Posted by Dale Buss on June 19, 2012 01:02 PM
Cracker Barrel isn't the first roadside brand you think of when you think about cutting-edge technology. After all, the most prominent feature outside these restaurants that dot America's heartland are the rocking chairs that are for sale on the "front porch" of the Cracker Barrel entrance area before customers mosey in for chicken 'n' dumplings or other downhome hearty fare.
But that hasn't kept the Lebanon, Tenn.-based chain from trying to leapfrog not only the existing perception of its brand but automotive technology to attempt to round out its positioning. So Cracker Barrel is extending its 2010 commitment to providing electric-vehicle charging stations in the parking lots outside some of its restaurants.
The chain has just added the rapid-charging sites at four of its locations in the Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas, area. The sites are using technology called eVgo Freedom Stations, one of many startups aiming to blanket the U.S. with infrastructure that would, theoretically, boost Americans' wan demand for electric vehicles.
While it may seem like a departure from its core brand promise, the initiative is "part of Cracker Barrel's commitment to providing travelers with a place to relax and recharge while on the road," the company said in a statement. There was no word on how quickly Cracker Barrel might continue to roll out charging stations to more of its 615 restaurants in 42 states.
And neither did Cracker Barrel address another question that surely must be on the minds of executives there: Even if they put charging stations at every one of those restaurants, how are pure EVs possibly going to traverse the many miles between Cracker Barrels in most parts of the country, when the top range of EVs isn't much more than 100 miles?
Maybe a partnership with McDonald's will be in order. In any event, the company will be watching closely to see how customers respond, and what kind of halo the green initiative creates for the brand and its bottom line.
Below, Cracker Barrel's first EV charging station was installed in Tennessee last November: