It's True, Cracker Barrel Used To Be A Gas Station

There's a lot of good food worth ordering at Cracker Barrel, but you may be surprised to learn there are inedible reasons to patronize the "Old Country Store," as well. For instance, many diners feel Cracker Barrel's southern hospitality makes it the best casual dining chain. That seems to be in line with the restaurant's original vision.

Dan Evins created the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store brand back in 1969 believing interstate travelers would frequent a familiar place to eat as they traversed the nation's expanding highway system. Even back then, the place was about more than just food. Still, it's hard to deny that the joint's cornbread and other rustic dishes are a huge part of its appeal. It's no wonder Cracker Barrel does a couple of billion dollars in annual sales and owns hundreds of locations across the country. Nor is it any mystery nearly 2/3 of Americans — according to YouGov – approve of this brand, which ranks 16th among all American dining brands.

Surprisingly, though, one wonderfully mystifying and inedible reason to visit Cracker Barrel used to be oil. The rumors are true! The Old Country Store was also a gas station once upon a time.

The Arab oil embargo took the gas out of the Barrel

Originally, customers of Cracker Barrel could fill up in more ways than one. Founder Dan Evins started up his venture with the hopes of becoming a two-in-one road trip pit stop. Situating the first Cracker Barrel diner just off a Tennessee highway, he made sure to sell gas from his family's oil business alongside traditionally rural food. In less than a decade, that one restaurant filling station turned into more than a dozen, but then, the chain ran into a problem.

During the early '70s, on the other side of the world, Egypt and Syria waged war against Israel. It may seem strange that this has anything to do with Cracker Barrel, but Egypt-and-Syria sympathizers in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) looked to the Western World for support as Israel quite effectively pushed back. When nations like the United States refused, OPEC forbade its members from selling oil to America. Although this restriction was lifted by 1974, it still inflated the price of gas for some time afterward. As a result of that economic strife, Evins abandoned the petroleum part of his business and instead focused on the much more profitable culinary aspects.

Youths get gassed up for Cracker Barrel's new offerings

Cracker Barrel's gasoline hasn't been on the menu for quite some time now, but the Old Country Store has offered some equally interesting goods to its customers recently. As reported by FSR Magazine, elderly diners have been visiting Cracker Barrel less frequently as of late, so the chain has instead taken to serving items like alcohol and customizable breakfasts in order to attract Millennials and Gen Z. It's no petroleum, but this strategy does seem to be working, according to corporate leadership. The youths apparently love their beer, wine, and flexitarian diets.

Once again, economic inflation is behind the developments at Cracker Barrel. Speaking of such adjustments, the CEO of Cracker Barrel explained, "We believe this was the right decision to maintain our strong value proposition with our guests, especially in the face of a potential recession." History often repeats itself.

Booze and made-to-order meals are great, but Cracker Barrel has gone even further in attempts to attract new customers lately. On Valentine's Day 2023, the restaurant chain gifted a year's worth of free food to a handful of couples who got engaged at its restaurants during the romantic holiday. Finally, the Old Country Store has found something arguably more filling and energizing than fuel: low-cost love!