There could be some additional bumps along the way. “As a reminder, it’s a new brand,” Golder said. “Many of the stores haven’t even been open three years. So, we’re getting a fair amount of learning, specifically around sales trends. There’s a number of sales drivers in this brand.”
Punch Bowl Social, same as Maple Street, hit the market in 2012. But given its massive footprint and experiential model (shuffleboard, bowling, pinball, etc.), it’s a far costlier setup. It also reports targeted average-unit volumes in the $7 million to $8 million range, with new unit store-level EBITDA excluding preopening of 17 percent or higher. The brand plans to debut an additional six restaurants by the end of 2020. It differs from some category competitors by generating nearly 90 percent of its revenue from food and beverage.
Punch Bowl Social will continue to operate out of Denver under the direction of Robert Thompson.
Cochran said the company was disappointed the Fort Worth unit, a smaller-box restaurant, had to close. “And we’re partnering with the team at Punch Bowl to understand better all of the situation and to improve that process,” she said of the scaled-down footprint, which Cochran doesn’t believe played a role in its shuttering. “But as Jill said, it's a young brand. There's going to be learnings, we will continue to learn, continue to update the guidance. But we continue to believe that PBS has significant growth potential, and I think it's positioned to become a leader in the segment.”
Returning to Maple Street, Cracker Barrel expects to open one location this year as it converts Holler and Dash over in tandem. Total, there will be seven more Maple Street designed restaurants by year’s end.
Cochran said the company’s experience with Holler and Dash reinforced its desire to play in the fast-casual space. And Maple Street was an attractive way to grab share, quicker. Both concepts are biscuit focused and promote comfort food. They’re open for breakfast and lunch. And the footprint mirrors back and forth, too, with urban suburban locations and a demographic of millennials and Gen Zers.
Yet Maple Street’s brand value was sturdier, Cochran said, and it had “a strong, proven business model, attractive unit economics, high-growth potential.”
“So, given their number of units and success and where we currently were in the Holler and Dash path, we felt that the conversion of Holler and Dash into Maple Street would accelerate our penetration in the category,” she said.
Maple Street is known for selling biscuit dishes at flat-dollar prices and is not open on Sundays. It uses premium ingredients such as fried goat cheese, sausage and shiitake mushroom gravies, and makes jams and jellies in-house, as well as biscuits. Fresh-squeezed orange juice and mimosas are available at select stores. The brand also features salads, bowls, waffles, artisan coffee, and other Southern-focused items, like fried green tomatoes and collard greens.
“We believe Maple Street will serve as a growth vehicle that complements Cracker Barrel by accelerating our penetration in this segment, while providing increased exposure to urban and suburban markets and to the millennial and Gen Z cohorts,” Cochran said.