National restaurant chain considering possible Elizabethton location
Published 10:13 pm Friday, June 12, 2015
For those who enjoy a meal at Cracker Barrel, there might be some good news coming in the future.
Rumors have been flying faster than lightning bugs in the summer heat that the homespun eatery has been eyeing Elizabethton as a possible location for a new restaurant.
An emailed response to a request by the Elizabethton Star concerning Cracker Barrel’s interest in the community indicates those rumors may have some validity.
“We cannot confirm a new Cracker Barrel in Elizabethton, TN at this time,” the email said. “We have been looking in that area, but no decision has been made. You might want to check back with us in a month or two to see if there are any further developments. Warm regards, Cracker Barrel Media Relations.”
But despite the email from the media relations office, Janella Escobar, Cracker Barrel’s Media Relations spokesperson, said, by phone, she could not shed any light on the possibility of a having a new Cracker Barrel’s location here.
“I can’t confirm that,” Escobar said. “There is nothing showing up in my system that indicates that we are looking at Elizabethton. It’s not that I won’t give a comment; it’s just that there is nothing here to base a comment on.”
But Elizabethton Director of Planning and Development Jon Hartman said his office is “aware” of Cracker Barrel’s interest.
“We are aware that Cracker Barrel is showing interest in Elizabethton, but no concrete conversations have taken place,” Hartman said. “Our understanding is that, at this point, Cracker Barrel is in a due diligence mode and of course, as with any retail establishment, they must look at how a location in Elizabethton might affect their other stores.”
“Looking at demographic information and where Cracker Barrel typically locates their restaurants, in my opinion, Elizabethton meets the minimum requirements for a Cracker Barrel,” he added. “But so far as we know, Cracker Barrel has not settled on a site or purchased property.”
If Cracker Barrel’s timetable is similar to one exhibited in a North Carolina community, it could take some time before news comes on when, or if, the restaurant will come to Elizabethton.
In Mt. Airy, NC, it took nearly six months for the company to complete its preliminary work and make a decision. The Mt. Airy News (NC) reported in July, 2014 that Cracker Barrel was in the “due diligence” phase concerning their possible location in that community, but it was late December before the newspaper reported the restaurant had officially confirmed it would be coming to Mt. Airy.
Cracker Barrel has made its mark in the world of restaurants with its southern cuisine, antique-laden walls, front porch and rocking chairs. And now, in addition to their classic country style eateries, featuring full service in the dining room, Cracker Barrel has also recently unveiled plans for a new “fast casual” concept. In a recent article, Escobar told The Tennessean the goal is to open the first of that type of store or stores by the end of July 2016.
The fast casual concept, in most cases, does not offer full dining service and could be described as somewhere between fast food and casual dining.
“We believe, and third-party consumer research supports, that the Cracker Barrel brand is the most unique and differentiated brand in full-service dining, with high levels of customer loyalty and satisfaction,” Escobar said in an email to The Tennessean. “We expect our fast casual concept to leverage the strength of our brand while providing a different type of guest experience.”
The Cracker Barrel restaurants closest to Elizabethton are in Johnson City, just off Interstate 26 at the Boones Creek exit and off I-81 near the Tri-Cities Airport.
The Lebanon, Tenn.-based chain was founded in 1969 and currently operates over 600 restaurants in 42 states.