Are you a functional eater, a food service hobbyist or perhaps an affluent socializer or even a bargain hunter?
Yes, those are real categories that food marketing types use to track diners. And while the category that fits you best doesn’t necessarily tell those marketing gurus what you’ll be having this Thanksgiving, it does give them a pretty good idea if you’ll be cooking at home, dining out or picking up the Thanksgiving feast to go. The good news is that no matter which option you choose or which category you fall into, you’ve got more diversity on all Thanksgiving food fronts than ever.
The number of local restaurants offering Thanksgiving meals, traditional and otherwise. It’s certainly a far cry more than the selection my single working mother who didn’t like to cook much had while I was growing up.
According to the National Restaurant Association, about 14 million Americans, or some six percent of the population, will eat their Thanksgiving meals in restaurants this year. The numbers might not be overwhelming, but they are significant and growing.
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Research indicates another 16 million Americans will pick up their Thanksgiving meals to go for either their main meal or to supplement a meal at someone else’s home. The numbers are growing there too.
Kansas City-based Bread and Butter Concepts jumped into the carry-out market last year. They expect a 100 percent growth in business this year. Bread and Butter’s vice president of marketing and branding Tara Van Loenen said the carry-out began for personal reasons.
Gaylin, the founder and chief executive, and Van Loenen would ask for family-sizd portions of the Gram & Dun menu to take home for their own families.
“We didn’t want to take up seats in our restaurants because of the Plaza Lights crowd, so we took the food home,” Van Loenen says. We also noticed that some grocery stores and Dean & Deluca sell Thanksgiving meals to go, so we thought, why can’t we offer this from our restaurant group? Local restaurant quality food — all made from scratch — at a fair price.”
The job of crafting the carry-out meals fell to Bread and Butter’s director of culinary George Atsangbe.
I asked Atsangbe if there were any particular challenges to creating the to-go menu. He says the biggest challenge is narrowing the choices and making sure the ones selected meet the customers’ expectations.
“Thanksgiving is a big deal at my house, lots of sides dishes, so carry-out Thanksgiving dinners have to be perfectly packaged for easy re-heat and serve to the guests without having a messy kitchen,” Atsangbe said.
I know what kind of eater I’m going to be this Thanksgiving: The same kind I am every Thanksgiving — voracious.
Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons.