In the months and weeks leading up to the winter holidays, we’ll be sharing tips to help restaurants prepare for the busiest time of the year. Check back for more ways to make this your best holiday season yet, and see all of our tips here!
For many people (myself included) Thanksgiving is the most important meal of the year. But what often goes overlooked are all of the hours of work that go into prepping for, cooking, and cleaning up after a Thanksgiving dinner—which can be very daunting for the non-experienced. Enter the restaurant Thanksgiving: a Turkey Day innovation that is growing in popularity among those who love Thanksgiving but don’t necessarily want to deal with the legwork involved in the preparation process.
According to Gabriella Choate, general manager of Scampo in Boston, the demand for a dining out option on Thanksgiving has only gone up since she has been working in the industry. “It’s been a very busy day in every single restaurant where I have worked, and more and more people make reservations each year,” she says. (See our data trends around Thanksgiving dining here.)
This makes sense: Thanksgiving dinner is by no means an easy meal to make. “It’s a lot of work, especially if you are one family and it’s just one person cooking,” says Aaron Bludorn, Executive Chef of Café Boulud in New York. “People don’t want to clean up or do dishes or spend eight hours in the kitchen. And especially in a city like New York—the apartment kitchens are so tiny!”
For Kyle Johnson, Executive Chef of Bourbon Steak in Los Angeles, Thanksgiving service has been one of the restaurant’s major revenue generators—especially since even now, most restaurants in his area close on Thanksgiving. “From an operations standpoint, if your competitors are closed, all of a sudden you are able to pigeonhole the market,” he says. “If there are 30 restaurants open regularly, but only seven open on Thanksgiving, you start to really gain covers simply because other places are closed.”
That said, Thanksgiving is a day that’s shrouded in high expectations—and for a restaurant, the main challenge is to live up to the hype surrounding the meal. “Every family has their best stuffing and their favorite recipes and their specific traditions,” Bludorn says. “So we always ask ourselves how we can deliver that for them and make the meal as good as it can possible be. It is very important that every guest leaves happy and full.”
Like any other event, successfully executing Thanksgiving service at a restaurant requires planning ahead, keeping your staff happy, and going the extra mile to ensure guests are getting the warmest and most hospitable experience possible. We asked chefs from across the country what they’ve learned doing Thanksgiving service—here are their best tips. [Read more…]