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Sunday, March 06, 2011

Cracker Barrel Not All it's Cracked Up To Be


We "used" to love Cracker Barrel.  We used to love stopping at Cracker Barrel when going on trips, and after church on Sundays too.  We'd always stop at a Cracker Barrel for good food and a great shopping experience.  But, things have changed, and I'm really distressed over it because now, I'm not so sure we will go to Cracker Barrel again, not even for their country store.  Bottom line - the food is lousy and very costly.  The service is still good, and the management does take an interest in the customers, but if you are looking for good food, Cracker Barrel is no longer the family destination of choice.

Why?  Well, I'll tell you.  The food has changed.  The cornbread is absolutely terrible and has about as much flavor as cardboard.  My son and daughter ordered pancakes this morning, and they were not cooked.  We couldn't believe it, but the inside of the pancakes were still pancake batter.  The chicken tenders are bland and the cinnamon apples - the one thing I used to enjoy - had apple skin that was "tough" to swallow.  The food has become generic, bland, and - well - bad.

Now this is not the way we like to enjoy our Sundays after church, nor do we like to complain, but I do feel a need to share this experience with you, and not just because "our" experience was bad.  You see, we talked to the manager and he explained to us that a lot is changing and it isn't all good.  The manager explained to us that by going the "Corporate" route, the food is prepared off-site and shipped in, which has eroded the "home-cooked" meal experience that Cracker Barrel was originally built on.

Woooh!  Food is prepared off-site and shipped into Cracker Barrel?!!  That's scary if you ask me.  Off-site, as in "where" off-site?  You mean my food is not actually prepared and cooked "here?"  And, apparently, this disgruntled family of ours are not the only customers voicing concerns about the problems with food and pricing too - it is rampant across all Cracker Barrel franchises, because they all serve the same thing and have all gone through the same changes - or, so, this is our understanding.

Here's the thing, at least 5 employees at Cracker Barrel spoke to us and all of them asked me to "PLEASE" write a blog post about this.  You see, they know me there because we used to frequent the establishment.  Now we go about once every 3-4 months, and in the past year, each time we have dined there has been a horrible experience.  Literally.  I suppose old habits die hard, because each time I was convinced it had to be the cook in the back or some other reason the food was so bad.  

One afternoon about a year ago, I stopped in with my mother for lunch and we both left disgusted with the food.  It was terrible and expensive.  I swore I would never go back, but here we are - back at Cracker Barrel hoping it was just a fluke that the last 3-5 times we've gone there it has been a bad experience.


Anyway, the employees who spoke with us today said that customers are leaving unhappy every day and by the multitudes and they desperately want "back" the best-of-breed restaurant and quality food service that once was Cracker Barrel.  

Just so my readers know, I am not here to rant on Cracker Barrel.  I've loved the eating-out destination for years, but when a family of 5 can't eat for less than 60 - 80 bucks and you end up waiting almost 45 minutes for your food (even on a slow day) and then it isn't even cooked, or good, or hot - it begs the question "What happened?"  

To Cracker Barrel - Wake UP!  You are not going to grow any customer love by slacking off in the one area that once was your banner of pride - good home-cooked food goodness.  You cannot make up for bad food with a nice country store either.  Why?  Because if your customers no longer like your food, they will most likely not shop at your country store either.

It really pains me to write this post, but we are a family that enjoys the occasional Sunday afternoon brunch after church together.  It is quality family time.  Time to enjoy a good meal together.  Time to talk about our blessings and our church service.  Time to reflect on the coming week.  Just good quality family time.  Cracker Barrel used to be our favorite "after church" destination.  We'd even enjoy sitting and playing checkers while we waited for a table.  I'm sad to say that we will not be going back to Cracker Barrel.  At the very least, not until we discover through word-of-mouth, that the food has improved, and the home-cooked goodness that Cracker Barrel was built on is once again a promise.

I hope my readers who frequent Cracker Barrel will comment and share their experiences - and I'm not talking about Cracker Barrel employees or families posing as happy customers either.  This is a real problem and I hope the company resolves it soon.  We sure do miss happy memories at Cracker Barrel, and hope things will change soon - for the better of course.


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