The Viral Cracker Barrel Meme You Never Knew About

As much as people might adore Cracker Barrel's hashbrown casserole and rocking chairs, the Southern charming chain of restaurant and gift stores has been rocked by scandals that left a foul taste in many people's mouths. Some of those people might recall also having a foul feeling in their intestines when a Kalamazoo, Michigan Cracker Barrel was tied to a string of 11 salmonella cases that started in 2017 (via MLive). Of course, that wasn't the only reason Cracker Barrel or the number 11 became associated with making people feel sick to their stomachs.

In 2017, a  different Cracker Barrel controversy birthed a meme that was every bit as viral as Salmonella is bacterial. It was so widespread back then that when the food poisoning debacle was covered in 2018 by Make Food Safe - a site run by Lange Law Firm, PLLC – the company quipped in its headline, "This has nothing to do with Brad's wife."

If you don't know who Brad's wife is, that probably sounds like a total non sequitur. In fact, the very suggestion that a meme is viral but also so obscure that you likely don't know about it might sound like verbal gibberish on par with "famous singers no one has ever heard of" or "all-time great sandwiches that never existed." But Brad's wife presumably existed and definitely became an internet shooting star that took aim at the famed country store. Though, it was technically Cracker Barrel that did the firing.

Like shooting fish in a Cracker Barrel

As recounted by Know Your Meme, in February 2017, Bradley Reid Byrd, fired off a Facebook post expressing his simultaneous fury and confusion over Cracker Barrel's decision to fire his other half. "After 11 years, those low lifes at Cracker Barrel let my wife go," the post was quoted as saying. "I would really like to know why and those of you who know me these days, know that I WILL find out." In March, he confronted the company on its own Facebook page, posting, "Today is my birthday. Why did you fire my wife?" Less than a week later, he asked again.

Brad's outrage proved contagious, and internet avengers began flipping the Byrd at Cracker Barrel on social media. They demanded answers and "justice for Brad's wife." Screenshots of the hilarious deluge show showed people whipping out puns and cracking jokes. Someone responded to a Cracker Barrel Facebook post promoting a stainless steel Seahorse Bottle by unleashing a burn that was sicker than food poisoning: "Stainless steel, just like your hearts." The person accused the company of "making seahorses everywhere shed tears of unimaginable sorrow." The Cracker Barrel logo was even reimagined to feature the silhouette of a woman representing Brad's wife and the number 11 on a barrel to signify her years of service. While Brad seemed largely elated, he wanted the upswell of supporters to hold their seahorses in at least one respect.

Kicking the bottom of the Barrel

Whether he meant to or not, Brad drummed up drama that probably made it hard to be a Cracker Barrel employee and possibly tough to be an ex-employee, especially if they were married to Brad. As Inc. points out, a matter as delicate as losing a job might not be the sort of thing an ex-employee wants to see explained publicly, especially if the company was justified. But an army of people had turned this termination into a media phenomenon. Fortune, The Washington Post, and other prominent outlets ran stories about it (via Know Your Meme). Reviewers on Yelp yelled at Cracker Barrel for firing a complete stranger. An online petition demanding an explanation reportedly garnered more than 20,000 signatures. Companies across the country, including the Depew, New York Fire Department, and a bar in Toldeo, Ohio, jokingly offered a job to Brad's wife (via Eater).

Brad had a good laugh about all the people heckling the heck out of Cracker Barrel, but as related by WRCBtv, he also wanted to ensure that the ire wasn't directed at innocent employees. On March 24th, 2017, he addressed the brouhaha and just plain ha-ha, by asking folks to "remember that some very good people work for [Cracker Barrel]." Some of them were Brad's wife's friends. We don't know if he ever got the answer he demanded. In fact, we don't know if his wife needed or even wanted one.