Cracker Barrel is Walking a Customer Tightrope

Cracker Barrel, the restaurant chain known for its down home country cooking and rustic gift shops, is facing a challenge as it attempts to attract younger customers without alienating its aging base of loyal fans. Some 43% of Cracker Barrel guests are at least 55 years old, while just 23% are under the age of 34. The restaurant’s quarterly earnings have been underwhelming, with traffic during the key summer travel season falling short of expectations and revenue falling flat from a year ago. In response, the chain now serves alcohol as an enticement for the hip Sunday brunch crowd and is preparing to launch a new loyalty program this month, with points known as “Pegs” — after the wooden peg games that adorn each table. They’ve even gone so far as to hire two TikTokers — Ashley Zessin Shelley and Darcy Gashweiller — as paid social media marketing partners after the pair dressed in overalls for a black-and-white photo, which they left on the mantle of a Cracker Barrel hearth as a prank. Meanwhile, the restaurant is hoping to avoid turning off older customers who remain a key part of its business — a tightrope walk that’s proving difficult. The company’s stock is down 27% so far this year, with even gift shop sales dropping 6.8%. The company relies heavily on traffic from baby boomers over the age of 65, who make up more than a quarter of the chain's guests.