As someone who was born and raised in the Bronx and then moved out to Long Island, the Cracker Barrel Restaurant chain that everyone talks about is familiar to myself and pretty much all the other Long Islanders and New York City residents only in our travels. The reason is simple, there are no Cracker Barrel Restaurants on Long Island or in the New York City vicinity. That’s not to say that we’ve never been to these restaurants. Many of us who travel on the road have encountered these amazing Cracker Barrel Restaurants on Interstate Highways 95, 80 or 70. Recently, I was traveling down the New York State Northway from Plattsburgh heading home towards Long Island when I saw that old familiar Cracker Barrel Restaurant sign on the side of the road. I said to my son, let’s skip the McDonald’s at the New York Thruway Rest Stop this time and try one of those Cracker Barrel Restaurants that everyone talks about. Many people don’t even realize that New York actually does have a handful of Cracker Barrel Restaurants. Most New Yorkers have encountered them in the states south or west of New York. However, New York has many more Cracker Barrel Restaurants than one might think they have.
There are nine Cracker Barrel Restaurants in New York State. However, none of them are on Long Island or any of the city’s five boroughs. The nine Cracker Barrel Restaurants are located in Binghamton, Cicero, Clifton Park, East Greenbush, Fishkill, Horseheads, Rochester, Watertown and Williamsville. Some of these cities or towns are very small. Horseheads New York has a population of only six thousand people. Nonetheless, it’s the proximity to the highway that make these Cracker Barrel Restaurants so popular and easy to find for travellers. In fact that’s where you find all of them, a right of the highways. In all, the Tennessee based chain runs 653 restaurants in 45 states in the U.S.
For Long Islanders’ the closest Cracker Barrel Restaurant require a car and a boat. All one has to do is take the Port Jefferson Ferry across the sound and there is a wonderful Cracker Barrel Restaurant located right there along the Connecticut shore in Milford. For New York City residents, the closest Cracker Barrel Restaurants are located either in Fishkill, New York or Mt. Arlington, New Jersey, but both are still a few hours away.
The Reasons Behind Cracker Barrel Restaurant’s Reluctance To Open On Long Island or New York City.
One of the biggest questions that many of us ask is why Cracker Barrel has not opened a restaurant on Long Island or in any of the five New York City boroughs.There were many rumors over the past couple of years that a Cracker Barrel Restaurant was going to open up in Commack at the location of the old Chuck E Cheese. Then there were more rumours about a different location on Crooked Hill Road in Commack. None of them panned out to be true, at least for now. Some people argue that Long Island is not conducive to the way Cracker Barrel likes to locate its restaurants right off major interstate highways.
These interstate highway locations cater to the weary road travellers who are so hungry they will spend tons of money buying multiple items from the Cracker Barrel menus. And of course many tourists make up a good majority of travellers who are willing to spend extra money in those fabulous gift shops where Cracker Barrel makes a huge profit. And it’s right there where we see one of the biggest reasons why Cracker Barrel Restaurants won’t come to Long Island or NYC
One should understand that a powerful and successful company such as Cracker Barrel has done their research over the sales of those who buy those gift shop items. And of course numbers don’t lie. In Cracker Barrel’s 2020 fourth quarter financial reports, the company reported that they made 490 million from retail sales in their gift shops. Cracker Barrel did 2.5 billion sales total. So we are looking at a company that made a fifth of its sales from their gift shops. Thats a big chunk of change. We must also realize that those numbers are total revenue and that the profit margin is way higher in the gift shop where the costs are much lower than the costs associated in running a restaurant.
Cracker Barrel Corporate may feel that Long Islanders and residents of New York City are not going to be buying those souvenirs or candies in those shops the way highway travelers do. Those Cracker Barrel gift shops are loaded with food because they know people want to stock up for the road. While the gift shops have their share of unique items like Cracker Barrel biscuit mixes (yes, I bought a box) a good portion of the gift shops are filled with snacks both common and not common. Yes, there are shirts, mugs and assorted overpriced trinkets that also fill the store, but stand in line while paying and you will observe some sort of food or snack item in every customer’s hands. And everyone must go through that gift shop to enter and exit the building. You even pay your bill for your meal in the gift shop so you are forced to stand in line right next to those delicious looking sweets that would make even Willy Wonker jealous.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons Why Cracker Barrel Restaurants won’t come to Long Island or NYC is real estate. It just cost too much money to open a restaurant that size on any of the major roadways on Long Island like Jericho Turnpike, Old Country Road, RT 110 or any of the major roads. Cracker Barrel is not going to open a store far from any of the highways because its business model is based on highway traffic. Even though the Long Island Expressway is one of the busiest roads in the nation, it’s a commuter expressway. People don’t get off the Long Island Expressway to take a break and get something to eat. No, they just want to get home. So location and the price of real estate may just look like too much of a hurdle in the way of seeing a Cracker Barrel Restaurant on Long Island. As far as the city goes, the size, shape and style of the restaurant just doesn’t seem like the right fit on Fifth Avenue or 34th Street. It’s not going to work for so many reasons at least in their current business model.
Yet with all that said, and all those reasons why Cracker Barrel seems to not want to open up shop here, we all know how big of a hit it would be on Long Island or even a scaled down city version. Long Islanders will spend money on quality food, especially when it’s unique quality food that has not been available to them locally. Look at the success of the Chick-fil-A fast food restaurants on Long Island. The lines seem to never end for those places. With the amount of disposable income on Long Island and the jammed packed population, Cracker Barrel Restaurant would make a killing on Long Island, even with the high cost of real estate. The only problem is their corporate offices don’t seem to see it that way. If they did, they would have already been on Long Island and in the city by now.
The interior restaurant with social distanced tables.
My sons’ plate of Cracker Barrel Southern Fried Chicken. You know you want this right now.
Cracker Barrel Restaurant Porch.