Should Your Restaurant Sell Takeout Thanksgiving Dinners?

Many consumers don’t want to deal with the hassle of preparing their own holiday meals — which creates a great opportunity for your restaurant.
turkey Thanksgiving dinner
Turn Thanksgiving dinner into a profit opportunity for your restaurant by offering prepared holiday meals for takeout. (Photo: freeskyline/Shutterstock)

Thanksgiving is a treasured American holiday. Along with spending time with family members and reflecting upon what they’re thankful for, people also celebrate with a big, traditional meal of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and other delectables.

While most people make their own Thanksgiving dinner at home, research by the National Restaurant Association reveals that 10 percent of Americans prefer to dine at a restaurant on the holiday. And of the majority who choose to stay home, 5 percent plan on ordering a full takeout meal from a restaurant, instead of preparing it themselves.

The reason? Many consumers travel around the holiday and don’t have time to prepare a massive traditional meal, but the majority of people who choose Thanksgiving takeout do so for the simple convenience of it.

As a restaurant owner, you can capitalize on the Thanksgiving takeout trend by selling pre-prepared holiday dinners this holiday. Follow these five guidelines from foodservice experts to help create a successful holiday carry-out program.

Related: To Close Or Not To Close? The Holiday Question for Small Business Owners

Start advertising early

If you’re planning to offer carry-out catering options for Thanksgiving Day, now is the time to start advertising.

Chef Yealang Smith is the founder of Soul Hollywood Restaurant & Bar in Los Angeles, and provides Thanksgiving takeout options for her guests. Patrons can pre-order their holiday meal online or come in for last-minute orders up until the day before Thanksgiving.

She advised restaurants start advertising their Thanksgiving takeout menu as soon as possible to drive online orders. Also, have a system in place to start taking call-in orders, and don’t forget to educate your current customers, she said.

“Upsell these options while diners are visiting the establishment today,” she advised.

spaghetti Italian cuisine

Put your own spin on Thanksgiving by incorporating your restaurant’s distinctive cuisine into your holiday takeout menu. (Photo: Mauro Pezzotta/Shutterstock)

Put your unique spin on the traditional cuisine

America is a diverse place, and people always put their own spin on Thanksgiving. For instance, business consultant Christopher Papagni of CP Consulting grew up celebrating an Italian-style holiday with his family.

“It’s not taboo to eat something that’s not traditional Thanksgiving food,” he said.

In fact, offering Thanksgiving takeout can be a good way to expose your restaurant’s brand to a broader audience — and potentially bring in more business. According to Papagni, holiday takeaway meals are “an opportunity [for chefs and restaurant owners] to have people taste their food and to increase their revenue.”

Related: 4 Ways Restaurants Are Creating a More Authentic Experience

Just because it’s a particular holiday doesn’t mean you have to give up your restaurant’s distinctive cuisine. Add your own distinctive flavors to your Thanksgiving offerings, and your customers will be sure to appreciate it.

“There are so many things you can do with stuffing, and people love stuffing,” Papagni noted.

Don’t forget alternative eaters

Keep in mind, not everyone will want to have the traditional turkey dinner, or may require a unique twist due to dietary restrictrictions. Be sure to have alternatives and substitutions for allergy-inducing foods. Smith said it’s crucial to provide vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes on your Thanksgiving takeout menu for this very reason.

Related: Training Your Waitstaff to Better Serve Customers with Food Allergies

family thanksgiving dinner

Takeout Thanksgiving dinners helps relieve holiday stress and lets your customers enjoy more time celebrating with their family. (Photo: Rawpixel/Shutterstock)

Make it as easy as possible

“[Thanksgiving is] a family holiday, and people want to be home with their family,” said Papagni. “People like takeout because they don’t want to eat in a restaurant, but they also can’t cook or don’t want to cook.”

When customers place their order for a holiday meal, they are relying on your restaurant to make their Thanksgiving experience perfect, so don’t forget the essentials.

Smith advised taking a “straight-to-the-table” approach, by making sure you provide the right packaging, the ability to reheat, plenty of sides and condiments and great desserts.

“[This] provides for a easy holiday meal, easy and ready to go,” she said. ”The goal is to create a memorable experience from our stove to their table.”

Related: 7 Tips for Starting a Restaurant Meal Kit Delivery Business

Offer the highest-quality foods

Thanksgiving dinner is near and dear to many people, and the food you serve either can make or break their holiday.

“People don’t want to take home mediocre food,” said Papagni. “Chefs should see it as an opportunity to have their food be tasted by more patrons. These are people who may not have gone to the restaurant but are in the area, going to a dinner party and want to serve food. They’ll go into your restaurant, order from you, and discover this great food. Hopefully they’ll be back. It’s a win-win opportunity all around.”


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