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Cracker Barrel books off-premise boost

Catering contributed to sales increases, especially at holidays

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. saw its off-premise business grow during Thanksgiving and Christmas and plans to expand similar promotions to spring holidays like Easter and Mother’s Day, executives said Tuesday.

Leaders at the Lebanon, Tenn.-based family-dining brand, after releasing second-quarter earnings, said the percentage of off-premise sales increased 20 percent in the quarter ended Feb. 1.

Sandra Cochran, Cracker Barrel CEO and president, said the company saw “particularly large increases in our occasion and catering businesses.”

“We believe the continued growth of the Thanksgiving and Christmas Heat n' Serve offerings underscore the trust that guests have in Cracker Barrel,” Cochran told analysts.

“In the catering business, we continue to leverage our catering sales managers and delivery vans,” she said. “We introduced a new customizable large party offering, which proved to be successful. And we're pleased with the growth in our off-premise business, and we are focused on ensuring that we have the right processes and infrastructure in place to protect the overall guest experience.” 

Promotions this past quarter included Country Fried Turkey with green beans and cranberry relish during the winter holidays.

Cochran said the company planned to increase off-premise sales at the Easter and Mother’s Day holidays as well. Easter is Sunday, April 21, this year, and Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 12. 

She said Cracker Barrel will be featuring a Mother's Day offering in a select group of stores as it works to expand sales on that holiday.

Cochran said the company has third-party delivery in test and will roll it into about 170 restaurants in the next few months, reaching about 400 by the end of the year. “Third-party delivery will be one component of the way that we offer off-premise dining to our guests,” she said. 

Jill Golder, Cracker Barrel’s chief financial officer, said off-premise sales had grown to about 9% of the brand’s total sale, rising from about 7.5% in the preceding year.

For the second quarter ended Feb. 1, Cracker Barrel’s net income, fell 33.3% to $60.8 million, or $2.52 a share, from $91.1 million, or $3.79 a share, in the same period last year, which included a one-time benefit from the 2017 tax act. Revenues increased 3% to $811.7 million from $787.8 million.

Same-store restaurant sales increased 3.8% in the quarter, with comparable restaurant traffic increasing 0.1%. Same-store store retail sales declined 1.4% in the quarter.

Cracker Barrel, founded in 1969, has 659 locations in 45 states. The company also owns and operates seven fast-casual Holler and Dash restaurants.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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