When you hear the words Cracker Barrel, what comes to mind? Is it our Front Porch lined with rocking chairs? Our warm buttermilk biscuits? Or our cozy dining room filled with artifacts and memories from the past?
We’ve been pleasing people for more than 50 years since the first Cracker Barrel opened in Lebanon, TN, on September 19 in 1969. Our history is rich with stories and meals that recall simpler times and traditions that have continued even to this day.
But there may be some things you might not know about us. So, get your trivia hats on, and let’s have a little fun. Here’s 20 surprising things you might not know about Cracker Barrel.
We Used to Sell Gas
We’ve always been a destination for travelers, but did you know we also used to sell gasoline? When our founder, Dan Evins, started the first Cracker Barrel off of Highway 109 in Lebanon, TN, it was originally a restaurant-gas station combo. He wanted a place for weary travelers to socialize, fill up their tanks and their tummies and help his family’s oil business. By 1977 Dan and his fellow investors had grown to over 13 Cracker Barrel locations. By the mid 70’s due to the oil embargo they had stopped selling gas and shifted the focus to expanding the menu and creating a unique shopping experience in our stores.
In 2019, we celebrated our 50th anniversary, now with over 664 restaurants in 45 states, serving over 230 million guests a year.
Where Did the Name Cracker Barrel Come From?
Country stores used to be a gathering place for communities to catch up on news and local events. They used to ship soda crackers in barrels so they wouldn’t break in transit. These barrels were essentially the water coolers of the day. That’s why you’ll always see barrels on each Front Porch of a Cracker Barrel. The idea was simple. Give people a place where they feel at home, relax in a rocking chair, challenge their friends to a game of checkers, socialize and enjoy a meal made with care. Some things never change.
It’s Not Uncle Herschel On Our Logo
Who is Uncle Herschel, you ask? Herschel McCartney was the uncle of our founder, Dan Evins. He was Cracker Barrel’s goodwill ambassador, strolling through the towns, inviting people to join him at our stores. He lived by the golden rule, “Treat everybody as you’d like to be treated yourself. Be down to earth, humble, soft-spoken and wear a smile” (and serve delicious food–check!)
People have speculated that it’s Uncle Herschel on the Cracker Barrel logo over the years, but that’s not the case. The logo was created by Nashville designer Bill Holley on a napkin back in 1977 with the goal of creating a feeling of nostalgia with an old-timer wearing overalls.
This year we even unveiled a brand-new logo! Rather than just showing one person, we wanted to feature lots of people. The idea was to celebrate the diversity of all our guests with a logo that represented our continued passion for pleasing people of all races, colors, and genders.
We Sell a Lot of Candy Sticks
Now let’s talk candy! When you walk into our stores, you’ll be greeted with an array of old-fashioned and nostalgic candy, tempting your sweet tooth. Can you guess what our most popular candy is? Our thin sticks! They make the perfect travel companion. In fact, they’re so popular with guests that we sell over 13 million thin sticks a year. At 5 inches in length, that’s over 1,000 miles from our Home Office in Lebanon, TN, to San Antonio, TX.
We Source Most of Our Ingredients in the USA
Did you know 90% of our ingredients are sourced right here in the states? We’ve created close relationships with our artisans and vendors to give our guests the best quality possible, and that means taking no shortcuts. If we can’t source the best quality items for something on our menu, we don’t serve it. That’s why you can taste the difference in every homestyle meal. Fresh Maine blueberries on your pancakes, real maple syrup bottled in Vermont, USDA choice steak. Nothing but the best for our guests!
We Have Our Own Décor Warehouse
You might be surprised to learn that each Cracker Barrel location is uniquely different thanks to its décor. Dan Evins partnered with Kathleen and Don Singleton, who were owners of a local antique shop back in the late 1960s, and the rest is history (that’s literally hanging on the walls). Eventually, this would evolve into us having our own décor warehouse. This 26,000 square foot building houses over 90,000 artifacts and growing and was run by Kathleen and Don’s son, Larry Singleton, for over 40 years.
Each Cracker Barrel location averages around 1,000 authentic artifacts, each a reflection of an earlier era and its specific community. When it’s time to add décor to a new location, our décor team researches its history to identify artifacts that will complement the town and region. It’s almost like having a mini-museum to your town.
There are four common items in every Cracker Barrel location. Can you guess what they are?
• a cookstove
• a deer head
• a telephone
• and a traffic light hanging over the restrooms.
At the heart of every Cracker Barrel dining room is a wood-burning fireplace, turned on anytime the temperature drops below 40 degrees. Feeling cozy yet?
Our Menus Were Handwritten
One of the things we’re known for is our brown paper menus. Back in the day, Dan Evins actually created these menus himself. The original “handwritten” menu was shaped like a barrel and offered country cooking staples like “aigs,” sausage, bacon, ham, pancakes, grits, and biscuits for “brakfast.” For lunch and dinner, we offered beans and cornbread, turnip greens, country ham, and a few special “sanwiches.”
