Take the day off: Why ordering takeout this Thanksgiving is a win-win

Restaurants and caterers are counting on their Thanksgiving takeout meals to make up for lost revenue during COVID.
Thanksgiving Takeout
"This is the most important time to help mom-and-pop restaurants," said Stephanie Ruhle.Jenny Chang-Rodriguez/TODAY / Getty Images

Ordering your Thanksgiving meal may not be traditional, but this year it's a trend that many families are getting behind. While roasting a turkey and preparing all the sides is an activity most Americans participate in on the holiday, this year many are looking to bring in premade turkeys and full meals as a way to scale things back at home while also supporting struggling local businesses.

Takeout has been trending big time during the pandemic, according to Google Maps. Looking at Google's data from March to October 2020, the interest in "takeout" increased 306 percent compared to the beginning of the pandemic when we were all more excited about making home-cooked meals.

Now that the holidays are here, many people are burned out on so much time spent in the kitchen and are looking for ways to keep their favorite local restaurants going. Some are even ordering meal kits from places like Blue Apron or picking up fast food favorites to make things a little easier.

"Make this the year you order," TODAY senior business correspondent Stephanie Ruhle said in her report on Thanksgiving takeout. "We're seeing a record number of local restaurants and grocery stores are offering a full Thanksgiving meal, all you need to do is order." Ruhle added that there is one thing customers can also do to make sure the mom and pops get all of the hard-earned money that's coming to them. "This is important. If you can, pick it up yourself. A lot of very popular delivery services are charging those restaurants 15 to 30 percent," she said.

"Now, more then ever, restaurants need to maximize their money, so if you can pick up, please do. And call ahead to ensure it’s a contactless pickup," Ruhle told TODAY Food.

"COVID has hit the restaurant industry particularly hard," said Ruhle. "Thanksgiving through Christmas is normally the busiest season, with holiday parties and homecomings, but with this year’s necessary COVID restrictions, that’s not possible. So if you have the cash to spare, paying for a prepared meal is a great way to give thanks to your favorite local restaurant."

Andrew Carmellini, the chef and owner of The Dutch in New York City, told TODAY that since people have been spending more time at home than usual, they've also been cooking quite a bit. "We're seeing an increased demand for a professionally-prepared Thanksgiving meal because when they leave the cooking to us, people can save three days of prep and spend more time with their families," he said.

Carmellini added that having people order their prepared Thanksgiving meal means everything to him and his team. "Normally, for Thanksgiving at The Dutch we would have 800 guests or more guests passing through our doors throughout the day," he said. "This year, with closures looming, we're unable to capture that usual spirit. By ordering our Thanksgiving takeaway feast, we're able to keep our great restaurant team employed and our doors open."

Ruhle said that its particularly important to help out those small, family-owned restaurants in your neighborhood so they can stick around and be there when the world is open to celebrate again.

"This is the most important time to help mom-and-pop restaurants," she said. "It’s exciting and interesting to hear about businesses 'pivoting' — leaning into apps and drive-throughs, but realize that’s a lot easier for chain restaurants." Ruhle reminds us that hometown restaurants are the places where memories are made. "They often serve that special bottle of wine or have the most romantic ambiance," she said. "Their rents are high and those liquor licenses are expensive to maintain. For them, the 'pivot' is not so easy."

“It’s really amazing and humbling to see our local community still supporting small businesses, especially going into the colder months," Kimberly Glatz, the digital media manager of the Mill House Brewing Company in Poughkeepsie, New York, told TODAY. "We’re back into a state of uncertainty, not knowing every day when we wake up if today will be the day we’re forced to close down again. So when we’re seeing orders pouring in for Thanksgiving take-out, each order is another community member helping us to continue to provide quality products and services, keep our doors open and most importantly, helping to keep our team taken care of."

"Keep supporting your local and small businesses," said Glatz. "They’re the heart of your community, your family's, friends' and neighbors' lifelines. Trust us, we are all thankful for each and every penny.”

And on that note, don't forget to tip! Not only does it help financially support the staff, but it's a good way to show your appreciation, especially during these difficult times.