Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. will expand its fast-casual Holler & Dash biscuit concept outside Alabama into locations in Florida and Tennessee by the end of the year, the company said Thursday.
Lebanon, Tenn.-based Cracker Barrel opened the first Holler & Dash in March, in Homewood, Ala., and the second on July 12, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Planned openings announced Thursday include will be in October, in Celebration, Fla., and in November, in Brentwood, Tenn., a southern suburb of Nashville, Tenn.
The next locations will be a bit larger than the existing units. The recently opened Tuscaloosa restaurant is 1,991 square feet, but the Celebration unit will be about 2,800 square feet, and Brentwood will be about 3,800 square feet, Mike Chissler, chief operating officer for Holler & Dash, said in an interview. Seating ranges from 44 inside and 28 on a patio in Tuscaloosa, to 100 seats inside and out at the Tennessee location.
“In each location, we want it to feel very authentic and fit into the local neighborhood,” Chissler said. “We’re trying a couple of different things with size to see what works best for us as we move forward.”
The base menu with 11 biscuit sandwiches will remain much the same as in the original location. Take-out ranges from 18 percent to 19 percent of sales, Chissler said.
Chef Brandon Frohne, Holler & Dash director of culinary development, said side items and beverages will be localized.
“The whole idea is to respect the regions we are in from a Southern food culture perspective,” Frohne said. “We wanted to design something that gives a nod to the region.”
For the anticipated October Florida entry, Frohne said, he’s creating side items that pay homage to the region’s farm industries, with pickled heirloom tomatoes and housemade craft sodas with citrus flavors like a tangerine crème soda.
“In our restaurants right now, all of our grits and oats are locally sourced,” he said. “I’m on the hunt for those in our Florida market right now.”
The bestseller on the concept’s menu in its first five months is the Kick Back Chicken.
“It’s an antibiotic-free Springer Mountain [Farms] chicken breast topped with local goat cheese out of Birmingham [Ala.] and a really, really good sweet-and-spicy pepper jelly out of Nashville,” Frohne said. “We just want to make additions to the menu for each region.”
Frohne said he plans to introduce techniques like fermentation at the Holler & Dash in the Nashville market.
“That’s one of my favorites,” he said. “You’ll see nods on our menu. We’re developing right now a fermented collard-green kimchi, and also a fermented honey mustard. The flavor is unbelievable. We want to bring a modern Southern flair to everything we do.”
Chissler said hours for the Holler & Dash concept will be flexible depending on the locations. Generally, the restaurants are open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., but the Tuscaloosa location’s hours were expanded to appeal to a college crowd.
“When we get to Florida and Brentwood, it will depend upon what’s surrounding us,” Chissler said, referring to office space nearby in Florida.
“What we like about 7-to-2 is that we can use the space after we close for events and catering,” Chissler added. “We’ll explore those items as we move forward.”
Chissler said the biggest challenge for the fledgling brand is maintaining an appealing culture.
“We’re known for this great Southern hospitality. I think we have a great plan,” he said. “If we can deliver as well in the next two restaurants. The team has responded well.”
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store owns and operates 636 locations in 42 states.