This company has gotten ahead in the restaurant business by holding onto a bit of the past. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store owns and operates about 600 of its flagship restaurants known for their country kitsch, rustic decor, and down-home cooking. The eateries, located in more than 40 states, offer mostly standard American fare, such as chicken, ham, and roast beef dishes, but they are most popular as breakfast spots. Each Cracker Barrel location features a retail area where patrons can buy hand-blown glassware, cast iron cookware, and woodcrafts, as well as jellies and old-fashioned candies. Most of the restaurants are found along interstate highways and target hungry travelers.
While most casual dining chains have developed around a theme in order to distinguish themselves from the crowd, few take it to the extreme like Cracker Barrel. The company's restaurants are festooned with advertisements and product packaging harkening back to the early 1900s, its menu is an unabashed gallery of down-home comfort foods, and each eatery features a front porch complete with rocking chairs. That hardcore appeal to nostalgia has earned the chain a distinct presence in the family dining segment as well as a loyal following. Cracker Barrel has been able to maintain the look and feel of its restaurants thanks in part to the fact that it has not relied on franchising to expand its chain.
The company's commitment to delivering a familiar dining experience has helped Cracker Barrel weather the economic downturn of recent years. Along the nation's highways, the company competes with other national family chains including IHOP (owned by DineEquity) and Denny's, and in its core Southern market the company faces competition from regional favorite Waffle House. Cracker Barrel has also been focused on tight cost controls to maintain its bottom line.
Cracker Barrel continues to develop new locations mostly along interstate highways in its core markets. – less