What separates Cracker Barrel Old Country Store from other restaurant companies?
Cracker Barrel is a place to be experienced, not just a place to eat. At no other restaurant will you find home-style comfort foods, unique gifts, nostalgic décor, rocking chairs on the front porch, a fireplace in the dining room and friendly service. Over the years, these elements have created an emotional connection with our guests. They see Cracker Barrel as a trustworthy business and we take that level of trust very seriously.
The above mentioned elements are only part of what makes Cracker Barrel different. The most important element is our people. Our employees recognize that we’re in the people business, and that our success depends on the relentless repetition of providing a great experience for every guest, during every visit. We strive to treat our guests as family. We want each Cracker Barrel to have a warm, inviting atmosphere that our guests see as their "home away from home."
What characteristics have contributed to Cracker Barrel’s success?
Cracker Barrel has become a leader in casual and family dining segments by focusing on two key areas: consistency and Pleasing People®. When guests visit a Cracker Barrel, they expect consistency, especially in the food we serve. To that end, we’re committed to quality. Much of our food is made from scratch daily with fresh ingredients. That’s harder to do and it costs more sometimes, but we think it’s worth it.
Stop by any location and you’ll notice we are dedicated to treating all people with courtesy and respect. We have worked very hard to build a reputation that our guests can trust. We appreciate that trust and work daily to strengthen the connection our guests have with Cracker Barrel.
Pleasing People® is our mission statement, pure and simple. Our employees are the reason why our company continues to earn awards and recognition in the restaurant industry. For 19 consecutive years, Cracker Barrel was voted the "Best Family Dining Restaurant" in the annual Restaurants & Institutions magazine Choice in Chains consumers’ poll. Cracker Barrel also has received steady recognition from Destinations magazine and the Good Sam Club.
Can you provide some insight into Pleasing People®?
We are proud that at Cracker Barrel, our mission is Pleasing People. More than a statement, Pleasing People® is the foundation of our value system and the single most important objective we strive for each day. Our success ultimately depends on our store employees providing excellent food, friendly service and quality merchandise in a warm and inviting atmosphere – all on a daily basis. Pleasing People is all about mutual respect. Our founder, Dan Evins, described this concept as "showing the same face to everyone."
Our value system is grounded on the principles of integrity, quality and people. Integrity guides our actions as we serve our four constituencies: employees, guests, vendors and shareholders. Our employees are the lifeblood of Cracker Barrel. Without these dedicated people, Cracker Barrel would be just a collection of buildings and land. Quality people are the difference between great companies and good companies. To continue to be successful, we recognize, reward and appreciate this precious resource.
How has your management style evolved over the years?
Years ago, Cracker Barrel locations were open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At each location, one manager was responsible for the operation of the entire store; from building relationships with guests and making sure the food was properly prepared, to the hiring and training of employees and ordering of raw materials and retail products.
As the company grew, we hired more managers and developed our training programs to reflect what our guests had grown to expect from us – a home-cooked meal served by friendly employees. Maintaining that experience throughout our over 600 locations requires a commitment to consistency and relentless repetition. To this day, our training and management development programs stress the importance of delivering the experience that people expect when they come into Cracker Barrel.
What is Cracker Barrel doing to become a better company?
Cracker Barrel employees often hear that our company’s goal is to become the best restaurant company in America. So the question becomes "How do we become the best?" We believe the answer lies in the daily commitment of delivering a quality experience to every guest who comes into contact with Cracker Barrel.
We focus on friendly service throughout the building. Friendliness creates an atmosphere of respect and appreciation. Managers who appreciate and respect their employees will see positive interactions in the dining room. Those employees will naturally share that appreciation and goodwill with our guests. It all goes back to mutual respect.
Cracker Barrel also recognizes the responsibility to train and develop employees. We value our employees and provide them with opportunities to advance within the company, offering continuous rewards-based training, including bilingual training, for all hourly positions. Our goal is not only to hire, train and retain exceptional employees, but to enable them to become leaders within the organization. We have a well-defined program to hire, train and develop managers.
What is your style of advertising?
Cracker Barrel built a loyal following by becoming known as a "home away from home" for travelers. Beginning with our first store in Lebanon, Tennessee, we have tried to build a business that’s convenient and trustworthy. Since most of our restaurant and retail stores are situated along the interstates, we believe outdoor advertising is very effective in reaching consumers.
