Cracker Barrel highlights its top employees with a tiered star system. In one Reddit thread, a former employee explained that new employees begin their tenure at the restaurant without any stars. They also receive a name tag that they must clip to their apron. Once a trainee demonstrates they have grasped the Cracker Barrel way of life, they are awarded a single-starred apron. From there, it is up to the employee to climb the company ladder and make the most of their employment. 

The star system is all part of the Personal Achievement Responsibility program instituted by Cracker Barrel. With each star added to their apron, an employee is given additional responsibilities and is expected to help guide newer employees. As a four-star recipient, an employee can be expected to not only be a vocal leader but to lead by example as well. As an added bonus, each star comes with an increase to a Cracker Barrel employee's pay. As an employee collects more stars, it opens the door for possible promotions within the company. 

Managers are encouraged to be hands-off

When it comes to working in the service industry, there can often be several unsavory tasks that an employee has to deal with. From waiting on unruly customers to putting out kitchen fires, there really isn't ever a boring shift. For most restaurant managers, they've seen just about every possible scenario there is and have likely done well enough to work their way up the corporate ladder. But there is one scenario that even the most battle-tested manager hates to face: The dreaded understaffed shift.

According to one Reddit user, being understaffed is a situation that has become all too familiar for many Cracker Barrel locations. They paint a grim picture of the company attempting to cut down on labor. In the post, the current Cracker Barrel manager claims that the restaurant chain believes that a single grill line cook should be able to handle up to 35 guests in one hour, regardless of their training. To make matters worse, Cracker Barrel encourages its managers to remain in an advisory role only, leaving the physical work to their subordinates. Too many cooks may spoil the broth, but not enough cooks will see you wait just a little longer for that country-fried steak.

There aren't any free meals

For many of those on the hunt for a new job, employee benefits can often become a big factor when choosing the right position. From health care plans to paid time off, benefits can determine whether or not you decide to take one job over another. In fact, it's not too far-fetched to say that many people see employee benefits as a way to gauge the overall culture that a prospective employer attempts to cultivate. How much a company is willing to invest in its workforce can go a long way. One of those benefits that is sometimes overlooked is the good old-fashioned employee discount. 

Depending on the business, employee discounts can make a world of difference for an employee on a part-time salary. Chipotle has become famous for its generous stance toward feeding its employees. The burrito chain reportedly offers free meals for every shift an employee works. Similarly, full-time employees at In-N-Out also receive free meals each day that they work. Although not quite at the same level, Cracker Barrel employees also receive a hefty discount on meals on days that they work. Depending on the specific location, employees can expect between a 35% and 50% discount per scheduled shift.

Employees are not always guaranteed a break

Working as a full-time restaurant employee can oftentimes be an exhausting job. For some employees, having the chance to sit down during a shift might be seen more as a luxury than a way of life. With a busy dinner rush and a night with an understaffed team, a restaurant worker can likely get their 10,000 daily steps in within just a few hours. Despite the high-intensity work environment, breaks are not always guaranteed for service industry workers. With states having varied employee break guidelines, an 8-hour shift might be a constant hustle for an employee.

According to several former Cracker Barrel employees on Indeed, receiving your much-deserved break is usually up to your manager's discretion. Unless an employee is underage, managers often assign breaks depending on how busy their restaurant's location is. As customer rushes come and go, it can be fairly difficult to gauge exactly when a manager can send their employee to take their break.

There can't be any conflicts of interest

As one of the four cultural pillars behind the "People Promise" at Cracker Barrel, considering all employees as part of its "Team" is a key component to many of the company's policies. The restaurant encourages all of its team members to act in the best interest of the company both on and off the clock. This includes displaying a level of trust and accountability at all times. Part of that trust includes being able to make unbiased decisions on behalf of the company. To accomplish this, Cracker Barrel requires all employees to avoid any conflicts of interest that could tarnish the company's reputation.

Cracker Barrel defines a conflict of interest as an employee using their position within the company for personal advantage or financial gain. In order to regulate any possible violation of its policy, Cracker Barrel has a system in place for employees to report any possible conflicts of interest. These conflicts of interest can range from receiving gifts to being asked for a quid pro quo that may jeopardize the company's integrity.