Fifty years ago today, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, America’s iconic destination for Southern homestyle cooking, warm hospitality, and unique retail offerings, made its debut in the small town of Lebanon, Tennessee.
In 1969, a Tennessee man named Dan Evins saw an unmet need. The Interstate was expanding –connecting people to new places – but people on the move couldn’t count on a consistent, quality place to stop along the way, stretch their legs, refuel and find a good meal at a fair price. Evins had a vision to build an old country store to meet their needs – a place that preserved the ingredients of country life to share with travelers on the road and families from nearby.
Before Evins knew it, the idea was much bigger than him. Built by hard work, a mission of Pleasing People, strong values, and genuine hospitality, the cooks, servers, operators and Evins’ Uncle Herschel McCartney – described as the “soul” of Cracker Barrel – created more than a refreshing stop along one’s journey. They set an iconic American table for generations to come.
Evins was passionate about recreating old country stores from his childhood while providing a place for friends and family to reconnect over a good meal. Fittingly, he selected the name Cracker Barrel to pay homage to one of America’s original gathering places. Crackers were delivered to those old country stores in barrels, and people would congregate around them to discuss the news of the day – the original water coolers.
Today, Cracker Barrel has 660 locations in 45 states across the nation, welcoming guests home to a simpler time and place, where they are treated like family, with warmth and care. To highlight some of the people and stories that have made Cracker Barrel a home-away-from-home, the company is encouraging guests to celebrate its golden anniversary by sharing their own #CrackerBarrelMoment on social media throughout the remainder of the year.
“Cracker Barrel has been one of America’s beloved home-away-from-homes for 50 years, serving as a familiar sign that greets travelers and local communities alike,” says Cracker Barrel president and Chief Executive Officer Sandra B. Cochran. “Our concept was built around a mission of Pleasing People, which is not just about setting a great meal in front of our guests, but serving them with warmth and kindness. What keeps people coming through our doors year after year is a sense of human connection and being treated like family.”
Cracker Barrel has celebrated several milestones along its 50-year journey – from becoming a publicly traded company in 1981; creating the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Foundation in 1993 to support charitable programs including those that lift up America’s military families; forming Cracker Barrel Cares in 2005, which is an employee-funded nonprofit organization that helps Cracker Barrel employees in times of need; launching the fast casual concept Holler & Dash in 2016; and most recently expanding to the West Coast in 2018 – all while staying true to the brand’s roots of creating a unique experience filled with hospitality for every family in America.
During its 50th year, Cracker Barrel celebrated with guests in two big ways. In April, the company launched Southern Fried Chicken, making it one of the few casual-dining restaurants with national reach offering bone-in fried chicken to its guests. Beginning in July, Cracker Barrel has highlighted the contributions of women in country music by celebrating some of the industry’s most talented artists and shining a spotlight on the next generation through the “Five Decades, One Voice” program.