Cracker Barrel has kept the good times rolling during a difficult year for the restaurant industry. The Southern-style chain has simplified its dinner offerings and added alcohol to more menus as dining rooms have reopened amid the coronavirus pandemic, with even more updates to come.
In an interview with FOX Business, Cammie Spillyards-Schaefer, Cracker Barrel’s Head of Culinary Innovation and Menu Strategy, further explained why value is more important than ever for Cracker Barrel customers, and discussed how the restaurant plans to cater to much smaller gatherings this holiday season.
FOX BUSINESS: Did the pandemic and its stresses inspire the recent menu changes in any way?
Cammie Spillyards-Schaefer: We had been working on streamlining previous to the pandemic; however, the pandemic has influenced everything. Luckily, we were already working towards things that streamlined the menu, both for the guests and the back of the house… the pandemic only brought this need more to the forefront. That everyday value, we think is incredibly important during the pandemic for folks.
We also made sure that all of the menu innovation we were doing was available and helpful for people whether they were eating with us in our dining room or at home, which of course was a big shift. Part of Cracker Barrel that I think is so special is the experience – you walk in, you have the retail, you have the restaurant – and we wanted our guests to have that same experience, regardless of where they were using the brand.
FOX: Will any more changes hit the menu this year, or in early 2021?
Spillyards-Schaefer: I’d point out our new beer and wine menu, which we’re really excited about. We’re in over a little over 100 stores and rolling out to the majority of our system. Frankly, it’s something our guests were directly asking us for, and saying, 'Hey, we’d come more often, especially on weekend dinners, if you had beer and wine.'
We have been testing this for some time and realized our guests absolutely love mimosas, which are part of this new menu. We have orange mimosas, strawberry mimosas, and they are an absolute favorite… Guests should be watching for [alcohol] to come to a Cracker Barrel near them soon.
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Part of adjusting some of our holiday offers for the pandemic included adding a new, smaller Heat ‘n Serve Holiday Family Meal. We’ve always done [takeout dinners] where you come to Cracker Barrel the week of Thanksgiving, pick it up cold, pop it in your oven, and two hours later you have a full Cracker Barrel holiday Thanksgiving meal for your family.
We still have our classic offer, the larger offer that feeds 8 to 10, but we knew that this year there were going to be people celebrating in smaller groups, so we created a new Heat ‘n Serve Holiday Family Meal that serves 4 to 6. You get the same holiday turkey breast, dressing, gravy, Cracker Barrel sides, yeast rolls, just in a smaller portion, so we’re really excited about that as well.
FOX: Any other updates guests can expect?
Spillyards-Schaefer: Folks might want to keep an eye out for is our new kid's menu that we’ve refreshed. It’s really kid-centric and we see a lot of kids enjoying it with their parents, posting on social media. For the Mini Confetti Pancakes, we took our pancakes, made them smaller, and put fruity cereal in for all these fun colors and flavor. We did all these Lil’ Barrel Cheeseburgers, which are cheeseburger sliders. Another thing I’ve seen a lot of kids having fun with is our Dirt Cup Dessert, so putting cookie crumbles, gummy worms.
We’ve always a great family destination but this just kind of takes it up a notch.