While the overall segment grew 3.2% last year, several long-established midscale chains shuttered units. Still, many of these long-standing brands struggling with sales, remain among consumers’ most beloved chains. Although trendy new breakfast-and-lunch-only eateries continue to pop up, they’ve yet to top the legacy brands for consumers’ overall favorite family-style restaurants.
1. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store
Overall score: 58.5%
Cracker Barrel is one of the few midscale chains in the ranking that is still growing sales and unit count. In 2016, the chain debuted its millennial-minded fast-casual spinoff Holler & Dash, specializing in biscuit sandwiches, the legacy brand’s signature. It’s since opened three additional Holler & Dash locations.
But Cracker Barrel didn’t neglect its flagship brand. It ramped up its marketing efforts and country musician collaborations, partnering with new and established stars from Canaan Smith to Dolly Parton. Among its goals for the music program is to keep up with guests’ changing tastes, says VP of Marketing Don Hoffman. “Cracker Barrel is also focused on providing our guests with new off-premise options,” he says. This fall, it launched online ordering for holiday meals to go and a line of Heat n’ Serve Holiday Family Meals for Thanksgiving.
Parent: Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc.
HQ: Lebanon, Tenn.
Shoney’s continued to revamp its units with a more upscale prototype, featuring full-service bars made of granite, large TVs and private dining areas for large groups. It is sticking to its salad and hot-food buffet staples, though it did launch several burger LTOs and commit to serving only cage-free eggs by 2025.
3. Bob Evans
Amid declining sales, Bob Evans shuttered 27 units in 2016. However, it remains a fan favorite and is keeping up with current consumer trends by offering new customizable options as well as healthful menu additions, including high-protein breakfast items and no-sugar-added desserts. Similar to Shoney’s, Bob Evans also committed to serving only cage-free eggs by 2025.
4. Huddle House
The 24-hour, all-day breakfast newcomer to the list developed a larger prototype this year, offering design changes as well as new kitchen equipment. The chain also opened its first restaurant in a hotel and expanded the menu with a focus on Southern-style dishes such as a smothered biscuit platter with bacon and a Buffalo shrimp and chicken basket.
5. Perkins Restaurants & Bakery
Perkins offered numerous seasonal menus, many of which highlighted high-protein fare, such as its Steak ’N Bacon and Summer Smokehouse menus. LTOs included a French toast sandwich with sausage, ham and bacon and a burger topped with pulled pork and fried onions. Seasonal salads balanced these more indulgent options.