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Cracker Barrel invests in experiential 'eatertainment' concept

A mainstay of highway-side family restaurants with a folksy Americana theme has invested in a fast-growing, millennial-targeted chain that combines entertainment with craft cocktails and food in a dazzling, high-concept environment.

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. is investing up to $140 million to acquire an initial non-controlling stake in Denver-based Punch Bowl Social. The deal, which will provide growth capital for future development of Punch Bowl, includes provisions for Cracker Barrel to potentially acquire a controlling or full ownership position in the company in the future. (Cracker Barrel bought its stake in the company from private equity firm L Catterton.)

“Our investment in Punch Bowl Social is another example of our commitment to driving shareholder value, as it gives us an opportunity to enter a new category with exposure to new guests and demographics while also leveraging our strengths and the similarities between the two companies,” said Sandy Cochran, CEO of Cracker Barrel, which operates 660 company-owned Cracker Barrel Old Country Store locations in 45 states and the fast-casual Holler and Dash restaurants. “Cracker Barrel and Punch Bowl Social are both highly experiential brands that emphasize quality food and beverage, hospitality and fun. We love what Punch Bowl Social has built and are excited about helping them continue to grow.”

Founded in 2012, Punch Bowl Social targets millennials and Gen Z with made-from-scratch food and beverage offerings served up in a high-energy, high-design environment that features an array of social games and activities, including bowling, Ping-Pong, Skee-Ball, karaoke rooms, arcade games and more. A 2018 recipient of Chain Store Age’s Breakout Retailers awards, the company has 17 locations across 12 states and plans to open 11 additional units by the end of calendar year 2020. It is led by founder and CEO Robert Thompson who, along with his management team, will continue to oversee day-to-day operations.

“Our continued goal is to be an experiential millennial and Gen Z lifestyle brand that creates authentic, social guest experiences,” Thompson said. “Having Cracker Barrel provide growth capital and strategic resources sets us up for the next exciting chapter for Punch Bowl Social."
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