Outdoor advertising has worked very well for Cracker Barrel. Travelers appreciate seeing our billboards along the interstates because it signals that some good country cooking is coming up at the next exit. With more than 1,400 billboards in 42 states, Cracker Barrel is one of the top five outdoor advertisers in the country.
Again with convenience in mind, Cracker Barrel provides complimentary locator maps at all of our locations. These maps help our loyal guests plan their stops to coincide with Cracker Barrel locations. This service is also available on our Web site in our Travel section.
Cracker Barrel is taking an active role in the digital format. In addition to developing this website to provide an engaging experience that is equivalent to the in-store guest experience, we are interacting with our guests on Facebook, and other forms of social media.
Cracker Barrel also relies on word-of-mouth advertising to introduce people to our home-style food and friendly service. In the mid-1970s, our founder, Dan Evins, encouraged a manager to call people from the local phone book and invite them in for a complimentary, home-cooked meal.
As you can imagine, the manager endured a lot of skepticism from folks who thought the invitation was a prank phone call. Two weeks later, business picked up. All over town, people were talking about the new restaurant near the interstate and the manager who was calling people to invite them over for dinner.
These invitations were the genesis of our Country Ladies and Gentlemen program. These Cracker Barrel ambassadors visited with people and invited them to our restaurant for some old-fashioned hospitality. Herschel McCartney, Dan Evins’ uncle, was Cracker Barrel’s first Country Gentleman. Always known to have a smile on his face, Uncle Herschel was respected and admired for his commitment to treat people with courtesy and respect.
Describe the competitive nature of the restaurant industry and how Cracker Barrel competes against other restaurants?
Cracker Barrel is a highly differentiated concept that’s difficult to list in a particular restaurant category. Cracker Barrel has several components that are unique when compared to other casual dining restaurant.
First, Cracker Barrel offers a complex menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Most of the other casual dining concepts do not serve breakfast. Cracker Barrel offers the unique retail store that separates us from most other restaurant company. Unlike most other casual dining concepts, Cracker Barrel does not serve alcohol. We believe alcohol sales would take away our family atmosphere.
Cracker Barrel guests expect quality food, friendly service and clean facilities no matter which location they visit. Each location represents the brand and each employee plays a role in providing a quality experience. We greet more than 600,000 guests per day and serve more than 230 million meals a year. Every guest interaction either strengthens or weakens the brand. Our actions today determine who will visit us tomorrow.
Describe the management and employee structure in the operation.
Every Cracker Barrel location needs a team of managers and employees to ensure operations run smoothly. Each unit generates an average 4.2 million dollars in restaurant and retail sales each year. To maintain the high level of quality and service that our guests expect, Cracker Barrel utilizes this team of managers to oversee operations through three day parts: breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Each store’s management team consists of a General Manager, several Associate Managers and the Retail Manager. Managers receive extensive training regarding the Cracker Barrel culture and the company’s commitment to Pleasing People®. In every store, the management team receives assistance from Employee Training Coordinators (ETCs) who are responsible for the orientation and training of hourly employees.
Cracker Barrel believes its PAR (Personal Achievement Responsibility) program is important for providing excellent guest service. Maybe you have noticed the gold stars on the aprons of our hourly employees. Each star represents a PAR level that the employee has achieved. The PAR program prepares hourly employees to be leaders within the organization.
There are four PAR levels for each skill position. Each level teaches elements that are critical to an employee’s development and understanding of the Cracker Barrel culture. In addition to introducing skill sets necessary for a particular position, PAR training focuses on teamwork, relationship building and partnership. Hourly employees even learn how to read a store’s profit/loss statement so they understand the company’s business strategy and the effect they can have on that strategy.
Can you describe Cracker Barrel’s commitment to diversity?
Cracker Barrel welcomes and appreciates diversity – in our customers, our vendors and in our employees. We believe that by treating everyone with courtesy and respect and by offering a quality experience, we will continue to build loyalty throughout our organization.
Cracker Barrel prohibits discrimination and harassment. Our policies and procedures clearly outline how this behavior has no place in our company. Our commitment is clearly detailed in hiring, orientation and training materials, and those policies are instilled and reinforced through repeated training and communications.
In addition, we have systems in place to encourage guests and employees to report any concerns about service or the workplace environment. Both guests and employees can be assured that we will take their claim seriously, investigate it fully and reach a conclusion. When necessary, we take prompt remedial action to correct the behavior that’s seen as unprofessional and disrespectful.
Our company’s Equal Employment Opportunity Statement clearly states that all employment opportunities are open to all qualified applicants solely on the basis of their experience, aptitude, and abilities.