Restaurants are promoting a veritable feast of Thanksgiving meal packages this season, playing into consumers’ demand for convenience. The latest research from the National Restaurant Association reveals that one in 20 consumers will purchase a full takeout meal to celebrate Thanksgiving this year.
Two trends are evident in this year's batch: The meals don't have to include turkey (several operators are offering just sides), and some require consumers to at least fire up their ovens, to reheat the food if not finish cooking it. Perhaps it’s a reaction to the success of the meal kit delivery business. Companies including Blue Apron and HelloFresh are expected to grow between $3 billion and $5 billion a year over the next 10 years, according to Technomic's Understanding Fresh Food Subscription Study.
But the holidays call for meals that feed larger groups with more festive fare. From family-dining chains to upscale indies, these operators are responding.
For the first time, Cracker Barrel is offering Thanksgiving takeout—the Heat n’ Serve Holiday Family Meal To-Go for 10 people. Available for pickup from Nov. 22-24, it features roast turkey breast, cornbread dressing, gravy, cranberry relish and yeast rolls—and for those who like to customize, a choice of three sides. The meal is ready to put on the table in under two hours. Also included in the $99.99 package are pumpkin and pecan pies.
For a smaller crowd, customers can order up the Homestyle Turkey n’ Dressing meal, which feeds up to six people with a spread of turkey, dressing, sugar-cured ham, choice of three sides, cranberry relish and gravy, as well as a choice of biscuits, corn muffins or sourdough bread ($67.99).
At Mimi’s, guests can opt to take home a cooked turkey dinner with all the trimmings—or just the trimmings. The Holiday Turkey Chef Prepared Take-Home Suppers ($89.99 for 8-10 adults) include a roast turkey flavored with herb butter, cornbread stuffing, candied pecan sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, housemade cranberry relish, gravy, carrot nut loaf and a brown sugar pumpkin pie. Or customers can purchase a package of “Just the Sides” (all those listed above, minus the turkey, carrot loaf and pie) for $42.99.
Buca di Beppo
Thanksgiving with a bit of an Italian accent is on offer at Buca di Beppo, where a feast for six goes for $120. Included in the fully cooked, ready-to-serve meal is sliced white-meat turkey, gravy, spicy Italian sausage stuffing, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Smaller households can get the same food to go for three at $60 for the package.
Sides & Pies are the promotion at Washington, D.C.’s Ris, an upscale neighborhood restaurant operated by chef-owner Ris Lacoste. In step with her seasonally inspired menu, Lacoste is offering a wide selection of savories and sweets to round out the Thanksgiving meal. Sides include bacon-braised red cabbage, sausage bread stuffing and cheesy potato gratin, most available by the pint or quart ($9 or $16). There also are soups and appetizers, such as crab cakes and sweet potato-bourbon soup. House-baked pies include pecan, apple and sweet potato ($26 to $30).
Shoney’s will pack up the same Thanksgiving buffet it serves in its restaurants for those who prefer to eat at home. The Thanksgiving Feast To-Go also is priced the same—at $11.99 per person—and includes slow-roasted turkey, sliced hickory ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and cornbread. The only difference: Guests who dine in get the bonus of a free slice of pumpkin pie; takeout customers can purchase a whole pie to go for $9.99.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
Customers looking for a taste of barbecue on Thanksgiving can head to Dickey’s, where whole smoked turkeys are the ticket. But Dickey’s, known year-round for its family meal deals, also is offering Cajun fried turkey, spiral-cut ham and prime rib as the centerpiece. A full Holiday Feast for 10-12 comes with cornbread dressing, green beans with bacon, baked potato casserole, gravy and rolls. Prices start at $49.95 for just the turkeys and go up to $109.95 for the full package. The meals are available through Christmas.
Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘N Biscuits
While this quick-service chain offers meal packages year-round, its signature Seasoned Fried Turkey is only available for a limited time, from early November through Thanksgiving. The birds are rubbed with proprietary seasonings, oven-baked, fried, vacuum-sealed and frozen for customers to take home, heat and serve—taking out the effort but giving the home cook a hand in the preparation. The turkeys sell for $40 to $48, depending on location, and feed eight diners.
“We’ve been offering the turkeys for five years now and customers start asking us in October when they will be available,” says Randy Poindexter, SVP of marketing. Preordering is necessary, he adds, as some units run out. The chain also offers a la carte sides such as biscuits, mac and cheese and Cajun pintos—priced as add-ons—to round out the meal.
James Beard Award nominee Restaurant North in Armonk, N.Y., has a fine-dining Thanksgiving dinner to go, featuring a brined and ready-to-roast local, organic turkey for $12 per pound; the restaurant will roast the turkey in-house for an additional $1 a pound. Sides and accompaniments reflect the chef-driven menu: roasted root vegetables with maple syrup and sage, roasted carrots with griddled onions, apple-sausage stuffing made with brioche (each $14 to $42 depending on size), truffled gravy and cranberry chutney ($12 to $18). And for dessert, there’s apple or pumpkin pie at $25 each.