As inflation continues to surge, many Americans are considering their options for Thanksgiving. While typical cost saving options include potlucks, clipping coupons, or swapping turkey for a more affordable centerpiece (e.g., chicken or even whole roasted cauliflower), 2022 could see a rise in another trend: restaurant Thanksgiving.


Grocery costs are increasing. In 2021, the American Farm Bureau estimated that the average Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people would cost $53.31. While the AFB has not released their 2022 estimates yet, other researchers anticipate the cost will increase by 13.5% over last year. One of the major factors driving this cost increase is turkey. Already Thanksgiving’s big ticket item, turkey prices are even higher this year due to inflation and a severe bird flu epidemic.


Could restaurant Thanksgiving really be an option for price conscious customers? One industry watcher estimates that it could save consumers 10-15% compared to traditional home cooking. Since foodservice operators can purchase in bulk and operate at scale, they could operate at a profit while providing savings to customers.


But will Americans really order Thanksgiving from a restaurant? Recent survey data indicates that up to 69% of respondents would consider it. As customers reimagine what a post-pandemic Thanksgiving looks like, this presents an opportunity for foodservice operators.


How Foodservice Operators Can Respond

In order to take advantage of this opportunity, foodservice operators should consider the following:


Treat Your Team Well (and Pay Them Handsomely)

This may seem obvious, but if operators are going to pull off a foodservice Thanksgiving, they need their team to buy into the idea. That means making the process as fun and worker-friendly as possible. It also means paying them well by giving them bonuses and/or raises. Consider giving employees who come in a free Thanksgiving dinner for their families, a paid day off to celebrate Thanksgiving another day, or a communal staff-plus-family Thanksgiving meal after closing (assuming COVID-19 conditions in area allow it).


Leverage Delivery, To-Go, and Meal Kit Options

Thanksgiving is a home-centric holiday. Even if consumers are open to purchasing pre-made food, many will probably prefer to eat at home. Delivery, to-go, and meal kits meet these preferences well.


As a bonus, both options streamline workflow and require preordering, which should reduce operator costs. Depending on how foodservice providers design their pre-made meal kits, they could require delivery/pickup on Wednesday and not have to open at all on the big day. This would capitalize on the opportunity while preserving the day off for operator staff.


Capture the Friendsgiving Market

Millennials and Gen Z are increasingly hosting Friendsgiving dinners (i.e., Thanksgiving feasts, but with friends instead of family). While some host their Friendsgivings on the same day as Thanksgiving, many celebrate it ahead of time before everyone travels home for the traditional date. Starting in late October or early November, foodservice operators who are interested in capturing Thanksgiving demand could consider marketing to the Friendsgiving crowd as a soft launch. This extends the offering’s profitability and allows operators to refine the product and workflow ahead of the main event.


The Bottom Line

From Popeyes to Hello Fresh, national foodservice operators are developing Thanksgiving options for price-conscious consumers. By adopting labor-friendly practices, leveraging off-site dining models, and capturing season-long sales opportunities, foodservice operators of all kinds can take advantage of this demand.


Tim Powell is a Managing Principal of Foodservice IP. Tim serves as a trusted foodservice adviser to management at several food companies.

To learn more about FSIP’s Management Consulting Practice, click here.

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