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How one fast casual is turning New Year’s Eve into an off-premise occasion

Honey Butter Fried Chicken’s Fancy Packs offer elevated twists on the existing menu and have become a surprise hit for the indie.
Photograph courtesy of Honey Butter Fried Chicken

Given exploding consumer demand for takeout and delivery, there may be just one remaining dining occasion that hasn’t been given the proper off-premise treatment: New Year’s Eve.

But an independent fast-casual restaurant in Chicago has found success with its takeout- and delivery-only offering for the last day of the year.

For the past two years, Honey Butter Fried Chicken has sold out of its New Year’s Eve Fancy Pack, which features dressed-up versions of its everyday menu items. The restaurant caps the offering to 100 orders.

This year’s boxes, available for $50 for delivery or carryout, include four pieces of fried chicken topped with truffle-infused honey butter, bacon-pimiento mac and cheese with caramelized onions and garlic bread crumbs, duck fat smashed potatoes with saffron gravy, and chocolate brownies topped with Champagne frosting.

Adding indulgent ingredients like truffles, bacon, duck fat and saffron to the popular comfort food items increases the consumer appeal (and allows the restaurant to charge a bit more for the offering), said Christine Cikowski, one of the restaurant’s executive chefs and founders.

“It’s like a fancier version of stuff we already do,” Cikowski said. “We promote it as this thing you can only get on New Year’s Eve. It makes it a little special.”

In past years, Honey Butter Fried Chicken has served New Year’s Eve lunch before closing to customers to prepare the Fancy Packs. This year, New Year’s Eve falls on a Monday, a day the restaurant is typically closed. So a pared-down crew of about eight employees will prepare the meals and help with order pickup. Typically, 20 people work a dinner service there, she said.

“We’re pretty much done at 9 p.m.,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to offer our customers something special but not have it be taxing on our staff.”

The restaurant begins promoting the offering, via social media, targeted email and in-restaurant signage, in mid-December, though Cikowski said she had heard interest from longstanding catering customers weeks before.

Offering a set menu with no variation allows the operation to treat the New Year’s Eve orders like one large catering operation, preparing large batches of just two side dishes and saving all of the fryer space for chicken parts (rather than having to share fryers with chicken wings and strips, as well as tofu) as during a typical service. Dessert is prepared in advance.

“It’s super streamlined to have one thing,” she said. “You can just make it and pack it up and dish it out. You can have less labor and get it done faster.”

Honey Butter Fried Chicken uses its everyday to-go packaging for the boxes.

This is the first year that each pack will be designed to serve two people, instead of four.

“We had customer feedback that it was too much food,” Cikowski said. “People wanted options for fewer people.”

 

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