It comes as no surprise that the holiday season rakes in big bucks for retailers. They hauled in nearly $580 billion in 2012 alone, according to the National Retail Federation. But shopping centers and big-box retailers won’t be the only businesses to cash in this holiday season, as quick serves are preparing to see their fair share of the action, too.
In 2011, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) found that more than 14 million U.S. consumers had planned to dine out for Thanksgiving, in addition to the more than 32 million that were estimated to dine out while doing their Black Friday shopping.
The same year, one in 10 consumers said they would dine out on Christmas Eve, while 8 percent planned to dine out on Christmas Day. The NRA projects similar traffic levels for 2013.
The boost in traffic should continue into the new year, with the NRA estimating, based on past traffic levels, that more than 100 million consumers will dine out or order takeout from restaurants for New Year’s.
Quick serves are taking note of these expectations and preparing with additional staff, heightened marketing efforts, and bigger seasonal menus, all aimed at offering busy shoppers a haven from their hectic holiday schedules.
Restaurants situated around malls, in shopping centers, and near interstate exits and travel centers are especially primed for an increase in holiday traffic, and these operators are boosting staff numbers to handle the extra traffic, says Megan Overton, a spokeswoman for employment website Snagajob. In fact, the company’s seasonal hiring survey shows there are more seasonal jobs available this year than in 2012, with hiring managers expected to add an average of eight seasonal workers.
The holiday season is the busiest time of the year for Honeybaked Ham’s more than 400 units. This year, the chain plans to serve more than 2.5 million consumers over the seasonal period, says Mark O’Brien, vice president of marketing for HoneyBaked Ham.
The brand will also hire more than 10,000 seasonal employees, from back-of-house production workers—who glaze, slice, and package ham and other products—to front-of-house staff and outbound sales employees that handle gifting and catering.
“Having great products is one thing, but also in the stores, the speed, the efficiency, the customer service is something that we plan for for months,” says Tim Quinn, vice president of operations and new business development for HoneyBaked Ham.
Take-and-bake pizza chain Papa Murphy’s is also counting on its speed, efficiency, and service to make the brand a popular choice with busy consumers who don’t have time to prepare dinners around the holidays.
“During the holiday season, we communicate that message via all our advertising channels, focusing on broadcasting in most of our markets,” says Dan Harmon, the brand’s senior vice president of operations. “We have print and digital and e-mail campaigns that we use, as well.”
Like pizza, coffee is an easy grab for shoppers on the go—that’s one of the main reasons coffee chain Saxbys expects to see an uptick in traffic levels of 5–10 percent this holiday season, says founder and president Nick Bayer. At its busiest locations, Saxbys will increase its staff size by 20–25 percent to meet holiday demand, Bayer says.
Snagajob’s Overton says quick serves aren’t just looking for in-store employees this holiday season, but also delivery drivers.
“Companies like Boston Market, who do a lot of holiday delivers, are certainly increasing their hiring of delivery drivers,” she says, adding that pizza brands, breakfast operators, and quick serves with catering options are also ramping up delivery staff.
In addition to taking on seasonal staff, quick serves are rolling out new seasonal menu items to draw in busy customers. HoneyBaked Ham is introducing a trio of bacon products—Sweet Glaze, Peppered, and Hickory Smoked Bacon—along with limited-time holiday sandwiches and desserts, like the Chocolate Rum Cake and the Turkey Cranberry Croissant.
Saxbys will bring back its popular Peppermint Mocha and Pumpkin Spice drinks, while also promoting the brand’s single-serve coffee cups and its most recent initiative, Thrive by Saxbys, which donates 10 cents of every bottled water sold to Big Brothers Big Sisters.
To market its holiday drinks and efforts, Bayer says, the brand is relying heavily on social media channels like Instagram, Vine, and Facebook. “We’re really starting to get much more visual with our social media,” he says. “[Our winter drinks] are tasty, but they also picture well, and they’re decadent and well created.”
Sampling is also a major promotional tool for the coffee chain and is one of the easiest ways to bring busy guests into the store, especially in mall locations, Bayer says. “We’re dealing with a consumer that’s walking around, so sampling is really perfect for us in those situations,” he says.
With consumers craving heartier meals when the weather cools down, Papa Murphy’s is rolling out its Bacon Cheeseburger and Bacon, Bacon, Bacon pizzas in November and December to meet this seasonal demand. “We’re always looking at limited-time offerings and trying to make them relevant to that time of the year,” Harmon says.