CORNELIUS – Stephen Davis said the secret of his successful HoneyBaked Ham Co. and Café is not changing a good thing.
The restaurant and catering company celebrates 25 years this month at its Shops at The Fresh Market location off Torrence Chapel Road.
Over the years, its sales have grown to be the second highest of the Honeybaked Ham stores in the Charlotte region. Plus the store weathered the recession to have its biggest sales year in 2013.
Stephen said its success comes from consistency – offering the same menu of HoneyBaked Ham’s sweet and crunchy glazed ham, turkey and sandwiches, plus side dishes and desserts.
The franchise was initially opened June 28, 1989, though Stephen’s father, Marion, bought the shop in 1994. Since then, the family, including Stephen, mother Barbara and, at one time brother Tim, has owned and operated the store, as well as their others in Gastonia and Concord.
The store was initially a franchise for Hickory Hams, before HoneyBaked Ham bought the company in 1997. With people latching onto the well-known name, sales skyrocketed and the restaurant expanded to double the size.
“We’re known for our ham, which is cured and cooked for 24-36 hours,” Stephen said. “Most places just do it for 5-6.”
While the cooking is done elsewhere, all of the glazing and slicing is done in-house. Many know HoneyBaked Ham for its take-home hams for holiday dinners.
Last year, the Cornelius location sales totaled 7,500 whole hams which they sell by the half.
“2,500 of that was just during the December holidays,” he said.
The company goes through three peaks – Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, though the majority takes place in December. During that time, the store’s usual eight employees gets upped to 25-30 to meet the demand.
They’ve gotten glazing down to a science in December, working morning to night doing one ham roughly every 60-75 seconds for an average of 400 hams a day wrapped up and ready to serve.
“Ham has always been a family tradition,” he said. “Turkey for Thanksgiving and ham for Easter and Christmas.”
Plus, HoneyBaked Ham Co and Café has made it easy on hosts, offering fresh deli sides like potato or pasta salad or mandarin pineapple dream and desserts.
Its catering service is perfect year-round for business lunches, racing team events and family gatherings. The store offers trays or individual box lunches.
In addition to bulk items, HoneyBaked Ham Co. and Café offers a wide range of individual serving café items.
“Our sandwich, the Ham Classic, is what 40-50 percent of our sales are for sandwich sales,” Stephen said.
It has ham, Swiss, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and hickory honey mustard on a croissant. Other offerings are turkey sandwiches, chicken salad, ham salad, roast beef and a Mediterranean veggie, plus an array of salads and dessert. The store also sells ham “by the slice,” in half- to one-pound portions.
Stephen said his favorite part of the job is interacting with the people. He hopes to continue the tradition of bringing meals to families and being a bigger part of the community.