Bob Evans versus Cracker Barrel
The establishment of the interstate highway system opened an enormous market for every business and service catering to the mobile traveler. It is imperative for a national restaurant chain to design an atmosphere causing repeat business.
Both Bob Evans Restaurants and Cracker Barrel Restaurants have created similar, yet unique dining and shopping experiences and continue to grow in popularity. As gas prices surge and limit highway travel these two restaurants compete head-to-head, often mere blocks away from each other, for the travelers’ patronage.
The store layout of Bob Evans and Cracker Barrel share some basic similarities. Both are “wait to be seated” restaurants with a waiting area separate from the dining area. The waiting area of Bob Evans is rather small, capable of seating less than twenty people, with additional room for standing. There is a small amount of items for sale, including candy, other foods and postcards.
The waiting area of Cracker Barrel by contrast is actually a large “country store” filled with a variety of “country” decorative items, craft-type items, decorations, and food, typically candy and other treats. Cracker Barrel advertises to the effect it is “half country store and half restaurant”. Bob Evans restaurants have a separate “carry out” entrance and waiting area, and a display case of fresh desserts.
Both are “chain” restaurants, so building design is physically identical (exterior and interior) to others in the chain. Cracker Barrel continues the “country” and “store” theme with a large covered porch with rocking chairs for sale and a very large parking area. Bob Evans has a slightly smaller parking area, and no exterior waiting area. Both make use of professional landscaping and flower/plant arrangement. Both are ADA compliant with plenty of “handicapped” parking.
Both restaurants have very accommodating interior space so that customers are not “rubbing elbows” with fellow customers. Interestingly, both still accommodate smoking patrons, and have ample separate areas smoking sections physically set off from the main dining area. Bob Evans also has a counter-top sitting area with stools reminiscent of old-style diners. The center point of a Cracker Barrel restaurant is a huge wood-burning fireplace giving much atmosphere to the dining area.
Aisles in both facilities are large enough to easily maneuver a wheelchair. However, the aisles in the Cracker Barrel store area are virtually non-existent. It is better to describe the “aisles” as little more than crowded paths between piles and displays of merchandise.
Bob Evans restaurants primarily seat patrons at booths with some tables. Cracker Barrel employs a variety of table sizes able to accommodate from two to ten people. Either restaurant will adjust and arrange table seating in order to accommodate large groups.
The interior decorating is quite different between the two restaurants. Both are carpeted in muted tones; however the wall treatment is very different. Bob Evans employs many “half” walls and small “dividers” to give a sense of privacy in the main dining area. Both restaurants employ a full wall to separate the smoking section.
Cracker Barrel continues its “country” theme with “barn wood” paneled walls. It uses what detractors refer to as the “SNOW” principle for wall decorating: expletive changed to “Stuff” Nailed On Walls. There is hardly a square inch between old signs, photographs, farm and kitchen implements and other items appearing to be haphazardly nailed to the paneling.
In contrast, Bob Evans restaurants feature attractive and “homey” wall and window décor and treatment, and feature groupings of photographs that are specific to the individual restaurants locale. Cracker Barrel has several small games for children on each table, as well as “coloring book” placemats.