GOLDEN, Colo. -- A survey commissioned by Boston Chicken here this fall shows a huge number of consumers are counting on carryout food for holiday dinners this year, and the company has made some changes to take optimum advantage of the growing trend.
r Boston Market by New York-based Roper Starch Worldwide between Oct. 29 and Nov. 2, polled 1,005 adults across the country. The projections, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4%, show that 27 million Americans this holiday season will have "traded home-cooked for home-style takeout."
The No. 1 reason people decide to use takeout food for holiday meals is that they would rather spend time with family and friends than be in the kitchen cooking, the study showed.
A total of 65% of respondents cited time factors, with 40% saying they'd "rather spend time with friends and family" and 25% saying they "didn't have the time to prepare an entire holiday meal."
"This was the first time anyone had quantified this type of information," said Jeff Beckman, a Boston Market spokesman. He added that last year the company had conducted an extensive search for such data before having its own survey done this year.
In the survey, holiday side dishes were the mostly frequently named (65% of respondents) as the type of food Americans say they take out for the holidays. Nearly half (48%) reported they would use holiday carryout for the main entree and 44% said they'd let someone else deal with making appetizers.
At Boston Market, which has offered holiday dinners and components via its Boston Hearth Specialty Foods program since 1995, the demand has grown over the past two years, Beckman said.
Again this year, Boston Market is capitalizing on the trend by offering complete fully cooked, ready-to-heat, holiday banquets, a la carte rotisserie turkey breasts, whole or half honey-glazed hams and special "banquet-size" holiday side dishes. The sides, which includes items like mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing and cranberry-walnut relish, are packed in 32-ounce containers.
Last year at Boston Market, more than half of the chilled, ready-to-eat Boston Hearth fare sold consisted of complete dinners. Just less than half was a la carte ham, turkey and side dishes. The best-selling sides were made-from-scratch mashed potatoes, savory stuffing and creamed spinach, in that order.
The company made a number of changes in its holiday menu this year, responding to evolving consumer needs when it comes to putting a holiday dinner on the table. For instance, Boston Market stores stayed open all day on Thanksgiving systemwide for the first time, the company instituted a toll-free number for information about its holiday dinners and components and it added more side dishes to its banquets.
"We had people last year tell us they liked the side dishes so much that they didn't have enough of them," said Beckman. As a result, the company added sides to its "banquet" and adjusted the suggested retail price for them.
"For example, for our 'Classic Banquet' dinner, we added a 32-ounce side and also indicated that the dinner serves up to 10 people, not 10 to 12. So each person gets more of the side dishes, actually about 16 ounces a person," said company spokeswoman Rachel Biederman.
Last year's Classic Banquet, at a suggested retail of $49.99, included two rotisserie turkey breasts with gravy or half a ham, four 32-ounce sides and 12 minicornbreads. This year, the menu is the same except an additional 32-ounce side is included. The suggested retail: $54.95.
Boston Market's Boston Hearth dinners include four sizes, beginning with the Petite Banquet that serves six; the Classic Banquet, which serves up to 10; the Variety Banquet, which serves up to 14; and the Grand Banquet, serving up to 18 people.
The best-selling size dinner is the Classic.
"That's probably because the average holiday party size is 10," Biederman said.
She declined to give Boston Market sales statistics for Thanksgiving holiday dinners, or to compare sales of the dinners with last year's.
The toll-free line Boston Market installed this year exists to give consumers information about what is offered for holiday dinners, not for order-taking. The toll-free line tells what's included in the different size dinners and what's offered a la carte. It also gives tips on successful holiday entertaining, Biederman noted.
Many stores throughout the Boston Market system will be open on Christmas Day, as they were on Thanksgiving, Beckman said.
"It's particularly helpful to people who need to 'be saved' at the last minute. They may be having more people [than they'd planned for] or they've burned their gravy. We've had people comment on our gravy saving them," Beckman said.