‘Tis the season when restaurant brands aggressively position themselves to be top of mind for holiday revelers. Thanksgiving meals and deals have been pouring into our inboxes for the past several weeks, catering to those who perhaps like to host, but not so much cook.
There’s a good reason for such aggressive promotions; Technomic data finds that nearly one-fourth of consumers will likely purchase a full Thanksgiving meal for pickup from a restaurant, and 22% plan to use restaurant food for at least part of their Thanksgiving meal. A new HungerRush survey shows even more intent, with 64% of consumers saying they plan to order at least one food item from a restaurant to include in their holiday celebrations, while 37% said they’d order their entire holiday meal from a restaurant.
As such, SpotOn restaurant customers have added 226 “Thanksgiving” menu items in the past 90 days, with the first uptick coming the week of Sept. 24 and peaking the week of Oct. 23. Further, 7,417 turkey items have been added in the past 90 days.
Most consumers say they will likely choose casual dining options to feed their guests, and chains like Bob Evans, Golden Corral, Bar Louie, Twin Peaks, IHOP, Dog Haus, Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, and Buca di Beppo are running Thanksgiving promotions accordingly (this list is just the tip of the iceberg, by the way). That’s not to say fine dining isn’t jumping in, however. Ruth’s Chris is offering a turkey dinner for four to go, for example, while Fogo de Chão is offering a fully prepared Thanksgiving meal for up to six people.
Even quick-service and fast casual brands – big and small – are getting involved a bit more aggressively this year. Chick-fil-A’s catering commercial is currently in heavy rotation and prominently featured on its digital channels. Taco Bell is promoting a Friendsgiving deal in which rewards members can order a Build Your Own Meal for 4 deal via delivery for $24.99 with the delivery fee waived. Kelly’s Roast Beef is currently promoting special holiday catering options, while Dave’s Hot Chicken just launched Hot Turkey, as well as a limited-time Dave’s-giving Party Pack at four Southern California locations.
Meanwhile, Nation’s Giant Hamburgers is putting the spotlight on its homemade pies this month. Newk’s is offering a $10 bonus reward to anyone who purchases a $50 gift card, while Paris Baguette has a new line of seasonal cakes with double rewards points for cake purchases through Nov. 22. Oh, and Popeyes is bringing back its signature Cajun-style turkey, which sold out last year.
Some brands are focusing more on Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals to keep people’s attention long after the leftovers are gone. Hungry Howie’s, for instance, is offering 50% off any pizza from Nov. 24 through Nov. 30 on online carryout orders, while Playa Bowls is offering rewards members a chance to win a mystery offer on Black Friday, and a discount for rewards members on Cyber Monday.
The bottom line is the holidays can be a major boon for the bottom line. During Brinker’s Q3 earnings call, for instance, CEO Kevin Hochman said the holiday season is big for banquets, and the quarter is important for Maggiano’s “based on the amount of sales and profits we generate… We feel very good about heading into the holiday season.”
The stakes for a holiday season tailwind are high this year, as the industry experiences traffic declines, and as Thanksgiving meals from the grocery store are expected to be significantly less expensive than they’ve been the past few years. According to Mintec’s 2023 Thanksgiving Dinner Index, the overall cost of a traditional Thanksgiving feast is expected to be 21% lower than last year. In other words, restaurant companies that bank on an influx of business this holiday have their work cut out for them to be more appealing as grocery prices continue to trend lower while restaurant prices remain elevated. According to Kalinowski Equity Research, October marked the 8th month in a row in which restaurant pricing outpaced grocery pricing, a trend that didn’t occur at all during 2022.
That said, consumer intent provides plenty of reason for optimism.
“Our latest survey underscores consumers’ appetite for restaurant experiences, even amidst external economic challenges and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season,” Shannon Chirone, SVP of marketing at HungerRush, said in a statement. “This data identifies the continued strong trend for consumers to choose quick-service, fast casual restaurants during the holiday season.”
Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]