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Cracker Barrel Plans Remodeling, Menu Changes

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store
Cracker Barrel | Image by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store/Facebook

Cracker Barrel will soon see some big changes that were forecasted in an investor call.

On the call, Cracker Barrel President and CEO Julie Masino provided an update on the “strategic transformation plan” for the business.

The transformation plan focuses on five pillars: refining the brand, enhancing the menu, evolving the store and guest experience, winning in digital and off-premise, and elevating the employee experience.

“I am excited about our strategic transformation plans to drive relevancy, deliver food and experiences guests love, and grow profitability. Cracker Barrel is an iconic brand with an exceptionally strong foundation, and I firmly believe our plans will allow us to capitalize on our strengths and deliver long-term success,” said Masino, according to the press release.

Masino noted that when putting together this transformation plan, the company spoke with guests and employees nationwide to hear their thoughts on Cracker Barrel.

“With traffic down almost 20% [compared] to 2019, they’re telling us they’re not choosing us,” Masino said in the third-quarter earnings conference call. “We’ve got to drive and reignite relevancy, and then we have to have food and an experience that guests crave and guests love.”

Masino noted that when speaking with customers, they learned that Cracker Barrel holds up well for breakfast but that guests are going elsewhere for dinner.

Craig Pommells, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Cracker Barrel, shared that every restaurant was audited during the COVID-19 lockdowns. During these audits, Pommells noted, “It was clear to us that we fell a bit behind on some guest and employee base in maintenance items. … We have to get caught up on that.”

Some planned changes include “looking at the comfort of the tables, the lighting, the paint, all of those things,” Masino said. “We needed to look at the store experience as well as the other parts of the transformation agenda, right? The menu also needed some work on relevance.”

The plan is to remodel as many as 30 restaurants in the next fiscal year and open some new locations in the fall of 2025.

Other changes will be reflected in the price of the food.

“We have a tier that has 60% of our stores in it. And in that tier, there are — there’s literally a store where the average household income is $55,000 a year and a store where the average household income is $90,000 a year,” Masino said. “We use that as an example because I think it’s pretty powerful that there’s different willingness to pay and different competitive sets around each of those stores, and that provides an opportunity for us to refine our pricing tier. So we’re doing that work.”

In some locations, prices might be lowered, according to Masino.

“I want to emphasize that optimizing our price points across the menu doesn’t mean just increasing prices. In several places, it may actually mean taking the opposite approach. We understand the lower-end consumer is challenged, and value is and will remain an important part of the brand, and we will work vigorously to protect it.”

Other changes include experimenting with new menu items like green chili cornbread and banana pudding. The company also plans to roll out several other new dishes this fall, including savory chicken and rice, slow-braised pot roast, and hashbrowns casserole shepherd’s pie, Masino said, per CBS.

The company reported Q3 total revenue of $817.1 million, down 1.9% from the previous year. Comparable store restaurant sales decreased 1.5%, while comparable store retail sales decreased 3.8%.

Dan W. Evins established Cracker Barrel in 1969 in Lebanon, Tennessee. The chain now has over 600 restaurants in 45 states, 60 of which are in Texas.

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