Turkey Day is fast approaching: Is your restaurant staying open for it? There’s no major American holiday so centered on food as Thanksgiving, of course, and that means a unique situation for dining establishments. On the one hand, many households continue to go the traditional route with a home-cooked meal. On the other, more and more Americans are opting to skip the fuss, hassle, and stress of making their own Thanksgiving feast and eating out instead.
There’s thus a real opportunity if you decide to be open on Thanksgiving, but it’s something to weigh against the potential drawbacks. Let’s “dig in” to the issue!
Dining Out (or Ordering Takeout) on Thanksgiving
Nice as a laden Thanksgiving feast around the home table is, an increasing number of Americans are turning to restaurants to supply their holiday meal—all or at least part of it. This Humanity blogpost on the subject notes that National Restaurant Association surveys suggest more than 15 million Americans are now eating their Thanksgiving meal in a restaurant, and a similar share are purchasing restaurant food to enhance their holiday menu at home.
It goes without saying that planning, cooking, and cleaning up after a typical Thanksgiving meal is often a time-consuming undertaking, and it may be especially stress-inducing for people who aren’t proficient cooks. In many cases, people decide to eat out on Thanksgiving—or order takeout from a restaurant—so they can cut back on the stress and the labor while still emphasizing the shared meal and gratitude at the heart of the holiday.
As this Rewards Network article notes, another reason why more and more Americans are dining out for Thanksgiving is because that holiday Thursday is increasingly a major shopping day for those looking to get the jump on Black Friday deals. Depending on where your eatery is located, there may be quite the gaggle of eager holiday shoppers on Thanksgiving who are working up quite the appetite, and who have chosen to go mall-hopping instead of investing time and effort into cooking. Such shoppers are likely to be on the lookout for restaurants open for business on Turkey Day, needless to say.
Deciding Whether to Stay Open or Not for Thanksgiving
Keeping your restaurant open for Thanksgiving can be smart but deciding to do so should be undertaken with some careful thought and planning. Touch base with your staff to find out how amenable they are to the idea of working the holiday. Do a little research and see whether other restaurants in your area are going to be open for Thanksgiving: As the Rewards Network piece observes, this can not only indicate a possible competitive edge from staying open, but also, alternatively, suggest it’s not really a viable choice for your particular area.
The Thanksgiving Menu
If you do decide to stay open, you may well consider a special Thanksgiving menu of traditional holiday fare such as turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, and maybe offer it not only as a dine-in choice but also as takeout. That said, you may well want to keep your regular menu or at least part of it available as well, or—depending on the kind of cuisine you specialize in—eschew the traditional menu entirely. After all, more than a few eaters aren’t actually fans of the Thanksgiving turkey and its associated dishes or are looking for a break from it this time around, and some culinary variety will likely be appreciated.
Deciding last-minute to open your doors for the fourth Thursday in November isn’t exactly a smart approach. You want to advertise your Thanksgiving availability as early as possible, as people tend to make their holiday plans—including strategizing food—well in advance. Getting the word out early allows you to roughly gauge—from reservations, social-media interest, and the like—how many people might be joining you for Turkey Day, which obviously helps you prepare both cooking-wise and scheduling/staffing-wise.