Restaurants, Grocers Offer Thanksgiving Alternatives

Discussion
Nov 17, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Looking to spend more time enjoying family or perhaps football
this Thanksgiving? A growing number of restaurants and grocery stores are offering
options other than spending hours in the kitchen cooking and cleaning this
year.

A report on the Nation’s Restaurant News website lists restaurants,
including Boston Market, Cracker Barrel, Energy Kitchen, Luby’s, McCormick & Schmick’s,
Popeye’s and Ruth’s Chris Steak House, that are offering consumers a variety
of sit-down and catering options for those looking to cut their workloads.

Ruth’s
Chris Steak House, which prices a sit-down turkey dinner for $34.95 per person,
offers seafood gumbo as appetizer option to go along along with a salad, roasted
turkey breast with sausage-and-herb stuffing, cranberry relish and a choice
from side options. Pumpkin cheesecake and vanilla ice cream are on the dessert
menu.

A wide variety of grocers have special catering deals, including a bird
and sides, to help cut preparation time and reduce worries over how meals with
turn out.

"Sharing beautiful meals at the holidays with those we love can be one
of life’s deepest joys," said Amanda Roberts, Wegmans catering
manager, in a press release. "But every family has a different way of
creating these celebrations. We look to make things easier by offering extra
help in lots of different ways."

New Jersey-based Kings Super Markets
is offering turkey dinners for parties of six to 18 at prices ranging from
$99.99 to $269.99. Meals consist of three side dishes, a choice of two extras
including turkey gravy, cranberry-orange relish or apple-cranberry compote,
a bread option and dessert.

Discussion Questions: Given the economy, do you see more consumers opting
out of preparing traditional Thanksgiving meals? How can retailers and restaurants
best capitalize on this opportunity?

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16 Comments on "Restaurants, Grocers Offer Thanksgiving Alternatives"


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Justin Time
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

Giant Eagle Market District is coming to my rescue this Thanksgiving. My elderly Mom lives 250 miles away, and this Thanksgiving, I am not able to visit with her.

So I ordered for her from their catering offerings a beautiful fully cooked ready to reheat turkey breast which will be delivered to her home, the day before in the late afternoon.

There is a untapped market for this kind of food service. So many families are either rushed, don’t have the patience or ability to cook the Thanksgiving turkey, or live alone, and don’t feel like bothering with a full Thanksgiving dinner.

David Livingston
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

Seeing as how the economy is booming right now, I see restaurants as the biggest beneficiary. Try getting a seat at the best and most popular restaurants on a weekend night. The one hour waits tell me that the economy is booming. In fact, even during the worst parts of 2008 and 2009 one would have to ask themselves “what recession?” Look at the lines. We have a recession when there is no waiting at Texas Road House on Saturday night.

So why not open on Thanksgiving? Grocers have been catering Thanksgiving for years so it’s just another holiday for them. Why not have it catered or go out? Let someone else do all the work.

Liz Crawford
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

Opting out of cooking only makes sense if the price per person is competitive. Consumers do love to keep some traditions, but those can be accomplished with Aunt Mary’s string beans, not the whole enchilada!

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

Like everything else in life, holiday traditions are changing. In this day of highly convenient meals and with excellent restaurants and caterers available, cooking the traditional Thanksgiving dinner is now easier to avoid. This is after all the most time consuming, labor intensive meal most families prepare all year and it has the highest opportunity for disappointment. Just ask the ladies at the Butterball Turkey hot line!

Just like made from scratch cakes and pies are disappearing from the landscape more families are opting for catering and eating out on holidays. This should be an excellent year for both restaurants and catered dinners.

James Tenser
Guest
10 years 5 months ago
At its best, Thanksgiving Day is about family togetherness more than the meal itself. Our family has resolved the holiday in several different ways over the past few years, including home-cooking, catered take-in and restaurant outing. All were happy occasions; each had its own particular merits. The take-in meal a couple of years back was obtained from a local upscale grocer. We chose this option because we were able to arrange a rare holiday weekend together away from home. Shopping and food prep would have cut into precious leisure and outdoor time. The meal was delicious and the heat-and-eat experience may be described as “collaboration lite.” Cost was a bit higher than prep from scratch, but the leftovers were great, saving us a couple of subsequent meals out. We opted for restaurant meals on two occasions when our party was very small – making the preparations and food quantities of a traditional menu disproportionate. Per-person costs were higher, but the cleanup was a breeze. I suspect my family experiences might be instructive for grocers with… Read more »
Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

Preparing a traditional Thanksgiving meal is almost as difficult as the traditional Passover Seder. But this is a time for family and friends to be together enjoying friendship, food, and football. A restaurant simply does not offer the ambiance or the economies of scale. We have up to 16 people, both family and friends. It has always been one of the highlights of the year. All that being said, if there was a way to have the meal prepared so those bringing something would not have to; I would be in favor of it. But only at home. End of discussion.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

This year I’m actually going to have my Thanksgiving catered. Not enough time to do anything else. If the crowd is small, catering makes sense. If the crowd is large, having everyone bring something is much easier.

