10 Food and Drink Purveyors Who Serve Up Their Beliefs (Slideshow)
February 27, 2014
Does it bother you to find scriptural references on your soft drink cup?
To begin with, the more than 1,500 outlets of the country’s premier family-owned fast-food business, specializing in fried skinless, boneless chicken breast sandwiches with pickles on soft buttery buns — crunchy, peppery, addictive — are closed on Sundays, so you know they're serious about their Christianity. Founder S. Truett Cathy endowed the WinShape Foundation (“to shape winners”), whose activities include outdoor camps that “impact young people and families through experiences which enhance their Christian faith, character, and relationships” and host "marriage-enrichment retreats, along with business and church-related conferences.” In recent years, a number of equal rights organizations have criticized Chick-fil-A for its alleged support of those strongly opposed to same-sex marriage — though company president Don Cathy, Truett's son, has publicly stressed that all people are treated with respect by the restaurant.
Tyson Foods, Inc.
The huge chicken (etc.) processing corporation, with more than 115,000 employees in 90-plus countries, keeps a team of chaplains on salary at production facilities and corporate offices. The chaplains provide compassionate pastoral care and ministry to team members and their families, according to Tyson's web site, regardless of their religious or spiritual affiliation or beliefs.
In-N-Out Burger has such fervent admirers, especially on the West Coast where it originated, that many consider just eating there a religious experience. Since the 1980s, though, In-N-Out has made the religious thing literal, printing biblical citations and quotations on its packaging. These quotations can admittedly be subtle, like John 3:16, the message on the bottom of the chain's soft drink cups. Look it up and you'll find, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Pura Vida Coffee
Pura Vida Coffee, the coffee company with a conscience co-founded in 1998 by a former Microsoft executive, earmarks funds for its Christian ministry, whose mission is, "To combine the efforts of business and ministry to help the lives of at-risk children." Co-owner John Sage says that the company doesn't specifically focus its efforts on Christians, but in an interview, he noted that there are more than 50 million Christian coffee drinkers in America.
Promised Land Dairy
Promised Land Dairy kind of wears its religious affiliation right in its name, doesn't it? The Texas-based company is owned by the controversial San Antonio businessman Dr. James Leininger. Named by Forbes as one of the 400 wealthiest entrepreneurs in America, he has been described as a GOP sugar daddy and school voucher zealot, and is a tort reform enthusiast. His milk bottles are emblazoned with the legend Deuteronomy 26:9 —"He brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey." — Leininger grew up in a rock-ribbed fundamentalist Lutheran family, a background which apparently informed his politics where Leininger is on record as being anti-choice and anti-gay marriage.
Brimhall Foods, a Memphis-based firm, has been turning out Brims, one of the nation's leading brands of pork rinds since 1979, with scripture on the bags and a link for everlasting life on their web site. Step number four in the process for obtaining said unending existence: "We must individually RECEIVE Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord."
Maurice's Piggie Park
Maurice's Piggie Park is the name on Maurice Bessinger's chain of barbecue restaurants in and around Columbia, S.C., and his line of Southern Gold barbecue sauces. Bessinger became famous not only for his delicious smoked meats doused in mustard-based sauce, which pretty much defines the South Carolina barbecue style, but also for flying Confederate flags over all his outposts, writing a book called Defending My Heritage in which he compares globalism to the Antichrist, and once selling a collection of writings in which he asserted that slavery was a blessed event for Africans — whose descendants, incidentally, he refused to serve until 1968. Bessinger has big plans for the future:
"I believe that after The Rapture there will be a big barbecue," he has written, "and I hope the Lord will let me cook."
Through what it calls “Sacred Commerce,” Café Gratitude, which is based on the West Coast, practices a business strategy of “seeing our lives from a perspective of gratitude.” Each day, servers ask customers a new “Question of the Day” such as “What is blessed about your life?” and “What are you thankful for in this moment?” inviting customers to acknowledge what is great in their lives.
In 2011, Carl’s Jr., the West Coast burger chain known as Hardees on the East Coast, launched a TV commercial, featuring a fictional deity named “Hamblor,” who is meant to be the god of hamburgers. Carl Karcher, the fast-food company’s founder, personally funded Catholic charities and began a tradition of beginning company meetings with a Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a prayer, a tradition which carries on today.
Domino’s Pizza’s founder Tom Monaghan, who is Catholic and known to be an advocate of conservative and pro-life causes, also founded the Ave Maria Foundation, to which he donated millions of dollars of his own money. Additionally, he hired a Catholic priest as corporate chaplain to say mass each morning in a conference room at the Domino’s headquarters. Monaghan sold the company in 1998, which may be why the company no longer has a corporate chaplain today.