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5 Major Changes You'll See at Cracker Barrel This Year

The southern chain is undergoing several big shifts that will impact customers.
FACT CHECKED BY Mura Dominko

Cracker Barrel has grown into an American dining institution since its first location opened in 1969, serving up all-day breakfast, its famous Chicken N' Dumplings, and other southern fare at nearly 660 restaurants across the United States. But in 2024, customers should expect to see numerous shifts in the dining experience they've come to expect at Cracker Barrel.

The chain is undergoing a series of major changes this year that will impact various aspects of what it's like to eat there, from the food to the prices to the look of the actual restaurants. Many of these modifications are a response to its ongoing issues with luring in customers. Cracker Barrel has been reporting declining guest counts for over a year and attributing the drops to factors like insufficient marketing, fierce advertising competition from other chains, needed improvements in the guest experience, and a pullback in spending from inflation-weary consumers across the entire restaurant industry.

As a result, Cracker Barrel has launched a "strategic transformation plan" to improve its performance and profitability in the future. 

 "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," Cracker Barrel President and CEO Julie Masino said in a statement in May.

Read on for all of the major changes you'll see at Cracker Barrel in 2024!

New menu additions

Cracker Barrel Bee Sting Chicken Tenders
Cracker Barrel
Nutrition:
Bee Sting Chicken Tenders (Per Item)
Calories: 820

Cracker Barrel customers can always count on seeing signature offerings like roast beef, country fried steak, fried apples, and buttermilk biscuits when they visit the chain. But this year, they'll also have the opportunity to sample plenty of brand-new foods and beverages. 

The chain has been celebrating the start of each season in 2024 by rolling out a new limited-time menu every few months. The spring menu included French toast bakes packed with berries, Golden Carolina BBQ Chicken Tenders, and a couple of cherry beverages. The summer iteration—available now through Aug. 4—includes Bee Sting Chicken Tenders and a Bee Sting Chicken Sandwich topped with a sweet-heat honey glaze. Customers can also opt for a new Watermelon Lemonade, Watermelon Spritzer, and New York Strip Steak.

Rolling out new menu options such as these is a core part of Cracker Barrel's strategic transformation strategy. 

"Innovation will continue to fuel relevancy in our menu for our guests," Masino said during a February earnings call.

Masino announced in the same call that they had started testing a revamped menu in select stores that added about 20 new items and several modified items, while deleting more than 20 others. So if Cracker Barrel decides to roll out any of the changes from these tests nationwide, customers will see even more new menu innovations at the chain in the future.

 I Tried Cracker Barrel's New Summer Menu & There Was One Entrée I Adored

Higher prices

Restaurant receipt
Shutterstock

From Chipotle to Texas Roadhouse, a plethora of restaurant chains have been upping their prices in 2024 due to inflation, California's fast-food minimum wage hike, and other factors. Cracker Barrel is no exception to that trend. 

The chain announced during a May earnings call that its prices were up about 4% during the latest quarter. The hike included 1.5% in pricing carried forward from the 2023 fiscal year and a 2.5% increase rolled out in 2024. While 4% may not seem like all that big of a deal, it's still important to note for consumers with tight budgets. 

Cracker Barrel fans should expect to see prices tick up even more this year. CFO Craig Pommells revealed during the May earnings call that they expect prices to be up by 5% for the full 2024 fiscal year. During the same call, Masino explained that Cracker Barrel has been testing different pricing strategies as it looks for the perfect middle ground between value and profitability.

"Price is a powerful lever, but it's also something that's really recognizable for consumers and comparable to other experiences that they're having out there. So as we talked, we've been really maniacal about thinking about how we protect value while making sure that we take price in a way that better sets us up for success and better flows through," Masino said.

 The 15 Healthiest Cracker Barrel Dishes, According to Dietitians

Several closures

Closed sign
Shutterstock

Cracker Barrel's footprint took a blow earlier this year when the chain abruptly closed four of its locations. The shuttered outposts included two California restaurants at 1000 Howe Ave. in Sacramento and 905 Betteravia Road in Santa Maria, as well as the units at 1445 Center Drive in Medford, Ore., and 253 Forum Drive in Columbia, S.C.

Cracker Barrel was left with 658 locations in the wake of the closures. When contacted for comment on the development in April, the company shared the following statement with Eat This, Not That!:

"As a standard course of business, we continually evaluate the performance of our stores, using various criteria to ensure we are meeting the needs of our guests and our business. We have made the difficult decision to close four Cracker Barrel locations, including two in California, one in Oregon, and one in the greater Columbia, S.C. area. The decision to close a store is never one we take lightly, and our focus right now is on assisting our impacted employees during this transition."

It continued: "We extend our sincere thanks to our employees who worked so hard to keep our fireplace glowing and to the guests who have dined with us, celebrated with us, and made us part of their community. We look forward to reconnecting with them at other times at nearby Cracker Barrels in the future."

RELATED: 12 Restaurant Chains Closing Locations In 2024

Restaurants are getting a new look

Cracker Barrel interior
4kclips / Shutterstock

The next time you stop by Cracker Barrel for a meal, the actual restaurant may look different from what you've come to expect. 

The company announced in May that it had started testing remodels at select restaurants in a bid to improve the design and atmosphere of its stores. The changes at the pilot stores included a different color palette, different lighting, more comfortable seating, and simplified decor and fixtures.

They also adjusted the organization of their retail area and replaced the traditional lattice dividers with open bookcases "that open up the sightlines and allow for different displays," Masino said during a conference call. She noted that guests are already responding positively to the visual changes.

"The guests and employee feedback has been highly encouraging. Guests have commented that the new design feels lighter, brighter, fresher and cleaner, and that they are especially excited in one of our remodels about having booths and banquettes as seating options. Just as important, our employees in these locations are enthusiastic about the investments we've made and have a renewed spring in their step as a result."

Cracker Barrel is using the tests to figure out which remodel prototypes resonate the most with customers and are most likely to lure them back to restaurants. The company will leverage those findings as it plans to remodel 25 to 30 restaurants throughout the 2025 fiscal year, which kicks off late in the summer of 2024.

 11 Restaurant Chains That Are Struggling in 2024

Slowed expansion of its sister chain

Maple Street Biscuit Company
Cember Tech / Shutterstock

As Cracker Barrel works to enhance its brand, menu, and profitability, the company is putting Maple Street Biscuit Company's expansion on the back burner.

Cracker Barrel acquired the biscuit chain in 2019 and has been growing its footprint at a rapid pace ever since. Maple Street ended last quarter with 63 units, far higher than the 33 it had when Cracker Barrel made the purchase. However, Pommels announced in May that they'd decided to "slow down Maple Street's unit growth in the short term" as they focus on improving the Cracker Barrel business.

Cracker Barrel executives initially said in February that they expected nine to 11 new Maple Street locations to open during the fiscal year. They now expect between eight and 10 Maple Street openings. 

Even though the company is slowing Maple Street's growth, it will still expand at a faster pace than Cracker Barrel this year. Cracker Barrel had two restaurants slated to open during fiscal 2024, and both have already made their debut.

Zoe Strozewski
Zoe Strozewski is a News Writer for Eat This, Not That! A Chicago native who now lives in New Jersey, she graduated from Kean University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Read more about Zoe
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