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Despite having reopened 505 of its 664 restaurants for limited dine-in service, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. said profits are expected to be “choppy”.

Cracker Barrel’s post-pandemic strategy: testing beer and wine program, rolling out new menu

The family dining chain has reopened 505 restaurants — more than 75% of its portfolio — for limited dine-in

Despite having reopened 505 of its 664 restaurants for limited dine-in service, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. said profits are expected to be “choppy” because consumer spending will be restrained in the coming months. 

“I think everyone is having trouble predicting what’s going to happen,” CEO Sandra B. Cochran told investors during a third quarter earnings call Tuesday morning.

As restaurants reopen dining rooms, the company said it plans to accelerate programs it began to test prior to the pandemic, including rolling out a new menu and experimenting with a wine and beer program. The beer and wine offerings are currently in 20 restaurants. Reopened restaurants are also “migrating” to a new menu that includes new offerings such as chicken pot pie and Saturday fried pork chops.

The company also plans to step up its digital business, including continuing delivery and curbside pickup even as dining rooms reopen. 

For the third quarter ended May 1, the Lebanon, Tenn.-based casual dining chain reported a 41.7% decline in same-store sales.

Restaurants open at limited capacity are faring slightly better during the first few weeks of the fourth quarter. For the week ending May 29, same-store sales for restaurants open for limited dine-in service decreased 32%; by comparison, same-store sales for restaurants limited to off-premise were down 76% for that same week.

"The past several months have presented unprecedented challenges for Cracker Barrel, the industry and our country,” Cochran said in a statement. “I believe our strategic priorities, such as accelerating our off-premise business, combined with the rapid actions we took to bolster liquidity, strengthen our business model and adapt our operations to the circumstances have positioned us well for the recovery period to come.”

Quarterly revenues decreased 41.5% to $432.5 million. A net loss of $161.9 million or $6.81 (loss) earnings per share, included a one-time charge of $132.9 million, which represented the company’s equity investment in Punch Bowl Social. At the onset of the pandemic, Cracker Barrel discontinued its investment in Punch Bowl so it could focus on its core business during the crisis. 

The company said it plans to open two Cracker Barrel restaurants in fiscal 2021 and 15 Maple Street Biscuit Company restaurants.

For our most up-to-date coverage, visit the coronavirus homepage.

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Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected] 

Follow her on Twitter: @fastfoodmaven

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