Why Customers Are Complaining That Alcohol Is 'Ruining' Cracker Barrel

Cracker Barrel outlets are a common sight for motorists who are in it for the long haul, becoming what the Washington Post called "a highway empire" – one that did not serve alcohol for 51 years, per the Tampa Bay Times. In 2020 the company changed its policy. According to a 2020 article by Full-Service Restaurant Magazine (FSR), alcohol sales generated as much as 30% of restaurants' total revenues. In the third quarter of 2020, Cracker Barrel sales fell by 41.7 %, per a document shared with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That was described as a side effect of the pandemic.

While Cracker Barrel took this knock, restaurants that served alcohol over this period leaned on their alcohol sales to stay afloat, per FSR. The latter is no surprise as (per BinWise) the markup on liquor can allow for a profit margin of between 60% and 70%. But was the initiative beneficial for the country-themed restaurant? It has been two years since Cracker Barrel started selling alcohol, and some customers feel that the decision is ruining the chain.

Some customers think alcohol ruined the atmosphere

Social media users weighed in after Cracker Barrel began alcohol sales in 2020, and at least some of the reactions to the change in policy were positive. "I came out to my mom at a Cracker Barrel in Youngstown, Ohio. I could've used a few mimosas that morning," said @MarkZinni. When Nancy Wright responded to the change by asking "who wants to drink alcohol for breakfast," user @kels14 tweeted, "Me, Nancy. Especially at Cracker Barrel."

Maybe the mood changed or the critical voices have just seemed louder recently. But some people are not happy. "Don't agree with pushing the sales of Alcohol," said a Facebook user in April of this year. Another unhappy Cracker Barrel customer felt the chain was pushing its waiting staff to upsell alcoholic beverages, per Complain Biz. Meanwhile, it has been serving reduced food offerings from what it calls a "simplified menu," per Nations Restaurant News. "They really ruined the menu selections and what was "family" favorites," said a more recent complaint on Facebook. A number of commenters said they missed the old family-friendly feel before alcohol was served. As Loraine Kehl put it, "Let's get back to the family atmosphere, no alcohol and the good old country cooking."