The whole “Thanksgiving-to-go” concept used to be the territory of just a handful of restaurant chains — the Bob Evans and Cracker Barrels of the world, for example. That, of course, was pre-pandemic, and now that the CDC has told Americans not to travel on Thanksgiving and the whole “home for the holidays” phrase has new meaning (like, you’re literally stuck at home), restaurants of all types and sizes are offering up their own take on the Turkey dinner.
At one point in the not-so-distant past, I might have thought Thanksgiving in a box was a bit bleak. But let’s be real: it’s been a stressful, scary year. People are alone and lonely, many are struggling financially, and the ever-present threat of the pandemic hangs over everything. Rather than spend hours in the kitchen cooking too much food for too few people, check out some of these restaurants, which are ready to do the hard work for you.
The Classic Thanksgiving Meal. You’ll find the old standards in this category: Cracker Barrel’s famous Heat&Serve Thanksgiving, Denny’s Turkey & Dressing Dinner Pack, and Boston Market’s takeout Thanksgiving (which, for the record, I’ve actually had and it was delicious). Thrillist has a big ol’ list of other restaurants here. There’s nothing fancy or unique about most of these options, but if you’re dead set on a turkey dinner but don’t want to deal with cooking it, these options are your best bet.
The Plant-Based Thanksgiving. Demand for plant-based foods has skyrocketed this year. It follows, then, that many restaurants around the country are offering 100 percent vegan takes on the Turkey Day dinner. VegNews has rounded up some notable ones here that include California’s Cafe Gratitude, the Veggie Grill chain, and many other restaurants, both local and national.
Higher-End Thanksgiving to Go. If the industry-wide shift to off-premises has taught us one thing this year, it’s that even high-end food can be put in a box and delivered to your door. In keeping with that, a number of higher-end restaurants are offering Thanksgiving feasts to go. Some notable ones include Chart House, Fleming’s, and McCormick & Schmick’s.
Not-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving. Or you could just be totally over it all and have no inclination whatsoever to celebrate this year. Can’t say I blame you. For the usual QSRs and fast-casual joins, from IHOP to Sonic and every McDonald’s in between, Thursday will be business as usual.
Go Local. One quick glance on Twitter shows the sheer number of small, independent restaurants offering some kind of service on Thanksgiving. Encouragingly, there’s also an unbelievable high volume of tweets from folks that are ordering from these establishments in order to show their support.
An added bonus of ordering in for Thanksgiving instead of doing it yourself: most of these restaurants need the revenue. With no end in sight to either the pandemic or the struggles eating establishments face as they struggle to keep the lights on, the more support they can get on Thanksgiving, the better.
Upcoming Event: Food Waste Strategies for the Supply Chain
Restaurants are one stop along the food supply chain where a whole lot of food gets wasted. For restaurants, there are financial consequences to so much waste; for the entire world, there are environmental and human ones.
On Monday, November 30, The Spoon will be holding a virtual fireside chat with Apeel founder and CEO James Rogers to discuss how this waste happens and what we can do to stop it. That goes for restaurants as well as grocery stores, farms, distribution centers, and your own fridge.
Join James and myself on the Hopin platform at 2 p.m. PST that day to be a part of the discussion. You can register here.
And oh yeah, it’s free!
Restaurant Tech ‘Round the Web
Chick-fil-A officially made ordering via its website available after tests in the Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. this past summer. Those that can’t or don’t feel inclined to download the chain’s app can now order digitally through the brand’s website.
Papa John’s is the latest restaurant brand to employ an AI-powered voice assistant to answer the phone. The chain will use AI company Kea’s platform, which can learn a restaurant’s menu as well as take orders, answer questions, and even upsell items.
Washington, D.C. is allocating $35 million in COVID-19 recovery grants to restaurants as part of the city’s $100 million “Bridge Fund” for the hospitality industry. D.C. restaurants are still open, though Mayor Muriel Bowser suggested new restrictions could go into effect soon in response to the pandemic.