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Thanksgiving Is Boston Market’s Super Bowl

Boston Market CEO George Michel Works at Miami-area restaurant oBoston Market CEO George Michel Works at Miami-area restaurant o
Boston Market CEO George Michel works inside the company's Miami-area restaurant on the chain's busiest day of the year on Thursday November 22, 2012 in Miami.Photograph by Marc Serota Invision for Boston Market/A

Boston Market CEO George Michel is in some ways an unlikely champion for Thanksgiving. The Jerusalem-born executive never celebrated the holiday during his childhood in Israel. He hadn’t even heard of the holiday until he was 17 years old.

Now, Michel is so excited about the All-American holiday he and his wife will be working on Thanksgiving at a handful of Boston Market locations in Manhattan and the Bronx. This is the fourth-straight year Michel will be working the front lines on Thanksgiving, and the executive insists that Boston Market’s entire senior staff does the same.

“This is the Super Bowl for us,” Michel tells Fortune.

Boston Market, which operates 453 locations, says the two weeks heading into Thanksgiving are the most important in terms of sales at the company’s restaurants. And since Michel took over in 2010, it has become an even bigger event at the company. Sales over the past five years have nearly doubled for that two-week period. This year, privately held Boston Market expects to report 10% growth for the Thanksgiving season vs. a year ago.

Why does Boston Market perform so well? It tackles the holiday on several fronts. It aims to serve restaurant diners, corporate clients via catering, and customers that come to Boston Market to augment their at-home menu with pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes and other sides. The three most popular items that Boston Market sells during the Thanksgiving period are mashed potatoes, stuffing and sweet potato casserole.

A stronger Thanksgiving holiday comes as Boston Market has quietly sought to turnaround, in the process boosting average unit volume at existing restaurants mostly due to higher traffic, though price increases have also been minimally helpful. Boston Market is also opening some new locations, though store expansion is very selective.

Like many retail and restaurant peers, Boston Market will be open for business on Thanksgiving. In New York City, restaurant traffic is augmented by people who are in town for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Many of those customers want to enjoy a holiday meal, but wouldn’t have the means to cook one if they are traveling from out of town.

Boston Market officially finishes the Thanksgiving holiday on Friday, when many Americans are just beginning to enjoy leftovers. After that, the company’s executive team already has a meeting planned for Monday.

“We talk about what went really well during Thanksgiving, what we learned from it and what feedback we get from the employees,” Michel said. From that point, Boston Market has already set financial goals and coming up with ways to make the holiday an even bigger success for 2016.