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Do you think Publix should #FreeTheBeard?

Zee Krstic
March 06, 2018

Anyone who’s ever worked in the foodservice industry will tell you that, in most restaurants, having excessive facial hair is a no-no.

Public health concerns usually dictate if restaurant employees are allowed to sport facial hair, but most foodservice establishments typically draw the line at a neatly trimmed mustache. And it makes sense—what customer wants to find an errant hair in their sandwich?

That's the logic behind Publix's dress code policy, where the popular Southern grocer extends the facial hair rule to all of its employees. But some employees aren’t happy with it.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, a petition to let Publix employees grow out facial hair was posted online in 2015 by a then-19-year-old employee, Brandon Wesley. Using the social call of #FreeTheBeard, Wesley has racked up more than 18,000 signatures as of this week, with both employees and shoppers chiming in to support his efforts.

“I believe that the majority of the people I work with at Publix also believe that we should be allowed to have some facial hair besides only a mustache," Wesley writes in his petition. "We should be allowed to have a beard, with limitations on how long it can be and a beard net for the employees who work with food."

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Currently, Publix's policy prohibits employees from rocking anything but a neat mustache—Wesley hopes they'll ease their rules, allowing facial hair under beard nets for those who work in the deli and bakery departments.

Wesley also pointed out that his coworkers at GreenWise Markets, a Publix-owned organic grocery store, are allowed to grow mustaches and facial hair.

The petition attracted a lot of traffic after one South Carolina shopper initiated a Twitter exchange with Publix, pointing out that his local store had employees with more than just a mustache.

Brian West, a spokesman for Publix, told the Times that Publix's test of allowing employees "to wear neat, clean and professional beards and goatees" will only take place at 10 stores in their South Carolina market. It'll be awhile before you'll see a bearded sandwich artist making a Publix sub in your neighborhood.

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