Feb 12 2018
Meredith Bethune
3 Minutes to read

Some comfort foods are guaranteed to generate warm feelings of nostalgia with every bite. Take, for example, that sweet-and-savory flavor of the fresh ham likely served at your family holiday and Easter celebrations. That’s the secret behind HoneyBaked Ham catering, the nationwide chain with over 200 company-owned retail stores and 200 franchise locations. Besides their famous ham that’s available for cooking at home, they also run a popular catering business.

HoneyBaked Ham dates all the way back to 1957 when Harry J. Hoenselaar, inventor of the spiral slicing machine, opened the first store in Detroit. Using the highest quality, bone-in, smoked ham, he created a unique curing and cooking procedure that always produces that one-of-a-kind taste.

The company, whose new CEO was recently introduced in Restaurant Business, still maintains Hoenselaar’s high standards. Byron Duncan, Director of B2B Sales for HoneyBaked Ham, explains how the chain’s approach has kept their customers happy for six decades.

HoneyBaked Ham just celebrated its 60th anniversary last month. How does the company stay successful and keep growing after so many years?

We’re very loyal to our customers— that’s a big part of it. We reach out to them multiple times per year. We make sure they’re on top of anything that we’re doing, changing, or shifting.

We’ve also stayed true to our values and our product quality. We’ve never skimped on quality to decrease the cost of the product. We still smoke the product for 24 hours. We still slice and glaze it the same way. The secret spice blend that we’ve always used has never changed.

How does catering factor into the business for HoneyBaked Ham?

For us, catering plays a significant role because it’s often the first time some people try the product. Their first taste of HoneyBaked Ham comes in the form of a sandwich. When you’re buying a HoneyBaked Ham sandwich, you’re not getting lesser quality ham. You’re getting the ham that you would buy at the store.

At the same time, it’s a nice revenue channel for us as well. From our standpoint, catering has been one of the largest growth areas over the last few years. Especially around the holiday season, when our catering becomes more holiday-driven. Companies will buy lunch from HoneyBaked Ham catering as a reward for their employees or to celebrate the holidays. Obviously, we’re known for that holiday-vibe and many times, our catering customers are looking for a taste of the holidays.

Besides sandwiches, what else does the HoneyBaked Ham catering menu offer?

Beyond sandwiches and box lunches, we also have platters where you can get sandwiches cut in half and tooth picked for sharing. We have Trays & Buffets that are a kind of build-your-own item where you have platters of meats, cheeses, and veggies, and then people can create their own meals. Then we also do garden salads, fruit trays, and veggie trays. We’re more than just sandwiches.

How do you keep up with the general public’s changing tastes and update your menu accordingly?

We do a lot of consumer tests. A company assists us in reviewing what kind of innovations are out there, and most of them will probably be implemented between the beginning of April and the end of the summer.

Can you tell us what’s next for the future of HoneyBaked Ham catering?

A lot of it I can’t share yet, but I wish I could. They’re trying to do some changes that would mirror some of the changes in consumer taste that we see right now. We’re playing around with some ideas that will really get people excited. More of that is going to be coming soon.

What’s your favorite item on the HoneyBaked Ham catering menu?

We have a Turkey Bacon Ranch Sandwich that, if I walk into a store, is still my first choice. It’s probably my favorite sandwich and has been for about 15 years. It’s turkey and bacon with ranch mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, cheese. To me, it’s the ultimate sandwich.

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Meredith Bethune

Written by:

Meredith Bethune

Meredith Bethune is a former cheesemonger turned writer for publications like Travel + Leisure, Saveur, Condé Nast Traveler, CNN, Robb Report, and more. She’s also the former associate editor of Eater D.C. where she reported on Washington’s latest restaurant trends and news. In the name of journalism, she has interviewed an octogenarian tofu maker in Japan, eaten breakfast on the savanna in Kenya, and sipped rare cognac in France.

Posted in: Trends in FoodNeed to Know

Tagged with: Catering, Food Trends, Lunch, MI, Sandwiches