The menu’s handwriting had intentional misspellings and folksy phrases, which was Dan’s idea. His original vision was to make them look like a brown paper bag, reminiscent of those you would get at a country store. Guests could take the menus with them as souvenirs and something they could pass along to others.
Today, the menu has changed, but we still do our best to stay true to our original roots. And some of those original menu items are still on our menu today.
We Have a Gold Record & a Grammy Award
Music is in our blood. After all, how can we be natives of Tennessee without having some country music roots? Dan Evins’ own brother was a longtime band member of the Grand Ole Opry, and in the old days, guests would often be treated to live music on the front porches.
Over the years, we’ve continued to partner with artists who have a connection to the Cracker Barrel brand. In 2012, Dolly Parton gave us our first-ever certified Gold record, with “An Evening with Dolly,” a two-disc live album. Then in 2017, we teamed Dolly up with the vocal group, Pentatonix, for a special collaboration on a remake of her 1975 hit, “Jolene,” which earned us our first-ever Grammy Award for “Best Country Duo/Group Performance” and gave Dolly her 9th Grammy Award.
Continuing this tradition, our recent Care it Forward program partnered legendary artists like CeCe Winans, Shane McAnally, and Jennifer Nettles with the next generation of musicians for mentoring sessions, inspiring stories, and acts of care with brand-new music. We recently treated our own singing server and social media sensation, Miranda Willmore, to a trip to Nashville to fulfill a life-long dream of recording her own EP with her band.
We Work with Ducks & Geese
Our beautiful campus has become a landmark in the Lebanon, TN community. We’ve got three man-made lakes and five buildings that occupy 98 acres, complete with walking trails and beautiful trees. In fact, some trees on campus are more than 40 years old. Among them is the Spring Creek Bladder Pod, which only exists in Wilson County and is on the endangered species list.
Originally a working farm, duck, geese, turkey, and deer roam the campus and are considered treasured guests and family.
Our Team Members Are Stars
You might have noticed the stars on your server’s uniform and wondered what that was about. It’s called the PAR system, which stands for “Personal Achievement Responsibility.” The PAR system is our industry-leading training program to support our team members’ training and development. An employee who receives gold stars on their uniform represents their PAR level, which starts at a “Rising Star” and goes all the way to four stars. It’s one more way to reiterate our mission of pleasing people, ensuring our guests and employees treat everyone with the dignity and respect they deserve.
We Own the Maple Street Biscuit Company
Maple Street Biscuit Company was started by Scott Moore and Gus Evans in Jacksonville, FL, in 2012. It’s a fast-growing restaurant chain of over 30 locations across eight states, specializing in comfort food with a modern twist. (Think scratch-made biscuit sandwiches with trendy and unique flavors like their “Squawking Goat” featured on the Food Network or their cinnamon chip waffle with house-made cinnamon bun filling). Their commitment to serving their communities and focus on hospitality made them a perfect partner for us for reaching new guests. You can view their menu and look for a Maple Street Biscuit Company near you.
We Love Rocking Chairs
A rocking chair on the front porch was a symbol of community and relaxation. That’s why when you come to a Cracker Barrel, you’ll notice our entrance is lined with rocking chairs. The Hinkle Chair Company made our very first rockers, and they are still making chairs for us, even today. In fact, our most popular rocking chair is the Hinkle Slat Rocker, which is our signature design, exclusive to Cracker Barrel. Hinkle Rocking Chairs date back to 1815 when founder Henry Hinkle started making ladders and chairs to support his family. The company is now in its 6th generation, providing quality rockers for over 186 years!
We also partnered with the Polywood Furniture Company who provides us with our very popular outdoor rockers. But there’s something unique about a Polywood rocker. Do you know what it is? They’re not made out of wood! Can you guess what it is?
That’s right! Recycled milk jugs. Polywood recycles high-density polyethylene (HDPE for short), which is a highly durable plastic you’ll find throughout your home. Milk jugs, detergent containers, shampoo bottles are all made from HDPE. The plastics are shredded and cleaned, ground into fine flakes, and then pelletized into Polywood lumber. The best part about HDPE is that it can actually be infinitely recycled. In a single day, they produce about 48,000 to 55,000 pounds of lumber. That equals about 57,000 to 60,000 pounds of landfill-bound and ocean-bound plastic.
Polywood rockers are great because they can withstand the outdoor elements, retain their beauty, and they’re easy to maintain.
So the next time you visit us, sit down in a rocker, say hello to a neighbor, and maybe even take one home with you!
We’ve Got a Tiny Version of Our Country Store
To celebrate our 50th anniversary back in 2019, we debuted a New York City-sized miniature version of our store as part of our contribution to the 93rd Annual Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade. This 269 square foot replica showcased all the unique elements you would find in a Cracker Barrel, complete with rocking chairs on the front porch, a replica of the fireplace, and even a miniature retail store featuring a selection of nostalgic gifts and unique retail items.
The tiny house was shipped from our offices in Lebanon to New York City and welcomed guests in the Big Apple with a bit of Southern charm. To pay homage to our 50-year legacy of pleasing people, it even featured wood reclaimed from the very first Cracker Barrel store in 1969.
