BOSTON — Additional opportunities in menu, messaging and operational execution stand out as ways in which Lebanon, Tenn.-based Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. believes it can continue to drive sales in fiscal 2014.
In a presentation to analysts at the Wells Fargo Retail and Restaurant Summit held Oct. 1 in Boston, Larry Hyatt, senior vice-president and chief financial officer of Cracker Barrel, said the company’s priorities for fiscal 2014 aren’t much different than they were for fiscal 2013, though the focus on value may have been heavier in 2013 than it will be in 2014.
“We think that we got a lot of success from our focus on value and on better-for-you and our menu development,” Mr. Hyatt said.
That menu development included the debut earlier this fall of Wholesome Fixin’s. Billed as “homestyle meals with a lighter twist,” the menu includes 10 meals under 600 calories, with such breakfast options as multigrain french toast with fruit and a honey citrus yogurt sauce; egg substitute with turkey bacon or turkey sausage, fruit and tomato slices; a yogurt and granola parfait; and egg and cheese sliders on whole-wheat flatbread with fruit. For lunch or dinner, calorie-conscious diners may order a grilled chicken salad, a grilled pepper sirloin, spice-rubbed pork chops, pecan-crusted catfish and buttermilk oven-baked chicken.
“We have designed the Wholesome Fixin’s menu to be largely neutral on food cost margin and to be largely neutral with respect to average check,” Mr. Hyatt said. “We have designed it largely — and it’s important for me to say this — for long-term traffic growth, and emphasis on the long term.”
In terms of messaging, Mr. Hyatt said Cracker Barrel’s move to national cable has proven to be “very successful.” He pointed to improved same-store traffic and same-store sales as signs of the messaging’s success. In addition, market research has shown much higher levels of both aided and unaided awareness of the Cracker Barrel brand, he said.
Cracker Barrel also will count on operational execution to drive sales in fiscal 2014. Mr. Hyatt said the company has found customer satisfaction to be up materially over the past year.
“Cracker Barrel is an experiential brand, and therefore there are many aspects of the Cracker Barrel experience that drive our repeat business,” he said. “It is the quality and the variety of the food. It is the value of the food. It is the quality and the friendliness of the service. And it is the overall environment.”For the year ended Aug. 2, the company’s net income increased 14% to $117,265,000, equal to $4.95 per share on the common stock, from $103,081,000, or $4.47, during the previous fiscal year. Sales were $2,644,630,000 for the year, up 3% from $2,580,195,000 during the prior year.