Cracker Barrel has regained its position as the No. 1 family dining restaurant in the US.
The chain ranks as Americans’ favourite full-service, family-dining spot, according to Nation’s Restaurant News’ annual Consumer Picks survey. Cracker Barrel beat out chains including First Watch and Shari’s Cafe & Pies.
Cracker Barrel has been a long-time family dining favourite, taking the top spot in the survey five out of the last six years. However, in 2015, First Watch, which calls itself “the daytime cafe,” snagged the top position.
This year, Cracker Barrel was able to make a comeback, earning top scores in reputation, service, cleanliness, and atmosphere.
Cracker Barrel is “a place for people to stop, take a break, have a real meal, maybe shop for a little bit,” Chris Ciavarra, Cracker Barrel’s senior vice president of marketing, told Business Insider.
The chains has 635 locations in 42 states. Each location has an “Old Country Store” filled with a constantly-rotating array of goods from Yankee candles to kitschy accessories.
While Nation’s Restaurant News groups Cracker Barrel as a family dining stop, Ciavarra says that the chain competes with diners at breakfast, casual dining at lunch and dinner, and quick service for travellers.
A uniquely high proportion (about 33%) of Cracker Barrel customers are people who are travelling, thanks to marketing and locations near highways across the US.
Cracker Barrel’s menu is packed with old-school, Southern offerings, like biscuits, chicken fried chicken, and various other “fancy fixin’s.”
Currently, the chain is expanding into the West and Pacific Northwest, with five new locations in the Las Vegas and Portland, Oregon areas in the next year.
Cracker Barrel is also working to grow its customer base by appealing to different demographics.
“There are certain segments that we are trying to drive our appeal with harder,” says Ciavarra. “For example, with multicultural examples, like the Hispanic and African-American marketplace, we’ve put increasing focus on outreach efforts to those markets to try and increase the frequency of their visits.”
Visiting a Cracker Barrel is a visually peculiar experience.
Each location has 1,000 unique “artifacts.” These items are chosen specifically for that restaurant from a company warehouse filled with seemingly endless Americana knick-knacks.
While Ciavarra says Cracker Barrel’s attracts customers from every generation, the company is working hard to appeal to millennials.
The company recently launched a millennial-focused fast-casual chain called Holler & Dash.
Holler & Dash is a biscuit-centric fast-casual concept, serving up biscuit sandwiches and treats such as a “chicken holler” sandwich with fried chicken, pickles, and cheese, and a “jam” biscuit with chocolate and jelly.
In February, Cracker Barrel reported a revenue growth of 1.1% to $764 million in the most recent quarter. Same-store restaurant sales increased 0.6%, outpaced by same-store retail sales, which increased 2.6%.