Restaurants love the holiday season as much as musicians love the Grand Ole Opry. But the pandemic has prompted a Nashville-area restaurant group to sing a new tune, adding family packs and buffet boxes as meal kit options.
Like many operators, the owner of six Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant locations needed to get smarter this year about to-go sales. Even as some of the A. Marshall Hospitality group’s restaurants were able to operate at full capacity, others faced capacity limits and customers who were reluctant to dine indoors.
So they created the Puckett’s Family Pack to build a market for their famous smoked meats—pulled pork, brisket, chicken, meatloaf and even burgers. Each kit feeds four to six people and contains two pounds of meat, two quart sides and a choice of bread. It’s packaged in a branded box that can be ordered ahead for pickup. The meat and side options offer customization that never grows old, and people are able to select add-ons like the daily cobbler or iced tea.
“It’s something we started when we were closed to the public in April, but we still offer it and plan to through the holidays,” says Director of Marketing Sally Flinck.
Adding a twist to the meal kit concept, Puckett’s partnered with Vanderbilt University and the Nashville Predators NHL hockey team in the fall to create logo boxes they market to customers for sports watch parties. It’s an option operators anywhere could consider for local colleges or favorite sports teams.
Counting on catering
With holidays fast approaching, the A. Marshall group hopes to keep sales humming along, expanding on its meal kit idea with catering buffet boxes at some locations. It’s a build-your-own buffet designed for pickup. Customers can make it a family meal, or it can feed a small office celebration.
“We’re not seeing or expecting huge parties inside our restaurants, so we’ve had to change things and bring food to them and serve them where they’re most comfortable,” Flinck says. “The buffet boxes provide a do-it-yourself experience.”
For example, Deacon’s, the restaurant group’s New South culinary concept in downtown Nashville, offers a grill-at-home steak box. Raw aged steaks are vacuum sealed and accompanied by the butter and seasoning used in the restaurant.
“It’s something we did during Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and we’re continuing for the holidays,” Flinck says.
The restaurant also plans to promote its popular fried chicken during the holidays. “It’s kind of like an upscale bucket of chicken that can feed a whole family.”
Thinking outside the meal kit box
Deacon’s also has created an “Adult Snack Pack” that riffs on its charcuterie board. It comes in a box with meats, cheeses, olives, almonds, sourdough bread and a bottle of wine.
“It’s a great thing to grab for a holiday party or to give yourself something special during the holiday season.”
In addition to the meal kits and boxes, the restaurants have expanded on their merchandise offerings with a Christmas gift pack. It includes bottles of Puckett’s signature barbecue sauce and spice containers, all wrapped in festive cellophane so customers can grab it at the store or order online.
Managing other holiday staples
Inside the restaurants, holiday limited-time offers will focus on using ingredients already on hand to reduce extra inventory, Flinck notes. Ordering special ingredients for a short amount of time and ending up with unused products is a risk when guest count is unpredictable. “Keeping inventory under control has been a priority all year.”
Another holiday feature will be gift cards. The restaurants conduct a buy $50, get $10 sale every year, with incremental increases for larger purchases. There’s no added attention being given to gift card sales this year, but Flinck points out that it’s a big boost to the season’s revenue and a great way for people to remain socially distant, buy presents and help the restaurant business.
“All of our restaurants are full-service, and we take great pride in hospitality and serving food like you’d get at mama’s house when you go home,” she says. “Even though it’s different this year, the holidays are still a big deal and we’re doing our best to help people celebrate safely.”