You’ve decided to open for Thanksgiving. Now, how do you pull this off with in-house dining uncertainties?


How to Open on ThanksgivingThis year, Thanksgiving offers unique challenges but potentially strong opportunities. The difficult balance to strike may between in-house dining and takeout/catering options. Typically staffing has been a holiday issue, but employees may jump at the chance to earn extra in tips this turkey day. Adjustments for COVID staffing may have already set the tone for the holidays, making it easier to deploy team members for certain responsibilities. Here are some tips on getting the most out of your Thanksgiving business:


1. Plan Early

People plan Thanksgiving in advance. Don’t put off the schedule announcement for staff until the Saturday before. Make it clear to the public what your schedule will be. Establish your menu and spread the word via social media on special services such as takeout and delivery options, catering, and meal kits. Clearly define the health and safety measures that are in place to maximize consumer confidence.


2. Staff Smarter

It can be tough to be at work on a day like Thanksgiving. But if employees have a sense of how busy things might be and that safety measures are being taken for their protection, many will look at Thanksgiving as an opportunity to make good money. If you don’t have the reservations or orders to justify everyone you scheduled, let them loose — preferably the day before. Same with servers on call. No one wants to be on call ever, but on Thanksgiving it can be worse. Let all staff members know how much you appreciate them. You’d be surprised how far a cheap bottle of wine and some delicious sides will go as a thank-you gesture.


3. Streamline Your Menu

This is especially important if you’re focused on offering Thanksgiving-styled dishes. The kitchen will already be producing a number of items that aren’t normally on the menu, so bogging them down with prepping the entire regular menu on top of that can lead to consistency issues and more work than is necessary. If you do offer regular items alongside your holiday menu, create a shorter menu filled with your hottest sellers and most seasonally relevant dishes.


4. Embrace Prix Fixe

A set number of courses will streamline service for both the front- and back-of-house staffs, especially for groups that might want to get the meal over as quickly as possible. Having a prix fixe menu for takeout and delivery orders will increase efficiency in that critical market.


5. Sell Your Menu

Most restaurants are closed on Thanksgiving, for good reason. Families tend to celebrate the holiday at home. This year might be different. Smaller groups may be interested in getting a quality meal out. Families that are celebrating at home may not have the bandwidth to cook their traditional meals and will turn to restaurants for prepared dishes or home kits. It will be important to gauge interest in your various services. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are good places to start hyping services, and don’t forget to email your list of regulars. The more successful you can make the day, the more your staff will feel like it was worthwhile.


6. Serve Family Meals

Maximizing family meals for both in-house services and at-home options is key. This provides some opportunities to be creative with recipes, but also streamline menu items and standardize ingredients and portion sizes. Whatever you do, make sure you have a strong plan. And consider doing a staff/family meal, particularly if it’s a small crew due to the pandemic. Use takeout containers and keep social distance measures in place, but setting a family tone despite restrictions can make all the difference from a morale standpoint.


7. Be present.

Yes, you, the owner, chef, head honcho. Be there for the whole shift. Prepare to be a helpful voice for any takeout or catering questions. Be an example for following health and safety protocols. Be there for your staff, and give thanks for them at the end of the night.


Thanksgiving will have its share of challenges, but an operator with a good plan can make the most of it – a successful day that’s worth celebrating.

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