Lighter menu options at Cracker Barrel

Biglari should try the new Wholesome Fixin's items before he wages another proxy fight.

By TheStreet Staff Aug 27, 2013 11:34AM

thestreet logoFamily at diner (© IT Stock Free/SuperStock)By Jonathan Heller


Change is in the air at Cracker Barrel (CBRL), casual dining's answer to country cooking in a chain format. And it's not because activist investor Sardar Biglari (TheStreet), whose company effectively controls nearly 20% of Cracker Barrel shares, was successful at having his name and fellow Biglari Holdings (BH) nominee Phil Cooley added to the company's slate of board of director nominees for 2013.


In fact, not surprisingly, on Monday, Cracker Barrel's nominating committee unanimously voted to keep the duo off the slate. Now it's up to Biglari to determine whether he will instead wage yet another expensive proxy fight to gain seats on the board. There's never a dull moment in the Biglari Holdings-Cracker Barrel feud.


The real change I am referring to occurred Monday, as the restaurant chain rolled out its answer to the growing trend among restaurants of offering a line of healthier menu items. Long known for its focus on beef and chicken dishes with gravies, biscuits, corn muffins, and other higher calorie items, the new Wholesome Fixin's menu is an attempt to draw in more health-conscious customers.


The new menu features several new items for breakfast, lunch and dinner with lower calorie counts than Cracker Barrel's traditional offerings. New breakfast items, all below 550 calories, include dishes with fresh fruit, egg beaters, turkey bacon and low carbohydrate bread. It's a long way from sausage, bacon, sawmill gravy, biscuits, pancakes, and hashbrown casserole that Cracker Barrel is known for.


The new lunch and dinner menu features six new items, all with less than 600 calories, and 13 lighter than normal side dishes. You can have the new pecan crusted catfish, buttermilk oven fried chicken breast, pepper grilled sirloin, spice rubbed pork chop, grilled chicken 'n' fresh vegetable salad or wholesome vegetable plate, and perhaps walk away feeling less guilty, and full, than if you'd consumed the roast beef dinner, with three sides plus corn muffins and buttermilk biscuits.


This is an interesting move by Cracker Barrel, and it should draw in some new faces. I am often shut out by some members of my family from going to our local Cracker Barrel because they equate it with heavy foods, high in calories. I'm anxious to have them try some of the items on this new menu in order to see if it will change their perceptions.


The one thing Cracker Barrel does not want to do, in my opinion, is chase away its typical patrons, those who eat there because of the southern influenced, higher calorie count dishes. It's comfort food at its best (at least from a chain restaurant), and it would not be wise to deviate too far from that.


To that end, it appears that the company is handling its new menu in the right way, by keeping the rest of the menu intact, and trying to reach a broader audience with the lighter items.


As for Sardar Biglari, I wonder what his take is on the new menu? Probably not positive, I'm guessing. Now we'll wait to see if he wages another proxy fight. 


More from



Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


StockScouter rates stocks from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, using a system of advanced mathematics to determine a stock's expected risk and return. Ratings are displayed on a bell curve, meaning there will be fewer ratings of 1 and 10 and far more of 4 through 7.

125 rated 1
267 rated 2
455 rated 3
612 rated 4
682 rated 5
695 rated 6
632 rated 7
472 rated 8
279 rated 9
147 rated 10

Top Picks

TAT&T Inc9



Top Stocks provides analysis about the most noteworthy stocks in the market each day, combining some of the best content from around the MSN Money site and the rest of the Web.

Contributors include professional investors and journalists affiliated with MSN Money.

Follow us on Twitter @topstocksmsn.