Sit and Salute: 5 Questions With Cracker Barrel’s Sloane Lucas


Cracker Barrel Operation Rocker

Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores are synonymous with the wooden rockers that adorn their “front porches” (and are for sale). Operation Rocker is a fitting name for the fast casual chain’s campaign to salute military families by donating its rocking chairs to a worthy charity for military families.Operation Rocker / Cracker Barrel

The Tennessee-based chain kicked off the latest phase of Operation Rocker in June and is encouraging customers, fans and other donors to visit its website through Labor Day. In return for buying a rocking chair online, Cracker Barrel will donate a rocker to a military family through Operation Homefront, which helps stabilize US military families in the short term and the long term—for example, by awarding mortgage-free homes to veterans and their families.

“Building on last year’s success where we were able to donate over 700 rockers to deserving military families… allows us not only to honor our nation’s heroes but also to commit to building a better life for military families,” Beverly Carmichael, Chief People Officer for Cracker Barrel, stated.

Sloane Lucas Cracker Barrel 2Sloane Lucas (right), Cracker Barrel’s Manager of Corporate Citizenship, shared more in our latest Q&A:

What has partnering with Operation Rocker done for the Cracker Barrel?

This was our opportunity to cooperate with [Operation Homefront] in marketing. We didn’t know what kind of response we’d get. Our rockers are unique to our brand and iconic, and we were looking for an online component that would also link to our brand. So we came up with this idea of furnishing homes of military families with our rockers.

Our guests were excited to take part, and we’ve received feedback from families who received rockers in the past year and it’s been wonderful. It’s a holistic, 360-degree campaign. It’s wonderful and reinforces our philanthropic stance, which is to reinforce military families any way we can.

Cracker Barrel military rocking chairs

What did you learn about the significance of the rocker to the Cracker Barrel brand?

It’s truly an iconic image. We knew that intrinsically, but to hear that from a family that receives it, or a caregiver who is taking care of a wounded warrior—it’s a relatively big-ticket item as far as retail items go, and this is an opportunity for us to let them have this wonderful piece of furniture. The outpouring of excitement about it is really wonderful, and I’ve seen it firsthand at events where people claim their rocker and will actually hear gasps. It’s really meaningful, not in any way a small thing.

What does it mean to have this connection with the US military? 

It’s authentic to our brand. There’s a long-standing history. But the intensity that we’ve done it with over the last year and a half is new. Operation Homefront supports many parts of the military, but we’re about military families. We’re helping those who are here while their loved ones are serving.

Also, we have quite a few veterans in leadership at the company. We did research on “Do our guests associate us with that and does it feel genuine to our guests?” They see us as a supporter of the military. We’re an American brand, and we’re about Americana from a brand and retail perspective.

Have you brought this emphasis on military families into the very significant retailing portion of your outlets?

This year we did an in-store component where we donated a percentage of sales in the store, and once a year we did a “flip it forward” campaign to donate a percentage of sales on the restaurant side as well. We like to do a little bit of both.

We also try to highlight some of the other interesting products [for] more creative donations to the organization. For example, this year we launched a program for the first time to donate heat-and-serve Easter meals to military families and had several stores where military families would come in and it was wonderful, because store managers and employees got to engage with them.

So where does Cracker Barrel go from here with this relationship?

You’ll have to ask us next year, because we’re still in the middle of it. We have surpassed last year’s benchmark already, [donating] beyond 700 rockers. So we’ll have to see how guests enjoyed the in-store component. We’re always looking to do things slightly differently and hope we have some learnings to make it better next year.

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