FSR 50: Top 10 Family-Dining Chains


Cracker Barrel is the standout success in a segment where six of the 10 leaders marked negative growth in sales.

Family dining—typically defined by check averages below $12 and with very limited or no alcohol service—faces an all-out battle for relevancy amid sharpening competition and shifting consumer-dining habits.

Shuttered stores and falling sales stand a common reality for the nation’s largest family-dining brands. Among the top 10, unit count dropped an average of 2.9 percent while sales averaged a 2.1 percent decline.

“Unfortunately, this is a long-term trend, as many consumers don’t see these chains as being innovative or fun to visit,” says Mary Chapman, director of product innovation at Technomic. “People are finding what’s craveable, fun, and new elsewhere.”

For instance, family-dining brands like IHOP and Denny’s have long been the gatekeepers of breakfast but those sales have increasingly flowed elsewhere. Various quick-service restaurants such as McDonald’s and Panera Bread have provided competition in the family-dining wheelhouse as have a growing array of upstart breakfast and lunch chains, including First Watch, The Egg & I, and Another Broken Egg Café.

Four of the category’s top five—IHOP, Denny’s, Bob Evans, and Waffle House—had 2012 sales hovering near or just above their 2011 tallies. However, the fifth, Cracker Barrel, continues its run as family dining’s shining star.

Tennessee-based Cracker Barrel captured a 5.1 percent jump in sales in 2012, more than double the 2.5 percent gain recorded by category runner-up Waffle House. Cracker Barrel’s unit count also increased 2.1 percent in 2012, while its average unit volume (AUV) of $3.35 million dwarfed family dining’s other contenders.

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Company Namesort descending2012 U.S. Sales ($000)2011 U.S. Sales ($000)% Change2012 U.S. Units2011 U.S. Units% Change2012 AUV ($000)
Bob Evans974,000977,000-0.35655640.21,720
Cracker Barrel2,059,4111,958,6475.16216082.13,351
Perkins Restaurants644,255677,708-4.9400414-3.41,585*
Sonny's Real Pit Bar-B-Q241,000*243,200-0.9125127-1.61,915*
Village Inn298,000*303,000*-1.7206215*-4.21,420*
Waffle House938,000*915,000*2.51,6671,6232.7570*

*Technomic estimate / Source: 2013 Technomic Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report


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