Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is looking to change its image, well sort of. The comfort food destination of choice for millions of travelers will soon be offering a “Wholesome Fixin’s” menu to appeal to those who seek lighter portions and lower calorie counts. Based in Lebanon, Tennessee; Cracker Barrel has long served as a respite for tired and weary travelers in search of comfort food to fuel their journey along our nation’s roads and highways. I suppose it’s really just a reflection of recent trends that the company is now looking to tap into a portion of said travelers that otherwise would have kept on driving in search of “healthier” choices.
The Lebanon, Tenn.-based restaurant chain is testing several new menu items that contain fewer calories than comparable items. The goal: to attract health-conscious diners who otherwise bypass the chain famous for its traditional fare of fried chicken, sugar-cured ham, cornbread and other Southern staples.
Cracker Barrel said the new menu category, called Wholesome Fixin’s, will feature breakfast meals with fewer than 500 calories and lunch/dinner meals with fewer than 600 calories. Pamela Smith, a registered dietitian, nutritional author and consultant based in Orlando, Fla., developed the menu.
“We’re currently testing the category with the expectation of adding it to the menu this summer,” Sandra Cochran, the company’s president and CEO, told analysts during an earnings call last week.
The company (NASDAQ: CBRL) said it would not offer further comment. Smith also declined to comment, calling it “premature.”
What will the the dieter-friendly menu look like?
• A baked chicken breast dipped in a buttermilk-blended dressing and coated with seasoned, toasted cornflake crumbs. Its 360 reported calories include a side of roasted vegetables.
• A breakfast sandwich consisting of whole-wheat flatbread, eggs and Colby cheese, with fresh fruit on the side. It has 390 calories, according to the menu.
For what it’s worth, I’m not really buying it. I mean that both literally and figuratively. When I see a Cracker Barrel, I do think “wholesome fixin’s”; but in my mind that means bacon, eggs, and biscuits – not whole wheat flatbread, fruit, and baked chicken.
Either way, good on them for trying to increase their customer base – if that is what they’re doing with this move. If this is merely an attempt to get ahead of the kind of blame-game folks like the First Lady and her over-intrusive nanny state friends have played with chain restaurants like McDonald’s; shame on them for caving to the pressure. I suppose the company’s first major public statement on the menu additions will be telling. We’ll wait and see. Either way, I’ll still be going straight for the traditional “Breakfast Menu” and my “Uncle Herschel’s Favorite” the moment my wholesome fixin’s loving rear hits the chair.