We Sell a Lot of Pancakes & Syrup
We sell a lot of pancakes and syrup! Seventy-five million pancakes and 55 million 1.5 oz. bottles of Pure Natural Syrup, a year, to be exact. Plus, 210 million biscuits a year and serving more than 230 million guests. Often our guests want to take a taste of Cracker Barrel home with them, and that’s when our Pancake and Biscuit Mixes really come in handy.
Our mixes are easy to use and taste great. We’re also always thinking up creative recipes you can make at home with many of our products, like reusing leftovers from our Heat n’ Serve meals or combining them with everyday pantry items you’ll find in the grocery section of our store. Be sure to check out our blog for more of these ideas.
There are Over 6,000 Ways to Solve the Peg Game
Chances are, as you’ve been patiently waiting at your table for us to bring out your meal, you’ve tried to beat the infamous peg game. Sometimes referred to as “Peg Solitaire” or “Hi-Q,” this simple game has been entertaining our guests for decades.
But who knew that trying to get down to one peg left standing could be so fun and challenging at the same time? There are actually over 6,000 ways you can win, but after two wrong moves, it’s virtually impossible to win.
We’ve outlined a couple strategies that will help you get down to one peg standing. With a bit of practice and some muscle memory, you’ll be able to wow your friends and family next time.
Who’s the genius now?
Our Country Stores Are Treasure Hunts (Cracker Barrel Finds)
There’s a lot to look at once you walk through the doors of a Cracker Barrel. Still, we guarantee you’ll be able to find something in the store that catches your eye or evokes some kind of nostalgic reaction. We may be called an Old Country Store, but we’ve got those things everybody’s looking for and more. (Squishmallows, anyone?)
It’s affectionately known as the “Cracker Barrel Find.” It’s the “joy of the hunt.” That experience of discovering something you love at a Cracker Barrel. Whether it’s a unique piece of jewelry, fashionable top, retro t-shirt, or amazing home décor, you’ll likely find a perfect one-of-a-kind gift for someone that will get them super excited and that you can’t find anywhere else.
Our retail team works tirelessly to find items that will appeal to a variety of guests. More than likely, there will be a Cracker Barrel find that gets the social circles buzzing, especially around the holidays. Be sure to check out our Collections section online because we’re always adding new items, and they can go fast!
The next time you happen upon a great purchase at Cracker Barrel, share it with us on social by tagging it with #crackerbarrelfinds.
We Sell Beer & Wine Now
How about a refreshing mimosa or your favorite beer or wine to compliment your meal? For the first time in our more than 50-year history, you can now get alcohol with your favorite meal in many stores. It’s exciting and fun as we continue to roll this out to even more locations. The response has been really encouraging. Just remember to bring your ID
We Love Giving Back
Our mission of pleasing people extends beyond the walls of our store. Since its launch, the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Foundation has awarded millions of dollars to support a diverse array of nonprofits and programs across the nation, helping those in need through donations to charities and nonprofits.
We are also committed to taking care of our own family. Cracker Barrel Cares was created in 2005 to allow employees to pay it forward by helping fellow team members experiencing financial hardships. It reiterates our brand promise of genuinely caring for and supporting our Cracker Barrel family and keeping us connected.
We want everybody to experience the taste of a home-cooked meal prepared with care. That’s why we’re excited about being able to offer our signature Cracker Barrel fried chicken into areas we’ve never been before. By partnering with our friends at Door Dash and Uber Eats, we’ve launched a new Chicken n’ Biscuits site where you can get delicious homestyle chicken and buttermilk biscuits delivered right to your doorstep. Get a bucket of bone-in fried chicken for your next event or a box of juicy chicken tenders with a yummy country side for lunch, at the perfect time when you’re craving some good ol’ fashioned comfort food.
We Love Stories
We love hearing from our guests about the impact Cracker Barrel has had on them. Take Ray and Wilma Yoder from Goshen, IN, for example. Ray and Wilma spent their retirement years touring America and seeing the sights, and Cracker Barrel was always one of their favorite stops. In fact, for 30 years, they managed to eat at every Cracker Barrel on the map. Talk about an adventure!
Then there’s the story of police officer John Branson who was eating in a Cracker Barrel and noticed Edgar Roberts dining alone, wearing a Vietnam Marine cap. John took the time to sit and visit with Edgar and discovered that Edgar was in need of a new kidney. After getting tested, John learned he was a perfect match and surprised Edgar with a generous offer to donate his kidney to him!
These are just a couple examples of so many amazing stories that have been told in our history. We were so inspired by them that we created a new series called Stories’ Round the Barrel to share more of these inspiring tales of hope from our team members, guests, and suppliers.
Our brand promise has always been more than just providing a quality meal at a fair price. It’s about being a home away from home for people, recalling a simpler time and place where family and friends could gather, and where everybody is welcome at the table.
You can learn more about our history by visiting crackerbarrel.com. Come in today and let us take care of you. We’ll have the biscuits ready!