Imagine being in that Mount Juliet, Tenn., Cracker Barrel restaurant last year when the first customers peeled away the tinfoil on their Campfire Chickens.
Released after slow cooking in tightly wrapped foil, the aroma from mouth-watering natural juices of chicken, corn, tomatoes and potatoes began filling the dining area. A chain reaction set in, and orders soon poured into the kitchen.
"The store manager called, saying, 'There's tinfoil all over the room, and everyone's eating Campfire Chicken,' " says Mark Tanzer, vice president of product development for the 337-unit Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.
Cracker Barrel's Campfire Chicken and the subsequent Campfire Beef were among the most successful promotions ever generated by the Lebanon, Tenn.-based casual-dining chain -- earning the company the 1998 Nation's Restaurant News MenuMasters Award for Best Limited Time Offer Promotion.
Heading the development team behind Campfire Chicken and Campfire Beef were 18-year Cracker Barrel research-and-development veterans Tanzer and Steve Lutz, project manager for product development.
The promotion sprang from a brainstorming session among Tanzer's four-person research-and-development team. "We were looking for something that would be new and exciting for our guests, something out of the box," Tanzer says.
During the give-and-take, Tanzer recalled his days as a Boy Scout. "We would bunch ground beef, onions, peppers and carrots into tin foil and toss it on the fire," he said. 'That's pretty much what this concept is."