Cracker Barrel signage.
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CEO Sandy Cochran will transition to executive chair in November. 

Cracker Barrel Announces Taco Bell Exec Julie Felss Masino as New CEO

Current chief executive Sandy Cochran will step down after 12 years at the helm. 

Cracker Barrel announced Tuesday that Taco Bell executive Julie Felss Masino will become its new CEO. 

She will begin as CEO-elect on August 7 and officially move into the role on November 1. During these three months, Masino will work alongside current CEO Sandy Cochran on a transition of duties. 

Cochran—who has served as chief executive for 12 years—will switch to executive chair of the board through September 2024. She and the board spent years planning a succession. 

Masino has worked five and a half years as Taco Bell's president of international, pushing the segment to more than 1,000 restaurants in 32 countries. Before that, she spent two years leading the chain's U.S. business to eight consecutive quarters of positive same-store sales. Earlier in her career, Masino served 12 years at Starbucks in multiple leadership roles, such as CMO of Starbucks China, vice president of strategy for the Americas and EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa), vice president of global beverage, and vice president of global merchandise and packaged food. She held other key roles at Godiva Chocolatier, Coach, J. Crew, and Macy's.

The industry veteran described Cracker Barrel as "one of the most iconic brands in the history of American casual and family dining."

"I appreciate all that Sandy [Cochran] and the Board have done to set the company, our team, and me up for success," Masino said in a statement. "For more than fifty years Cracker Barrel has leveraged its rich culture to deliver on its brand and people promises to guests and employees, and the company's Pleasing People mission aligns perfectly with my passion for building and empowering diverse high-performing teams. The confidence the Board has shown by entrusting the brand to me is humbling, and I'm excited to work with the more than 75,000 dedicated Cracker Barrel and Maple Street employees to drive the Company's growth for years to come."

Cochran, one of the longest-tenured CEOs of a public restaurant company, started her role in September 2011. She also had brief stints as CFO and COO. Prior to Cracker Barrel, she was CEO of Books-AMillion from February 2004 until April 2009.

Her time at the breakfast concept wasn't without controversy. During the pandemic, Cracker Barrel went back and forth with investor Sardar Biglari, who wanted representation on the board of directors. He criticized the chain's financial decisions (like investing in Punch Bowl Social) and came after Cochran, saying she was “CEO of Books-A-Million, a failed bookstore  enterprise, before joining Cracker Barrel in 2009.”

The battle ended in September 2022 when Cracker Barrel agreed to expand its board to 11 members and appoint Jody Bilney, one of Biglari's nominees, effective immediately.

Under Cochran, Cracker Barrel also purchased fast casual Maple Street Biscuit Company and launched alcoholic beverages for the first time in company history. 

In the brand's most recent fiscal quarter, same-store restaurant sales rose 7.4 percent, but that was fueled by an 8.8 percent rise in pricing. Cracker Barrel witnessed a "meaningful" decrease in traffic because of "weaker consumer sentiment and economic pressures," Cochran told investors. Although there was a stretch where the brand was concerned with pullback from older visitors, recent events have caused a "sharp downturn" in sentiment from younger cohorts. 

"Julie brings a wealth of experience and an innovative spirit to Cracker Barrel and Maple Street," Cochran said in a statement. "I look forward to seeing her and the team build on our legacy and carve new paths for growth as they leverage and continue our investments in technology, loyalty, and the employee and guest experience. It has been a privilege to lead this brand for the last twelve years and I am happy to be able to transfer my role to someone as capable and accomplished as Julie."

Also as part of the transition, independent chair William McCarten will assume the role of lead independent director.