Cracker Barrel Hopes to Open in July
Construction of the new Cracker Barrel restaurant on U.S. 15-501 in Southern Pines will begin this week now that the parent company has closed on the purchase of the land.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores Inc. paid $1.25 million earlier this month for the 1.62-acre former John’s Barbecue and Seafood Restaurant site, and $400,000 for .48 acres of the adjacent 3.05-acre lot owned by the State Employees Credit Union.
“We have already begun prepping the site,” says Jeanne Ludington, a spokeswoman at the company’s headquarters in Lebanon, Tenn. “We will begin hiring at the end of May and hope to have the grand opening by the end of June.”
The restaurant will be a new company prototype, offering more day lighting and skylights around the restaurant so that employees do not feel stuck in the dark while working shifts in the restaurant’s dimly lit cozy, cabin atmosphere.
It will also be smaller. A typical Cracker Barrel has 7,900 square feet of dining space and 2,100 square feet of retail space, while the Southern Pines location will have 5,770 and 3,190, respectively.
“It looks identical to a traditional Cracker Barrel, but just a little smaller,” Ludington says.
Plans show that the restaurant will be built in the company’s well-known roadhouse style — a large, front porch and windows lining the front and side of the building, with board and batten wood siding painted “Cracker Barrel Brown.”
Ludington says a “friends and family” training session will be conducted the weekend before the grand opening, which will occur on a Monday.
“We invite a group of people to breakfast, but it’s not open to public,” she says. “It’s solely for training.”
Under a growth strategy that focuses in part of off-interstate locations, the new restaurant will likely employ between 100 and 120 workers once it becomes operational.
“I think it’s wonderful,” says Gene Norton, director of the N.C. Employment Security Commission (ESC) office in Aberdeen. “Historically, they’re not high-paying jobs and don’t offer great benefits. But in an economy like ours, you take what you can get.
“There are plenty of other communities across North Carolina that wish a Cracker Barrel we’re coming to their area.”
Norton expects Cracker Barrel to be inundated with applications, based on the recent response to the new Mellow Mushroom restaurant that will soon open just up the road.
“Mellow Mushroom has had thousands of applications,” he says. “I don’t see any reason why it would be different for Cracker Barrel or anybody else that wants to open a business.
“We’ve got a ton of people out there who have done those types of jobs that are currently unemployed. Many of them have been unemployed a long time and are willing to take those jobs for those wages.”
Norton adds that the ESC is looking forward to helping Cracker Barrel fill its needs.
“Our goal is to help folks go back to work,” he says. “Hopefully, the people making the money as employees of the new restaurant will spend the money here, which obviously helps the local economy.”
Ludington says a number of factors go into the location decision for each new restaurant, but she declined to comment further due to the proprietary nature of the company’s decision-making process.
“We spend a lot of time researching locations,” she says. “It’s a lengthy process.”
However, it’s safe to assume that Cracker Barrel was more than happy with the daily traffic count along U.S. 15-501 at that location, as well as the demographics in Moore and surrounding counties.
In addition, 62 percent of its diners are over the age of 50 and the average check is $9.02, so those two factors should bode well in a county that has a large retirement community and above-average annual incomes.
“In general, the percentage of guests that visit our off-interstate stores is 40 percent travelers and 60 percent locals,” Ludington says.
A typical restaurant serves 6,900 guests per week and has annual sales of $4.06 million.
Overall, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store employs 67,000 people and have more than 600 restaurants in 41 states. Every restaurant is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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