Cracker Barrel raised pricing this year like many other restaurants. Prices rose 8.8% and 8.7% over the previous year in the chain's third and fourth quarters.
Cracker Barrel officials denied that their pricing increases caused traffic decreases in their third and fourth-quarter conference calls. However, they suggested that increasing restaurant pricing may be driving budget-conscious diners away.
Cracker Barrel's latest traffic dip may have been caused by poor marketing. In last week's results call, Cochran said Cracker Barrel didn't spend as much on advertising in the fourth quarter since it wasn't as effective as in previous years.
Some advertising was done, but "volume and substance of our marketing messages in the fourth quarter were not as effective as we'd wanted," Cochran said.
Cracker Barrel claims strong marketing from other restaurants and its own mediocre promotion hurt them. Cochran briefly mentioned the "highly competitive and promotional marketplace" for restaurant chains in the fourth quarter during last week's results conference.
The firm tried to promote its bargain menu, but "our message did not break through against the highly promotional advertising we saw from our competitors."
Chains that desire repeat customers must provide a wonderful dining experience in addition to delicious cuisine. During last week's earnings call, Cochran said "we still have opportunities with regard to the guest experience."
Cracker Barrel is investing extra front-of-house hours to hire, retain, and improve hospitality. Cochran said the corporation is improving these areas after its "historically strong" visitor experience dropped during the COVID-19 outbreak.