Anyone ready for some good news? The National Restaurant Association has a great story posted at https://www.restaurant.org/articles/news/gobble-up-great-ideas-for-thanksgiving-to-go that is chock-full of upbeat trends and stats regarding our national day of thanks.
And, yes, we have much to give thanks for.
“Gobble up great ideas for Thanksgiving to-go” said that consumers wanting to celebrate Thanksgiving during this time of heightened social distancing and mandated smaller gatherings are looking at specialized meal kits and full restaurant-prepared dinners, and the foodservice industry is working toward increased sales for the holiday.
The story also noted that many consumers are planning fewer gatherings this holiday season, and those that do take place are “going to be significantly smaller in size.”
Regarding dining out, a Mintel survey showed that 52 percent of consumers who ordered food from eateries during the past three months “said they’d purchase a catered restaurant meal for a social gathering,” the story said. “Another 32 percent said they would dine at a restaurant on a special occasion.”
It went on to say that industry experts maintain that consumers “are tired of cooking at home and want to dine out again,” and the takeaway is that operators “can capitalize on that pent-up demand by offering them a restaurant Thanksgiving experience at home.”
It said, “Operators have opportunities to generate revenue with specialized meal kits and dinners that feed up to six people, holiday to-go cocktails, housemade baked goods, and special sauces and condiments that guests can’t get anywhere else or make on their own.”
Operators are also urged by hospitality consultant Larry Reinstein of LJR Hospitality Ventures to “think outside the box to make the holiday more special,” the story continued. Among the tips provides are increasing outdoor dining options in warmer regions of the nation. “Dress up those spaces with special tablecloths, decorations and centerpieces,” it said. Other bits of advice included offering “smaller holiday packages that serve four to six people; these will be very popular”; packages like those of Cracker Barrel that “include all the trimmings, such as signature butternut squash or corn chowder soups, the roasted turkey main dish, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pan gravy, and the best, most popular sides your restaurant makes. Include staple desserts, such as pumpkin and pecan pies”; including signature items such as “special sauces, salad dressings and baked goods that guests usually enjoy when dining at the restaurant”; and offering “wines that are a good value and hard to find. Those selections are a great addition your menu.”
Reinstein was quoted as saying that consumers “want different fare than what they usually buy at the supermarket,” and “the said. “that’s why it’s smart to offer items that are ‘craveable’. Make sure your signature half-gallon of soup, classic stuffing with sausage, homemade scones and pumpkin cheesecake are prominently featured on your Thanksgiving menu.”
For the dining-in gathering, operators are also showing their flexibility and ingenuity.
Citing the Cracker Barrel chain, the Nov. 5 article said that company is “giving at-home diners a chance to indulge in the chain’s traditional holiday dinners. Its Heat n’ Serve Holiday Family Meal To-Go program features all the fixings and comes chilled and packaged.” The meals are available in two sizes, a meal for four to six people and another that for up to 10.
The package is picked up curbside, taken home and heated – all taking less than two hours. And it consists of roasted turkey breast, cornbread dressing, turkey gravy, cranberry relish, choice of two or three sides, sweet rolls, and pumpkin and pecan pies. “As an added incentive, the chain will offer guests who pre-order the meals either a $5 or $10 gift card for a future meal depending on the size of the meal ordered,” the story said.
Michael Hackney, Cracker Barrel’s senior vice president of Restaurant and Retail Operations, was quoted as saying, “Thanksgiving has always been a time for us to welcome guests for the holidays. We know the holiday will look different for many this year, but we are more committed than ever to our mission of pleasing people and delivering a safe experience so families can connect over a holiday meal—virtually, at home, or around our table.”
The upshot, according to the National Restaurant Association, is twofold. “Operators who provide these special holiday items will not only create additional revenue, but also customer loyalty. That will pay even bigger benefits when the pandemic ends and diners are back dining out in full force once more,” the story said.
To which we add a hearty AMEN!