Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is truly an all-American restaurant chain, and a fixture along America’s highways. It has more than 600 locations in 42 states, so it’s just about impossible to drive for an extended period of time and not encounter one. But we bet that there are a lot of things you didn’t know about this down-home destination.
Cracker Barrel was founded by a man named Dan Evins, who opened the first location in Lebanon, Tennessee, in 1969. He borrowed $40,000 to get it started, and the restaurant turned a profit almost immediately after opening. A Tennessee native, he modeled his first location after the country stores of his youth, complete with a rocking chair-lined font porch, a stone fireplace, and a deer head above the mantel — three features still found today in every one of the chain’s restaurants. (All locations are company-owned and operated, and there are no franchises.)
As opposed to most family dining restaurants, Cracker Barrel doesn’t just serve food; every location also has a gift shop that sells old-school toys from the 1950s and ’60s, toy cars, puzzles, cookbooks, baking mixes, classic candy and snack foods, DVDs of classic TV shows, and country music CDs. As for the menu, it’s about what you’d expect from a restaurant in an old country store: hearty breakfasts, fried chicken, chicken fried steak, biscuits, country ham, catfish, meatloaf, chicken and dumplings… it’s all there, along with a “Wholesome Fixins” menu with items that are (mercifully) under 600 calories.
More than a lot of other chain restaurants, Cracker Barrel holds a special place in the hearts of lots of Americans. And for many, no road trip is complete without a visit to one. But this chain has quite an interesting (and occasionally controversial) history, and its origins may surprise you. Read on for 10 things you didn’t know about Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.
It Was Founded by a Shell Oil Sales Rep to Improve Gasoline Sales
Dan Evins was tasked with finding creative ways to improve gasoline sales while working as a sales representative for Shell Oil, and the idea for Cracker Barrel came out of that. All early locations featured Shell gasoline pumps on-site, and they weren’t phased out entirely until decades later.
Early Locations Were All Located Near Interstate Highway Exits
In line with the founding philosophy of selling gasoline, all early locations were located right by major highway exits. Many remain located right near the off-ramp to this day.