Cracker Barrel fires up its first loyalty program

Users can earn prizes ranging from a heat-and-eat platter to any hot entree. The points can also be used for items sold in the concept's retail shops.
Points can be earned and redeemed both in the restaurant and the retail shop of a Cracker Barrel. | Photo: Shutterstock

Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores has launched its first loyalty program, a guest payback system the family-dining chain expects to help greatly in its struggle to reverse an ongoing traffic decline.

The app borrows the theme of the peg game that sits atop every Cracker Barrel table. The old-fashioned toy is a puzzle that challenges players to jump one peg over another and remove the one that remained stationary, until only one is left on the triangular grid.

Enrollees in the program earn one “peg” for every dollar they spend with Cracker Barrel, be it in the dining room or in the retail shop that’s included in each unit. In keeping with the current trend in loyalty apps, the redemption levels are set in tiers.

A customer who racks up 75 virtual pegs can redeem them for one of the brand’s $5 heat-and-eat chilled takeout meals, a side, a shareable appetizer,  beverages or $5 off a purchase from the gift shop.

The 150-peg tour sweetens the giveaways to $10 off a retail purchase, a dessert or items off the kids menu.

The highest tier, which has a threshold of 225 pegs, entitles the guest to a free entree or $15 off a retail purchase.

The app also has a “bonus feature” that gives customers a shot at winning additional prizes by spinning a virtual wheel-of-fortune.

Cracker Barrel has been stuck in a traffic slide that management has projected will likely continue through its fourth fiscal quarter ending at the end of October. Executives blamed weakening economic conditions for beginning the decline, but acknowledged that the chain made the downturn worse with bad marketing decisions.

“We believe our loyalty program will be a key traffic driver for us over the long term,” outgoing CEO Sandy Cochran told financial analysts earlier this month. She is scheduled to retire and relinquish the post to a new hire, former Yum Brands executive Julie Masino, on Nov. 1.

Cracker Barrel was a rare holdout on loyalty apps, now a standard feature for most multi-unit brands.

According to Cochran, the chain has been testing its rewards setup with employees since July.

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