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Cracker Barrel Continues to Lose Customers—Here's Why

The sit-down chain has been seeing drops in customer traffic all year.

Cracker Barrel still hasn't reversed its persistent traffic troubles despite a wide-ranging plan to entice guests back.

The sit-down restaurant chain, known for its homestyle menu and country setting, has been losing customers throughout all of 2023. Cracker Barrel's guest traffic levels dropped 1.7% during its second quarter which ended on Jan. 27 this year, then dropped 3.2% in its third quarter which ended on April 28. Traffic also dipped in the fourth quarter that ended on July 28, but the company didn't provide an exact number. 

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Former Cracker Barrel president and CEO Sandy Cochran, who was just succeeded by Julie Masino, predicted when announcing the fourth quarter results that its negative traffic patterns weren't over yet. That prediction turned out to be spot on. Cracker Barrel's traffic dropped 7.1% in the latest quarter that ended on Oct. 27, CFO Craig Pommells revealed during a Nov. 30 earnings call

The latest traffic declines show that Cracker Barrel still has work to do when it comes to fixing the issues behind its loss of customers. In previous quarters, Cracker Barrel has blamed its traffic declines on insufficient marketing, needed improvements in the guest experience, and fewer visits from guests cutting back on eating out amid inflation.

To fix these issues, the chain has been spending more on advertising, marketing its value offerings more heavily, adding more staff to improve the guest experience, and launching a new loyalty program in September. These moves are already starting to pay off. Cracker Barrel reported seeing monthly improvements in guest counts during the quarter thanks to the initiatives.

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The overall 7.1% decline indicates that Cracker Barrel still has a ways to go in winning back customers. Still, the company is confident that its initiatives will be solid traffic drivers moving forward.

"We will continue to focus on these initiatives along with operational excellence, and we believe these efforts will resonate with guests and will support improved performance in the remainder of the fiscal year and beyond," Masino said in a statement.

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Masino has especially high hopes for the Cracker Barrel Rewards loyalty program. She said that more people enrolled in the program than expected after the launch, plus it has received extra exposure through a marketing campaign with country superstar Dolly Parton.

"Guests have embraced the program, and we are pleased with the levels of enrollment to date, which have exceeded expectations. We remain excited about this program and are confident it will be a meaningful differentiator and traffic driver over the long term," Masino said.

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