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Boston Market CEO talks Thanksgiving turkey (and the numbers are absurd)

·West Coast Correspondent

Are you ditching the home cooked meal and eating out this Thanksgiving? Don’t feel guilty, because you’re not alone. Boston Market plans to serve one million people this Thanksgiving Day (that’s about 400% higher than a normal Thursday). The fast casual restaurant chain has experienced a nearly 100% increase in Thanksgiving sales over the past five years.

All 453 of its restaurants nationwide, excluding food court locations, will be open on Thanksgiving Day -- a sign of the shifting tastes of American consumers.

Boston Market isn’t the only restaurant chain keeping its doors open on Thanksgiving. Bob Evans Farms, Cracker Barrel, Golden Corral, Ruby Tuesday and Waffle House are also taking advantage of the increasing number of Americans choosing to eat out.

For the first time this year, Americans are spending more money dining out than on buying groceries, according to the Department of Commerce. And with a surge in two-income households, even the tradition of an entirely homemade Thanksgiving meal may have fallen by the wayside.

Overwhelmed by the busyness of life, Americans might not have the time or energy to cook this Thanksgiving. And Boston Market sells an entire family meal that serves 12 people for $110, which includes everything from gravy to pumpkin pie. (It comes to about $9.20 a person).

The shift toward semi-homemade may be credited to Americans’ desire to relax a little more and stress a little less. George Michel, CEO of Boston Market, told Yahoo Finance that many are nervous to cook a turkey so they’d prefer to buy one that’s pre-cooked. Others want to pick up a few side dishes last minute.

But it’s still cheaper to cook. The average price of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table for a 10-person meal is $50.11, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, which is a 70-cent increase from last year’s average of $49.41.

That price increase largely stems from this summer’s bird flu outbreak, which killed 48 million turkeys and chickens. Compared to last year’s $1.14 per pound, the average wholesale price for an “eastern market whole turkey” will be between $1.31 and $1.37 per pound, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Michel says the chain’s turkeys came from suppliers that weren’t impacted by the avian flu, so pricing was minimally affected. “Our prices did go up -- about 20 cents. We’ve compensated with that with just a slight increase in our retail pricing. But we’ve absorbed some of it as well.”

There’s plenty of appetite for Boston Market, but those who dine in aren’t the quintessential extended families, according to Michel. “We have people from out of town, single people or seniors that don’t have families [who] come to Boston Market.”

And there’s a chance that Michel could be serving you this Thanksgiving. He and all of Boston Market’s leadership will be working in stores this turkey day. He’ll start the day in Manhattan at the restaurant on 58th Street and 10th Avenue. From there he’ll be visiting a few of the other New York locations.

Let us know if you’re cooking, catering or eating out this Thanksgiving in the comments below. Or tweet me at @melodyhahm.