Why You Won't See A Cracker Barrel Near New York City

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In 45 of the 50 US states — the exceptions are Vermont, Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, and Hawaii — you won't travel far down any interstate highway without seeing an exit sign directing you to the comforts of a Cracker Barrel, the ubiquitous home-cooking eatery with an expansive gift shop in the same space offering everything from the chain's signature rocking chairs to T-shirts, toys, candy and home and holiday decor items. Across the country, nearly 700 Cracker Barrel restaurant-gift shops dot the countryside, mostly beckoning travelers along the ribbons of interstate highways (via ScrapeHero). The restaurants feature a solid lineup of comfort foods, from bacon, eggs, and pancakes for breakfast to burgers for lunch and fried chicken and vegetables for dinner.

FSR reports that in recent months, Cracker Barrel has been working to attract a younger demographic as it has seen a decline in customers aged 65 and older, and has in fact seen increased visitation from the coveted 25-to-34-year-old and 44-to-55-year-old cohorts. Cracker Barrel has made beer and wine available in many of its locations, is offering a build-you-own-breakfast option aimed at those younger customers, and is more fully embracing technology like digital options for customers to pay from the table with QR codes or apps like Apple Pay and Google Pay. But even with all of that, Cracker Barrel may be missing an opportunity to enter a major metropolitan market.

Why not New York City?

One place you won't find Cracker Barrel is New York City and the adjacent Long Island. The Cracker Barrel closest to New York City is in Milford, Connecticut, and requires using the Port Jefferson ferry on Long Island for an 18-mile boat and car trip. ClassicNewYorkHistory.com notes rumors in recent years about a Cracker Barrel coming to the Long Island town of Commack, but nothing has come to fruition. Cracker Barrel's annual report for 2022 indicates it has plans to open "three to four" new stores sometime in 2023, but doesn't say where they will be located. The report notes more than 80% of Cracker Barrel stores are located along interstate highways, with the remaining locations "off interstate or near tourist destinations."

Cracker Barrel appears to have some interest in New York City. Annually from 2019 through 2021, Cracker Barrel established a temporary presence in the city, but on a very small scale and for a very short time. In 2019, in honor of its 50th anniversary, Cracker Barrel had a tiny replica of one of its iconic stores rolling in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and brought it back for the 2020 and 2021 parades. In 2019, on the day before the parade, the 269-square-foot Cracker Barrel was parked in Foley Square. No meals were served, but visitors could buy items in a gift shop and could walk through a tiny Cracker Barrel dining room. The list of floats for the 2022 Macy's parade doesn't include Cracker Barrel.