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Cammie Spillyards-Schaefer, VP of menu development for Cracker Barrel, gears up for the holidays during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store’s chef Cammie Spillyards-Schaefer gears up for the holidays during the coronavirus pandemic

Thanksgiving is the family-dining chain’s busiest time of year, and the VP of menu development has new things in store

Cammie Spillyards-Schaefer is gearing up for her third holiday season as vice president of culinary and menu strategy at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, and like all of us, she’s not sure what to expect this year.

But the veteran of menu research & development at restaurant chains is ready, with a leaner menu an improved kids’ section, and surprise gifts for guests who order the chain’s Heat N’ Serve options to celebrate the holidays at home.

Thanksgiving is normally Cracker Barrel’s busiest day of the year, and that week is the busiest week for the family-dining chain based in Lebanon, Tenn. Spillyards-Schaefer said she wants to make sure that the customers of the roughly 660 locations nationwide enjoy their meals whether they eat them in the restaurant or take them home.

Anticipating that customers might be having smaller celebrations this year, the chain is offering smaller meal bundles, but smaller groups doesn’t mean that Spillyards-Schaefer is slowing down. R&D looks different when socially distancing, but the Cracker Barrel team has adjusted, and plans are underway to introduce a premium Heat N’ Serve entrée in time for Christmas.

In this edition of Extra Serving, Spillyards-Schaefer discusses how her job has changed, and shares some of what’s in store in the coming months.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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