The pasta company Barilla is opening a restaurant on the campus of the University of Southern California – and there hasn’t been a backlash from the LGBT community. Why not?
The school finished work on its $700 million “USC Village,” a commercial area open to the public during the day. Many big retail chains are moving into the space, including Trader Joe’s, Target, and now Barilla.
In 2013 the chairman of the pasta company, Guido Barilla, told a radio station that his company will never feature LGBTQ people in its ads.
“I would never do an ad with a homosexual family… If the gays don’t like it they can go an eat another brand.”
“For us the concept of the sacred family remains one of the fundamental values of the company,” he said. “I have no respect for adoption by gay families because this concerns a person who is not able to choose.”
Several days later, Barilla apologized in a Facebook video, saying that he planned “to meet representatives of the group that best represent the evolution of the family, including those who have been offended by my words.” That didn’t stop calls for a boycott of the company.
In the years since then, the company appointed a Diversity and Inclusion Board and earned a perfect score several years in a row on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, which tracks corporate policy for LGBTQ people. The transformation was acknowledged by several media outlets, including the Huffington Post, which discussed Barilla as “Most Improved” in an article entitled “Here Are 5 Companies Going Above And Beyond For The LGBT Community.”
Still, the internet has a long memory. A search of #boicottabarilla on Twitter shows many tweets from just the past few weeks from people who refuse to eat that pasta. One commenter on an LGBTQ Nation article that ran in February, 2017, wrote:
Nice to know the guy made amends. Still, I have no plans to go back to purchasing Barilla products. (Barilla had been my brand for years.) While it’s possible he had a change of heart, it’s more likely that the pain he felt was in his wallet and not his heart. When it comes to businesses revealing an ideology that differs from mine, one strike and you’re out. Sorry, Guido.
Other companies with anti-LGBTQ records have had trouble moving onto college campuses. In 2012, student protests at Davidson College in North Carolina got the school to stop serving Chick-Fil-A because the restaurant was, among other things, donating money to anti-LGBTQ causes.
USC’s students, for the moment, haven’t made much noise about the Barilla restaurant.