Study Says Most Consumers Want Holiday Meals Made By Restaurants

As the song "(There's No Place Like) Home For The Holidays" goes, "I met a man from Tennessee, he was heading for/ Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie." Such is the stereotypical view of the holidays in the U.S. – especially those tremendously gustatory fall and winter holidays Thanksgiving and Christmas – that folks will be cooking at home, be it their own, a relative's, or a friend's. People have fond memories of dishes made year after year by loving hands and family food traditions that bond them to loved ones.

A 2020 poll conducted by YouGov revealed the dishes that Americans clamor for at the Christmas table. Topping the list are two types of potatoes, roasted and mashed, then turkey, of course, followed by holiday stalwarts like stuffing, rolls, prime rib, and ham. There are even some eclectic choices in the top 20, like lasagna and potato salad.

But, the idealized home-cooked holiday meal may be just that: a lovely ideal. Behind the scenes, as anyone who has spent time in the kitchen before one of these feasts will tell you, is a flurry of activity and anxiety as a harried cook – or cooks – attempting to get each dish done on time. While there are many ways to plan ahead and mitigate the stress of cooking, such as Ina Garten's tried-and-true turkey tip and appetizer hack, it seems that many Americans are choosing an alternative to cooking.

Convenience is key

As Restaurant Business reports, a whopping 77% of consumers who responded to a survey by the National Restaurant Association said that they will, in part or wholly, rely on professional chefs and cooks to handle the holiday meal. Many restaurants, such as Cracker Barrel, Bob Evans, and Boston Market, offer a la carte and complete meal packages featuring traditional holiday fare, says Living on the Cheap. These dishes are pre-packaged and ready to be simply heated before serving. Convenience is the main driver, the NRA survey found.

"When you choose restaurants, you get the flavors you crave without grocery shopping and preparation," said Michelle Korsmo, CEO of the restaurant association, in a statement. "You get familiar holiday dishes, without the dishes to wash. You get beloved traditions, without all the preparations. That may help explain the 58% of respondents who said they wanted to have their holiday meal at the restaurant, 94% of which wanted the eatery to be close to home.

There may be another layer of convenience. While many people choose to throw caution to the wind and indulge their appetites during the season, Health Possible notes that it's possible to plan out portioned and balanced meals by thoroughly reading over a restaurant's menu description of dishes to make sure they align with a chosen holiday meal plan.