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<p>Boston Market&#39;s standard menu includes many items that appear on Thanksgiving.</p>

Boston Market CEO: Thanksgiving is the ‘Super Bowl’

Fast-casual chain does brisk business up to and on the holiday

Boston Market is probably the closest thing there is to a Thanksgiving concept. Its menu already includes stuffing, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy and various vegetables. Just sub the rotisserie chicken with a turkey and you’re there.

So the chain started putting real effort into its Turkey Day offerings about a decade ago. Lately, it’s paying big dividends.

Thanksgiving Day sales at the chain have doubled over the past five years. The days leading up to the holiday represent the busiest time for the 435-unit, Golden, Colo.-based concept, with many locations doubling their typical business. The company expects to sell 42,000 turkeys this year.

“We consider that our Super Bowl,” CEO George Michel said. “All of us work on that day, executives, support center staff. We spread ourselves from Boston to California. We have fun.”

A growing number of consumers have been eating at restaurants on Thanksgiving, or they order their food from restaurants. The National Restaurant Association estimates that 4 million people a year order their full meals from restaurants at Thanksgiving. Another 14 million will order part of their home Thanksgiving meals from eateries.

Numerous chains have beefed up their holiday operations. And several chains do brisk business on the holiday itself, like Bob Evans and Cracker Barrel.

Boston Market does everything: catering to businesses leading up to the holiday; selling heat-and-eat meals and a la carte items; and remaining open on the holiday itself.

“Our food is perceived to be Thanksgiving food, but every day,” Michel said. “It’s very relevant. And on Thanksgiving, it’s even more relevant.”

The company does a large catering business the week leading up to Thanksgiving for corporate offices and other groups that have Thanksgiving-style meals that day. It also caters around Thanksgiving in offices with essential workers, like airlines and police stations. “There are essential services people that work that day, individuals and organizations looking for Thanksgiving food,” Michel said.

Boston market is also doing a growing business selling heat-and-eat packages that people will serve in their homes, including a package with a whole turkey and sides for 12 people for $109.99, and another with a turkey breast and a ham for $114.99.

It will also serve items a la carte, for those people who prepare just a turkey but don’t have time for everything else, or for those looking to bring something to a potluck gathering on the holiday.

“Some people suggested they usually don’t tell guests they brought this outside,” Michel said. He recalled speaking with a woman who bought sweet potato casserole one year at a location in New York. “She said, ‘I’ve been buying this for the last five years. Dad thinks I made it, so I’ll let him think that,’” Michel said.

“People are compressed for time,” Michel added. “Year after year, when people start to think and plan for Thanksgiving has become more compressed.”

Boston Market is also doing heavy business on the holiday itself, where singles and college students might go in to eat when they can’t go home. Or with senior citizens who don’t have other places to go. Visitors in Manhattan for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will frequent Boston Market that day, Michel said.

The company’s restaurants in many markets are busy. In some places, Michel said, the company will bring in refrigerated trucks to keep the heat-and-serve packages for people to simply pick up without walking in the store.

“We usually get some panicked people who show up all of a sudden because their oven broke down or they have no electricity,” Michel said. “That happens once in a while. They usually end up coming to Boston Market for their last-minute solution.”

“It can be so stressful,” he added. “People have less time. And consumers are looking for a solution outside their home. That’s why we open on Thanksgiving Day.”

But, he added, the stores close at 6 p.m., so workers can go celebrate. And rest.

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

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