Planning your Thanksgiving menu is stressful enough, but when you add in service style, staffing, inventory, and prep, your plate can start to feel heavy. Here are some ideas to help you get ready for the Turkey Day rush.

Make a Plan

While many consumers will be hosting their families at home, there will still be plenty who want to skip the stress of cooking and eat at a restaurant. Establish hours, whether it’s brunch, dinner, or the day before, and make sure it’s clear on your website, delivery apps, and social channels. For the menu, decide if you’re keeping it classic, taking twists on the traditional, or featuring trending fall flavors. Adjust your inventory from there, so nothing goes to waste. Review numbers from last year to determine which items were the most popular, and plan to have your kitchen staff prep accordingly.

Service Style Set Up

Consider what service style is right for your budget and space. Prix fixe and buffet-style both have the advantage of limiting menu items and reducing the number of products needed for a single night of service. If you decide to offer a buffet, consider raising the bar with a turkey or rack of lamb carving station or other interactive features. Reduce clean up and labor later by using Handgards® Panhandlers® Ovenable Roasting Bags to cook the major players.

While a buffet allows you to feed a higher volume of guests quickly, a prix fixe menu is a more upscale option and may appeal to guests who still want to feel fancy, but without doing the cooking themselves. If you offer a limited full-service menu, include some traditional Thanksgiving dishes, as well as plant-based options for the vegan and vegetarian crowd.

Because of the specific staffing demands of the holiday, it may be wise to open on a reservation-only basis for table service (leaving the bar open for walk-ins) so you can know your numbers in advance for staffing, ordering, and prep.

Staffing in Harmony

Staffing is the biggest factor in Thanksgiving planning. Many employees will probably want to have the day off to celebrate with their families, but some may be open to the idea of working that shift, especially if they think they can make good money and/or if you can offer incentives like bonus pay or a gift. Offer the option to work lunch or dinner or come in early to prep or late to close, so they get time to enjoy the holiday.

Look at how many hours you’ll be open, review data from your POS system to determine exactly how many people you need on staff for the day, and then schedule accordingly, with a couple of on-call back-ups. With the uptick in delivery orders that weekend, plan for extra delivery staff if you manage your deliveries in-house and ensure your curbside program is streamlined.

Use Your Resources to Cut Costs

With the expected higher volumes around Thanksgiving, using ready-made breads, sides, and desserts can be a smart way to cut labor costs and save money. Depending on the different dishes to be made and pans used, it’s important to save on space and time where you can. Consider Handgards® Panhandlers® Disposable Steam Pan Liners to keep your cleaning costs low and reduce stress on the BOH.

Turkey To Go

Another sweet spot for Thanksgiving is in catering and take & bake options. According to a recent study, nearly 30% of Americans plan to order catering for a holiday celebration. Firm up your catering menu to start promoting it early. While many will opt to make their own turkey, they might need appetizers and side dishes to supplement the meal and free up coveted oven space, which gives you the chance to upsell.

Take & bakes like casseroles, pies, and stuffing can be an easy additional revenue stream for the holiday. Do some thinking about your numbers on the week of Thanksgiving to determine how many take & bake dishes you could reasonably sell, and then prep toward that goal. Make prepping ahead and storage easier and more efficient with Handgards® Panhandlers® Cook Chill Bags that seal in hot foods and chill food quickly for future service, while preserving the freshness and flavor of your soups, stews, and even sides like mashed potatoes.

Gathering with Friends

In recent years, Friendsgiving has become almost as popular as Thanksgiving itself, with 40% of Gen Z and millennials celebrating “Friendsgiving,” so it’s a great option, especially if you’re closed for the holiday. Let your cooks play around with Thanksgiving classics, reinventing them in fun ways that the younger Friendsgiving crowd will appreciate. Make it festive with over-the-top holiday cocktails and desserts to boost sales and get people talking on social media.

Thanksgiving Eve Festivities

Thanksgiving Eve is one of the busiest times for restaurants, as folks get in one last night of fun before the big day. According to research, those who opened increased sales by almost 35%. Offer some seasonal drink specials and creative apps to attract the younger crowd who will be out. This is also a great time to sell the remainder of your take & bake inventory, so make sure guests know what’s available with tabletop menus and have servers mention it.

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