Every Thanksgiving, Boston Market CEO George Michel hears about customers buying the chain’s turkey or sides, taking them home, and serving them to guests as if they cooked the food themselves.
“They give the impression to their guest that they did all their work,” Michel told Business Insider. “I’ve had a lady, actually last year, she said, ‘I always come and buy your sweet potato casserole, and my father thinks I made it.'”
These customers have helped make Thanksgiving the busiest day of the year at Boston Market, as the 453-location chain serves more than 1 million guests during the holiday.
In the last five years, Boston Market has doubled Thanksgiving sales, with an anticipated 10% boost this Thanksgiving from last year.
“People… have less time now to plan Thanksgiving, and they are looking for solutions,” says Michel. “We provide a solution to busy people, and people who are nervous, or under a lot of stress. Cooking a turkey and presenting it to a group of 12 — that is a lot of stress.”
As Black Friday has evolved into a multi-day shopping extravaganza for much of the retail industry, Thanksgiving has become a weeklong — or longer — event at Boston Market.
The process starts with the proactive customers: people coming to the restaurants in the week leading up to Thanksgiving to get meals and sides for the big day. In addition to a la carte options, the chain does major holiday business with Heat and Serve, which allows customers to pick up meals and sides to later heat up themselves.
Then, it’s a wave of catering, which accounts for 8% of Boston Market’s total business.
Offices throw Thanksgiving parties leading up to Thursday. On Thanksgiving, employers provide a meal for employees at essential services such as airlines and hospitals who don’t get the day off. The next day, retailers cater Thanksgiving meals for employees braving the crowds on Black Friday.
However, the main event remains Thursday, when it isn’t unexpected to see lines out the door at certain Boston Market locations. The company only offers a limited menu for Thanksgiving Day, in an attempt to speed up service.
In many markets, the chain communicates in both Spanish and English, to assist Hispanic customers in ordering.
The key to Boston Market’s Thanksgiving meal is the mix of classic and affordable, as one of the few major chains that serves holiday classics like mashed potatoes and roasted turkey breast year round.
Thanksgiving dinner can be exorbitantly pricey. Boston Market estimates a full turkey meal purchased at a grocery store costs $137.83, compared to their own price of $109.99. Most “inexpensive” New York City Thanksgiving dinners listed in New York Magazine are $55 per customer, while an expensive restaurant can cost close to $200.
“For someone to come here and get a full meal with a slice of pie for $12.99, it’s a hell of a deal,” says Michel.
Boston Market became a self-proclaimed “holiday expert” by aiding customers who wanted to celebrate, but needed some culinary assistance to do so.
In Manhattan, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade attendees will form lines out the door at Boston Market locations. When Michel worked the Thanksgiving Day shift in Miami, he said the location would be packed with Hispanic immigrants, seeking a traditionally American holiday meal.
Getting food to-go from a Boston Market may not fit exactly into a Norman Rockwell painting. However, for more than a million Americans, it provides a way to get the Thanksgiving meal they want — all while majorly boosting the company’s sales.
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