W. Frank Dell II
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

The market for alternative Thanksgiving meals continues to grow, but not necessarily due to economics. Households are getting smaller and it is a lot of work for few people. Family gatherings are smaller or not at all due to the economy. I think the bigger issue is 30 and 40 year olds that simply do not know how to cook. Thanksgiving gathering is moving to the next generation and they are looking to go out or for help.

Paul R. Schottmiller
Guest
Paul R. Schottmiller
10 years 5 months ago

If it is about “work,” $/person, and total football viewing hours for you, then by all means go to the restaurant.

Restaurants can make gourmet dishes most of us can’t, but they will never taste better than Grandma’s pumpkin pie, Aunt Eileen’s fruit salad, or my candied sweet potatoes eaten together around our Thanksgiving table.

George Anderson
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

We too have alternated between the “doing it ourselves” route and in-home catering. This year, we’ll be having dance students from the Joffrey Ballet School program joining us because it is too much of a hassle for them to travel to parts across the country to go home for the holiday. We’re happy to have them join us and even happier that local upscale grocers have everything we need to feed everyone with a minimum of work.

As to going out to eat, we reserve that for holidays such as Mother’s Day. Of course, if the price were competitive we’d certainly consider having a restaurant cater our turkey day meal instead of a grocer.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

“Given the economy, do you see more consumers opting out of preparing traditional Thanksgiving meals”

Colour me confused: wouldn’t a bad economy be the LAST place where it would make sense to trade a $/person home-prepared meal for a $$$$/person catered or restaurant one? (Or is this question directed at DavidLand, where a permanently “exploding” economy seems to provide both the means and the reason to celebrate continuously?)

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
10 years 5 months ago
I get a kick out of preparing a massive Thanksgiving dinner for my family, with the smells and hum of activity in the kitchen. Remember the scene from “The Big Chill” with all the characters dancing in the kitchen while preparing a meal? Marvin Gaye’s “Heard It Through The Grapevine?” But the clean-up is a killer. We use the outdoor grill as much as possible but still generate at least two dishwasher loads and a small mountain of hand-wash dirty dishes. The stove is a mess. Fully and partially-prepared holiday dinners are purchased for three reasons: Quality, no cooking, and minimal clean-up. It’s a huge business for Raley’s here in the NorCal/Nevada area, and grows every year. The quality is excellent. However, I fail to see how the economy can affect this trend either way. Prices for these meals have inflated little or not at all since last year, which certainly won’t discourage repeat purchases. But, the cost of a holiday meal you make yourself is still considerably less than the fully-prepared versions if you’re… Read more »
Robert Straub
Guest
Robert Straub
10 years 5 months ago

I’ve enjoyed Thanksgiving all 3 ways in recent years- catered, restaurant, and cooking at home, and I’ve come to conclusion that cooking at home is the preferred option but the former two options are decent when you’re in a pinch.

Bottom line–unless you’re completely inept in the kitchen most Thanksgiving fare is not very difficult to prepare and can actually be quite fun with a full house and a few pre-dinner cocktails.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
10 years 5 months ago

Thanksgiving is family time, and getting together might mean a bit more for everyone during these difficult economic times. For many families, getting a bit of help with prepared Turkey or sides from local retailers is great opportunity for everyone to enjoy the day.

In retirement communities like Southwest Florida, the retailers do a fantastic business in providing the Turkey and some of the fixings as folks gather at the grandparents. Publix has done a great job with their Thanksgiving options, and hope their business continues to grow.

Ted Vick
Guest
Ted Vick
10 years 5 months ago

We opted out of the big home meal years ago. As the family got smaller, it was easier to go out to dinner. I am sure there are millions that are in the same boat. What I miss most are the left overs. It seams no one has capitalized on that catering angle.

I usually look for a grocery store special that includes a small turkey with dressing, all cooked, and use it as my left over fix. You will find that no one is marketing to this demographic and it is huge!

Mark Johnson
Guest
Mark Johnson
10 years 5 months ago

Convenience, especially with the right demographic, is something that people are willing to pay for. Most people want to have dinner at home, and full service or piecemeal, it is quite important. I know my wife with her large family does not mind the processes, but if we were alone or with a smaller group, we would be interested in having pieces provided to simplify the process.

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