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Food & Drink

Thanksgiving Brawl: Boston Market vs. Your Kitchen

There are two kinds of people on Thanksgiving: overachievers who brine their turkeys according to some fussy Martha Stewart recipe that involves juniper berries, and still find time to hang fall-colored wreaths around the house. Then there are those who wake up in a cold sweat at the thought of touching the stove.

Beneath the veil of nouveau American foodie-ism, there are more fearful-of-Thanksgiving-preparation types than you’d imagine. It’s one of the reasons the holiday is repeatedly the busiest day of the year for rotisserie-chicken-and-more Boston Market, which sells turkey year-round and whole birds on Thanksgiving. The chain has stayed open on the holiday every year since 1999, and Chief Executive Officer George Michel expects this Thursday to be the busiest one so far.

OK, so it’s no way to impress your mother-in-law, and your mastery of takeout turkey isn’t a real self-esteem builder, but it does free up the afternoon to wrestle fellow consumers for a $20 DVD player at a big-box store since, let’s face it, Thanksgiving is all more-shop-less-nosh these days. Just don’t expect all your guests to be thankful:

Last Thanksgiving Day, Boston Market’s sales were up 13 percent from a year earlier, and the holiday before that 14 percent, according to figures from the company. This Thanksgiving, the chain’s 460 restaurants are preparing to serve more than 1 million customers—about five times the traffic on a normal Thursday.

Michel, in an e-mail, points out several reasons for his optimism:

• The demand for prepared foods continues to rise. “The younger consumer is the biggest purchaser of prepared foods for the holiday.”

• Boston Market has improved its call center to capture more calls.

• There’s a new combination holiday meal with turkey breast and ham, and “Based upon input we received from our guests, it’s selling off the charts.”

Between its catering, takeout, and dine-in business, Boston Market sold 36,000 whole turkeys, 10,000 hams, and 3 million pounds of mashed potatoes last Thanksgiving. It’s a convenient solution for anyone who needs a break from the kitchen—or just flat-out stopped trying.

Wong is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @venessawwong.

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