Cracker Barrel taking crack at fast-casual

by Monica Watrous
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Holler & Dash, Cracker Barrel fast casual restaurant
Cracker Barrel plans to open its first Holler & Dash restaurant in Birmingham, Ala. within the next month.

LEBANON, TENN. — Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. is debuting a fast-casual restaurant concept called Holler & Dash with the goal to extend the company’s reach into urban cores and attract new consumers. Featuring a biscuit-inspired menu “that pays tribute to the South in an innovative and modern way,” the new brand’s first restaurant is set to open in Birmingham, Ala., within the next month, said Sandy Cochran, president and chief executive officer.

Sandra Cochran, Cracker Barrel
Sandy Cochran, president and c.e.o. of Cracker Barrel

“While we are excited about the potential for this new brand, I want to emphasize we do not expect it to have a meaningful impact on our financial results for the next one to two years,” Ms. Cochran said during a Feb. 23 earnings call with financial analysts.

In the meantime, the company is focused on improving customer traffic in its casual-dining restaurants by increasing promotions and discounts, ramping up marketing efforts and introducing unique menu innovation.

For the second quarter ended Jan. 29, Cracker Barrel net income was $48,242,000, equal to $2.02 per share on the common stock, up 2% from year-ago net income of $47,163,000, or $1.97. Total revenue was $764,002,000, up 1.1% from $755,966,000.

“We continued to deliver positive comparable-store sales in the second quarter, continued to outperform our casual dining industry peers and delivered earnings at the high end of our expectations,” Ms. Cochran said. “As we moved into the second quarter, the consumer and economic environment remain challenging, as reflected in our traffic and sales in November and December.”

Comparable restaurant sales increased 0.6% for the quarter, as higher average check offset a drop in traffic due to bad weather conditions.

Cracker Barrel food
For the year, Cracker Barrel expects to generate total revenue between $2.9 billion and $2.95 billion.

“The need for Cracker Barrel to offer solid value and affordability remains high, and we believe we can accomplish this through the combination of limited time and core menu offerings,” Ms. Cochran said.

The company has raised its fiscal-year earnings guidance due to anticipated moderation in food commodity prices and an expected tax benefit. For the year, the company expects to generate total revenue between $2.9 billion and $2.95 billion, reflecting the opening of five or six new restaurants and an expected increase in comparable store restaurant sales of 1.5% to 2.5%.

Net income for the six months was $89,107,000, or $3.72 per share, up 10% from $81,187,000, or $3.40. Total revenue increased 2% to $1,466,631,000 from $1,439,394,000.
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