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Black Friday Burritos? Moe's Serves Hungry Retail Workers

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Retailers may enjoy a big sales boon from deal-seeking Black Friday shoppers. But Thanksgiving week can be a slow time for catering businesses whose usual office clients close for the holiday.

At least one restaurant franchise -- Moe's Southwest Grill, a 475-restaurant chain -- has found a way to make a quiet catering week more profitable by serving retail employees who are hard at work ringing up Black Friday purchases.

"Most retailers, as you know, are working in overdrive on Thanksgiving weekend," with employees barely having time for a lunch break, says Jamie Schlef, director of catering for Atlanta-based Moe's.

"We know that a lot of [retailers] have budgets to cater during this time, and we thought this was perfect for Moe's," Schlef says. The chain, which offers catering services year-round, sets up a buffet where workers can build their own tacos or burritos.

Last year, Moe's, looking for a way to boost Thanksgiving-week sales, started targeting major retailers, offering to cater Black Friday for store employees. The chain, which got the idea from a sales consultant, printed marketing materials and told its franchisees about the program, including whom they should target in their trade areas and what to say to them. Franchisees could choose whether to participate.

Retailers that used Moe's catering included Target, Old Navy, Apple stores, Ann Taylor Loft and Kohl's stores, and the MAC makeup counter at Macy's, according to Schlef.

Moe's increased its catering sales for the week by 32 percent, she says, noting that shops in retail areas were very successful.

The chain competes against pizza and sandwich shops for retailers' catering business, says Schlef.

Potbelly Sandwich Shop is another franchise focused on Black Friday catering. A Manhattan Potbelly location on its website encourages employers to "treat your employees during Black Friday weekend," and offers 10 cookies for every box of sandwiches ordered. A Chick-fil-A in Plainfield, Ind., also is offering a Black Friday catering special on its website.

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