Chains jump on Friendsgiving marketing opportunities

With vaccines readily available and growing comfort around holiday gatherings, restaurant chains are launching promotions for informal, non-traditional celebrations. Red Lobster biscuit stuffing, anyone?
Taco Bell Friendsgiving
Photo courtesy Taco Bell

With vaccines (and boosters) widely available, and more people feeling comfortable with holiday gatherings, “Friendsgiving” celebrations appear to be back in full force this year—at least judging by the wide variety of restaurant deals themed to the informal holiday.

Friendsgiving, a portmanteau of the words “friends” and “Thanksgiving,” didn’t make it into the Merriam-Webster dictionary until January 2020, though the term appeared in print as early as 2007.

The casual gathering, separate from traditional family-centric Thanksgiving celebrations, gives restaurants yet another marketing occasion.

A (perhaps unsurprising) survey from chicken producer Tyson revealed that Friendsgiving attendees like to shake up tradition, with 65% of celebrants saying they want to have chicken as the star protein at their festivities and 77% saying they hope to create new traditions at their gatherings, with novel foods and activities.

Here’s a look at this year’s most creative Friendsgiving promotions from restaurant chains.

Taco Bell Friendsgiving

Photo courtesy Taco Bell

Taco Bell Friendsgiving Party Packs

Taco Bell is rewarding its most loyal customers with a shot at ordering one of its Friendsgiving Party Packs Wednesday. Diners who’ve reached FIRE! Rewards status will receive a link to purchase one of the festive packs. Each one includes several dishes made with Taco Bell signature items, including Cinnabon Delights Candied Yams, Rolls with HOT! Sauce Packet Butter, Green Bean Casserole Supreme and Build Your Own Dessert Nachos. Each of the side dishes comes in reusable Taco Bell branded bakeware. For those poor souls unable to nab a party pack, the quick-service chain offered up a recipe for its candied yams.


Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit Stuffing

Photo courtesy Red Lobster

Red Lobster biscuit stuffing

Red Lobster is pitching stuffing made with its signature Cheddar Bay Biscuits as a prime Friendsgiving side dish. The stuffing recipe provided by the brand serves eight to 12 diners and calls for 8 cups of torn Cheddar Bay Biscuits, 6 cups of bread, 1 cup of butter, as well as diced aromatic vegetables and seasonings.

The casual-dining chain, in a press release, offers a wide variety of ways to procure those biscuits, including to-go, delivery, boxed mix or frozen from Walmart stores. For a week starting on Monday, Red Lobster will also be running a free delivery promotion.


McDonald's Friendsgaming

Photo courtesy McDonald's

McDonald’s does ‘Friendsgaming’

McDonald’s launched its first-ever “Friendsgaming” promotion this year, in collaboration with FaZe Clan, a digital lifestyle and media platform.

The event begins Saturday with a live Twitch stream, which the burger giant is urging fans to pair with a big order of its Crispy Chicken Sandwiches.

McDonald’s called Friendsgaming “a juicy new tradition, inspired by the undeniable way McDonald’s just hits different during an intense gaming session.”

Earlier this month, the chain sold a limited Crispy Chicken Sandwich Expansion Pack for gamers that included a special DoorDash code for three chicken sandwiches, fries and a drink; a headset stand; a phone holder; a custom controller and keyboard decals; textured controller grip decals; and a custom Friendsgaming insulated carrier bag “to keep food warm while your hands are busy owning your friends on the controllers.”


Honey Baked Ham sides

Photo courtesy Honey Baked Ham Company

Honey Baked Ham Company brunch

Honey Baked Ham, a prepared foods retailer, suggests Friendsgiving diners try its new brunch package for their non-traditional celebrations. The brand’s HoneyBaked brunch includes a quarter ham, two heat-and-serve sides, HoneyBaked bacon and coffee cake.


Salt & Straw Friendsgiving

Photo courtesy Salt & Straw

Salt & Straw Friendsgiving Series

Creative ice cream chain Salt & Straw is out with a Friendsgiving Series of five pints of ice cream to bring to the feast. “When we get right down to it, Friendsgiving is about coming together to share a bit of who we are, while bringing new life to old traditions,” the company said on its website.

Among Salt & Straw’s Friendsgiving ice cream flavors are Parker House Rolls with Salted Buttercream; Candied Walnut Cheesecake; Caramelized Turkey and Cranberry Sauce; Sweet Potato Pie with Double-Baked Almond Streusel; and Pumpkin and Gingersnap Pie.


El Pollo Loco

Photo courtesy El Pollo Loco

El Pollo Loco pushes togetherness

Fast-casual chain El Pollo Loco earlier this month launched its Bless Togetherness campaign to mark the return of gatherings after an extended time apart.

Among its promotions for the campaign, El Pollo Loco is catering Friendsgiving-style “Friendsmas” dinners for TikTok influencers, sharing the meals on the social media platform.


Baskin-Robbins Turkey Cake

Photo courtesy Baskin-Robbins

Baskin-Robbins ice cream turkey cake

Ice cream chain Baskin-Robbins wants you to bring a giant turkey cake to your Friendsgiving meet-up.

The brand is bringing back its popular LTO, which it calls, “the perfect conversation piece and Insta-worthy addition to any Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving gathering.”

The turkey cake is stuffed with a choice of ice cream, topped with two sugar cone legs, coated in caramel-praline glaze atop a bed of frosting.


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