This isn’t your average Thanksgiving. Bringing creativity to menus and connecting with guests is a must.

On the last Thursday of November, families will gather to give thanks for all the things that have allowed them to navigate this difficult year – the support of family and friends, their continued health and safety, even Zoom calls. But it is going to look different this year. The gatherings will be smaller, not everyone will be able to prepare their traditional epic feasts. This unique Thanksgiving environment, however, gives restaurants some opportunities to provide festive services for consumers.

According to recent studies, two out of three consumers say that they will be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday differently this year. A large number of folks will rely on takeout, delivery, or catering for the big meal, while about a quarter of consumers are considering dining in at restaurants to celebrate turkey day.

With a Thanksgiving this unique, restaurants have the ability to offer some fun, flavorful twists on turkey with all the fixin’s. Here are some different ways to approach menus that will leave guests gobbling for more:


A Buffalo Bird

One trend that’s not going anywhere is the prevalence of spicy foods – particularly the popularity of Buffalo seasoning. With applications now well beyond just chicken wings, a kick of heat is being used in a variety of menus, including desserts.

Whether as part of a kit for home cooking or served up in-house, turkey lovers will be fired up by a Buffalo-style brine that brings out the best characteristics of a tasty bird. But don’t limit the heat to just the main course. Thanksgiving is about the sides too. Casseroles featuring green beans, mushrooms, or corn will all benefit from a touch of spicy flavor. A house potato specialty, regardless of preparation style, is another hot item that can be enhanced with Buffalo seasoning. And heat is being applied to desserts with exciting results as well. Diners never realize how much they enjoy a bit of spice paired with chocolate fudge until it hits their mouth.


SmokesgivingTurkey Day Twists

BBQ is not just a tasty plate of food – it’s a way of life. And there are plenty of consumers who have turned Thanksgiving into a laboratory for smoking, grilling, and saucing turkeys. Smoked turkey coated with a tangy, sweet BBQ sauce such as Cattlemen’s® gives guests a flavor profile that they just can’t get from traditional Thanksgiving recipes. Going the BBQ route allows chefs to experiment with a variety of sauces, flavors, and preparations that fit a restaurant’s specific brand.

Thanksgiving sides will also get a tasty upgrade from BBQ seasoning. Gravy, beans, mac n’ cheese, corn, veggie options for more health-conscious diners – all have the potential to be turkey day MVPs with a little smoky flavor. In lieu of full birds, some operations will be better suited to serve a twist on turkey burgers as part of Thanksgiving menus. BBQ sauce can elevate these handheld treats from basic beef burger alternatives to a new kind of delicious fall tradition.


Like Momma Used to Do

This year, Thanksgiving gatherings will not be the full family affairs to which we are all accustomed. Many will miss grandma’s classic recipes that have fueled their turkey dreams for months. So, give guests a taste of tradition with roast turkey brined in time-honored poultry seasoning. Depending on your operation, you can serve as a whole bird or perfectly carved for takeout and delivery.

A simple Thanksgiving meal for a family of four at home can consist of delicately sliced, tender roast turkey, flanked by sumptuous apple stuffing and drizzled in warm, savory gravy. Makes you think about grandma’s cooking right now, doesn’t it? Add an oven-fresh apple tarte or pie, and a family dining at home will be giving thanks for a touch of sweet normalcy this turkey day. Serving traditional menu options will also allow your kitchen to crank out classic sides in a relatively cost-effective fashion with standardized ingredients and serving sizes.

Thanksgiving is going to be a little different this year, but restaurants can put their own stamp on turkey day festivities and boost business. Whether it’s adding twists on turkey with Buffalo and BBQ seasoning or providing homestyle meals to smaller family gatherings, we can all be thankful for restaurants and their creative holiday concepts.

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