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Family-dining brands push value menus

Cracker Barrel and Bob Evans expand meal deals as consumers’ budgets tighten

Cracker Barrel and Bob Evans have rolled out new value menus to compete with established offerings at competitors like Denny’s and Waffle House.

The recent deals from family-dining chains show a renewed focus on providing value to customers whose budgets have been squeezed by higher prices at the gas pump and grocery store.

On Thursday, Lebanon, Tenn.-based Cracker Barrel introduced $5.99 daily lunch specials, served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. From Monday through Friday, guests can choose a Country House salad, two chicken tenderloins, and a choice of a baked potato or cup of soup. Other daily specials include Baked Chicken n’ Dressing on Mondays, meatloaf and mashed potatoes on Tuesdays, chicken pot pie on Wednesdays, and Turkey n’ Dressing on Thursdays.

Cracker Barrel operates 604 family-dining restaurants in 42 states. The daily lunch specials are not currently available in about a dozen markets.

Bob Evans, the 563-unit family-dining chain, rolled out its Farmhouse Deals systemwide last week, which offers 10 items for $6. The new dishes include breakfast plates, such as the Sausage Gravy Breakfast and a combo of two eggs, sausage or bacon, and two biscuits; three Biscuit Bowl varieties; two types of Knife & Fork Sandwich; the Chicken-N-Noodles Deep-Dish Dinner; spaghetti with meat sauce; and Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo.

“We’ve always strived to offer our customers the best value possible,” said Randy Hicks, president and chief concept officer of Bob Evans. “In an economy like this one, these $6 Farmhouse Deals provide our guests with appetizing choices at convenient and affordable prices.”

RELATED: Research: Deal users may go for lower discounts

The chain withheld $1 million in advertising funds in the first quarter to spend incrementally in the current quarter to promote Farmhouse Deals, chief executive Steve Davis said in a recent conference call discussing parent company Bob Evans Farms’ earnings for the first quarter, ended July 29.

He also said Bob Evans would offer 99-cent add-ons to the value items. A spokeswoman for the brand said the add-ons are not currently part of the menu, but they may be offered at the holidays.

In the same call, Davis disclosed plans to augment Bob Evans’ Family Meals to Go value line of 10 meals under $20, with add-ons for $3, $4 and $5.

“Our guest in family dining, a lot more of those people are on fixed incomes,” Davis said. “So when supermarket prices spike, trade-offs are made and they look for the best value they can find.”

Columbus, Ohio-based Bob Evans has locations in 18 states.

Long-running family-dining value deals include the $2 $4 $6 $8 Value Menu at 1,670-unit Denny’s and the “Dollar$ Menu” at 1,600-unit Waffle House. Spartanburg, S.C.-based Denny’s updates its value menu several times a year. The value menu at Norcross, Ga.-based Waffle House now includes 17 items.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN

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