LEBANON, Tenn. – Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc., a restaurant chain known for such products as fried chicken and cornbread, is looking to draw in health-conscious diners with the introduction of a lower calorie menu.
Marketed as Wholesome Fixin’s, the new menu items provide guests with “flavorful and fresh options at breakfast, lunch and dinner,” the company said. All options on the breakfast menu will feature fewer than 500 calories, while lunch/dinner meals will contain fewer than 600 calories, Sandra Cochran, president and chief executive officer, said during a Feb. 26 conference call to discuss second-quarter financial results.
“We’re currently testing the category with the expectation of adding it to the menu this summer,” Cochran said.
Items on the Wholesome Fixin’s menu are said to include a grilled catfish, a baked chicken breast and a breakfast sandwich on whole wheat bread.
The introduction of healthier menu items is part of a broader strategy in place at Cracker Barrel to enhance the company’s core business. Cochran said the strategy starts with refreshing and developing select menu categories that reinforce the affordability of Cracker Barrel and the availability of healthy options for customers.
“Our holiday promotion, which featured limited time offerings in on-menu items, was positively received by our guests and contributed to the increase in average check over the quarter,” she said. “Our near-term focus is driving our affordability message, primarily at the dinner day part, in a similar fashion to what we did at the lunch day part with our daily lunch specials program. Much like that program, we’re looking to drive interest and excitement in a core menu category.
“This category, Country Dinner Plates, delivers the guest 14 different entree options, the choice of two vegetables, and bread service, all for $7.69.
“Our current menu promotion, which started on Jan. 21 and continues through mid-March, features three Country Dinner Plates, two from our core menu and a limited time offering of Pacific salmon patties.”
In a March 1 equity research note, Jeff Omohundro, an analyst with Davenport & Company LLC, said the firm is “enthusiastic” over the company’s test of the Wholesome Fixin’s menu.
“We expect Cracker Barrel to introduce the new menu offerings system-wide this summer and believe it strengthens the company’s commitment to better-for-you meals with lighter options at affordable prices,” Omohundro said. “When combined with the strong value proposition of the Country Dinner Plates at a price point of $7.69, we believe that Cracker Barrel demonstrates the significant capabilities to address both its core users as well as appeal to the younger and lighter consumers.”
Net income at Cracker Barrel in the second quarter ended March 1 was $35,168,000, equal to $1.48 per share on the common stock, up 37 percent from $25,609,000, or $1.11 per share, in the same period a year ago. Sales in the second quarter totaled $702,671,000, up 4 percent from $673,234,000.