Seasonal items such as the Apple Streusel French Toast Breakfast helped lift traffic and sales during the company's first quarter.


LEBANON, TENN. — Menu innovation drove higher traffic and sales at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store during the company’s first quarter. The casual dining chain introduced a combination of seasonal items and new core offerings that included a limited-time apple streusel french toast and a reduced-calorie apple cider barbecue chicken with apple chutney.

“We believe that our seasonal menu promotions continue to drive frequency by providing our guests with variety through limited-time offerings that appeal to both our most frequent guest and our light users,” said Sandy Cochran, president and chief executive officer, during a Nov. 25 earnings call with financial analysts. “We also utilize our promotional efforts to incorporate entrees that would not necessarily fit into our core menu but appeal to a broader demographic consumer.”

Cracker Barrel’s fall promotion featured four breakfast entrees and four lunch and dinner entrees that were developed with key consumer groups in mind.

“I think when we looked back in terms of the parts of our guest base we were able to activate in the quarter, really saw a lot of movement amongst women, households with children under the age of 13, really a lot of our heavy and medium guests and those who are certainly a little bit older as well,” said Chris Ciavarra, senior vice-president of marketing for Cracker Barrel, during the call.

Cracker Barrel earned $34,024,000, equal to $1.43 per share on the common stock, for the first quarter ended Oct. 31, a 25% increase over $27,160,000, or $1.14 per share, in the year-ago period. The chain reported total revenue of $683,428,000, up 5.3% from $649,141,000 in the comparable quarter.

Comparable restaurant sales rose 3.3% during the quarter, driven by a 2.5% increase in average check and slightly higher traffic.

“I think that the additional choice and the appeal through both the L.T.O.s and the work we’re doing on our core menu worked during the quarter,” Ms. Cochran said.

The chain is currently promoting a new Southern pecan praline fried chicken salad and triple berry stuffed french toast as seasonal offerings.

Cracker Barrel has raised its full-year earnings guidance and expects total revenue for the year to be approximately $2.8 billion, reflecting increases in comparable-restaurant sales in the range of 2.5% to 3.5% and the opening of six or seven new units.