More Americans Are Relying on Restaurants for Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving at your restaurant

Posted: Nov. 09, 2018

Restaurants are playing an important role this Thanksgiving.

While the traditional image of Thanksgiving revolves around a home-cooked dinner, more Americans than ever before are relying on restaurants to help with their meal. In a survey conducted in 2017, the National Restaurant Association found that 9% of consumers plan to enjoy Thanksgiving at a restaurant, and of those who are celebrating at home, one in four will buy prepared dishes or the entire meal from a restaurant or other food service (like their grocery store).

If you choose to stay open, a successful Thanksgiving Day service can drive profits and stimulate positive word-of-mouth that helps your business throughout the year. If you decide to close that Thursday, selling side dishes for at-home Thanksgiving dinners could be a major revenue generator for your restaurant.

Below, we present a few ideas to help you host a memorable Thanksgiving for your guests.

Give Impeccable Hospitality

It can be a stressful time when planning for one’s holiday with family. As a restaurant, it’s important to give impeccable service and make everyone feel taken care of throughout the day.  

In fact, the Thanksgiving experience starts days and weeks ahead, at the time of booking a table. From the moment a customer contacts your restaurant, the key is making guests feel cared for.

For a seamless booking experience, have a clear system in place. For instance, offer two seating times to avoid overbooking, or add a reservations form to your website that includes all the details necessary to organize the perfect holiday meal. If you have limited seating available, offer Thanksgiving as a ticketed event.

Before Thanksgiving, review the basics of customer care with your front-of-house team. The hosts should know the names of all guests and the exact locations of their tables. For an extra touch of care, instruct them to take the coats and belongings of guests and store them in a coat check area.

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, give your staff a series of refresher training courses and oversee their behaviors, modifying bad habits or addressing little problems along the way. The goal of the ongoing training is to develop synchronicity between all team members, from the table bussers to head chef. Then, you can rely on your team to execute a perfect Thanksgiving Day service.

To add some more memorable qualities to your service, open the experience with a complimentary glass of Prosecco (and non-alcoholic cider for minors), or conclude the meal with a courtesy apple pie or plate of ginger cookies. Paying attention to little details like this make the guest experience more special.

Offer a Thanksgiving Menu that Blends Tradition with Your Unique Style

Unlike any other holiday, Thanksgiving is primarily about the food. That’s why you should get creative with your menu. In addition to having a few comforting staples, introduce exciting versions of Thanksgiving-dinner classics that are reflections of your kitchen’s cooking style.

For instance, create a menu that fuses exotic culinary styles with traditional American dishes. There are endless ways to make your mark on Thanksgiving. A couple ideas: offer individual Cornish hens instead of turkey or make sweet-potato filled ravioli in a rosemary butter sauce.

Use the traditional Thanksgiving recipes as the inspiration for a unique menu, and your guests will be raving about their special dinner for weeks.

Once decided, market your menu (complete with wine pairings) on all the right channels:

  • Update your website with a Thanksgiving Day banner and add the menu
  • Post scrumptious-looking photos on Instagram
  • Include behind-the-scenes videos of your chefs sourcing ingredients from local farmers
  • Send out an email blast

Offer Thanksgiving To-Go

Many consumers are still opting for an at-home Thanksgiving dinner, and several will seek outside help to prepare dinner. This is a fantastic opportunity for restaurants to reap additional revenue by offering Thanksgiving meals to-go.

Make ordering a full meal or side dishes simple:

  • Post a Thanksgiving to-go menu online
  • Add an online order form to your website
  • Print out catering forms for guests to take home and use when mulling over their menu

Some important details to add on the to-go menu are:

  • Whether or not delivery is available
  • If you are selling a complete meal or just individual dishes
  • Whether a la carte options are available or only select Thanksgiving dishes
  • The number of people per serving

Even though guests will not be dining with you, continue giving an exceptional level of service:

  • Label every dish clearly so diners can easily unpack the food at home
  • Include instructions for dishes that can be reheated
  • Add eating utensils—just in case
  • Gift a dessert or other snack with every order

Make Thanksgiving to-go a smooth and enjoyable process for guests with these tips, and you will turn everyone at the table into loyal customers.

Market Your Thanksgiving Day Service

How are consumers deciding on a restaurant for their special Thanksgiving dinners? The National Restaurant Association reveals the breakdown:

  • 31% will choose a restaurant they frequent often
  • 30% will choose a restaurant they reserve for special occasions
  • 21% will go to a restaurant where they are regulars
  • 16% will try a new restaurant on Thanksgiving

This is an excellent time to reach out to your loyal customers through email or in person. They already know and love your restaurant, and being with you on Thanksgiving makes sense. If you still have availabilities after reaching out to your regulars, other ideas include:

  • Emailing your subscribers list
  • Including a note card with every check
  • Updating your website with an eye-catching image and caption
  • Talking about it on social media
  • Having servers tell every guest that dines with you

From start to finish, give a thoughtful Thanksgiving Day service with these tips and leave guests thankful for celebrating their holiday with you.

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Posted: Nov. 09, 2018 | Written By: Emma Alois

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