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We’re headed into the most wonderful time of the year, with Thanksgiving and the winter holidays fast approaching. These holidays are usually the busiest in the restaurant industry for on-premise dining, with guests ready to dress up, host holiday parties, and simply go big and celebrate at your restaurant. But holiday catering has become an increasingly popular option for families more comfortable with staying and celebrating at home.
Read on below to learn more about catering for the holidays and how to build a profitable holiday catering menu that will delight your guests.
How to Create a Restaurant Catering Menu
First, you’ll want to ensure that any holiday catering offerings are in line with your restaurant’s brand. While you don’t want to include everything from your menu, going with the most profitable and popular options is ideal. You can use the principles of menu engineering to help determine what those are.
Next, you’ll want to determine how profitable a holiday catering arm would be by factoring in your food and labor costs. You'll need more hands in the kitchen to crank out hundreds of catering orders on top of your normal, higher holiday volume, but catering for the holidays is a great way to bring in additional seasonal revenue if done right.
Here are some holiday catering ideas for inspiration! These restaurant thanksgiving feasts show what your restaurant can offer for any holiday, whether it’s in this peak holiday season or other points of the year. Get thinking about what holidays are celebrated in your community, and how you can cater to the needs of your guests who'd prefer that you do the cooking.
Holiday Catering Ideas and Examples
Turkey doesn’t have to be the only star of the show for Thanksgiving. For an alternative, Cote, a Korean steakhouse, offers their 10lb Roasted Prime rib rack along with Korean-inspired sides and dessert. What takes this up a notch, though, is the recipe that the chef includes for guests to enjoy their leftovers!
This restaurant is pulling out all the stops for an unforgettable Thanksgiving feast, like walnut butter-roasted Brussels sprouts. However, it’s their add-ons — like appetizers, wine pairings, and batch cocktails — that make it a standout. Adding alcohol to any Thanksgiving offering increases your profit margins, and it’s one less thing your guests have to think about!
The beauty of Stage House Tavern is that they’re providing everything you want for a classic Thanksgiving meal, all packaged in various sizes. They also make it easy for guests to heat and serve — there’s no fumbling with finding containers, as Stage House Tavern already provides reheatable containers.
If you don’t want to worry about catering for large groups, you might want to take a page out of Bubby’s book. Their only holiday catering package is $140 for two people and includes a choice of starter, one main, sides, and two slices of pie.
There are no rules for what can (or can’t) be served on Thanksgiving. If your restaurant team can’t (or doesn’t want to) offer a traditional meal, staying true to your restaurant’s roots may be the way to go. Pulkies offers a Jewish Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner and a Thanksgiving Vegetarian Dinner (your family's vegetarians will be thrilled!).
If you’re looking to get creative, here’s your license to do so. Kimika is a Japanese-Italian restaurant that doesn’t veer away from its origins, and its menu reflects that. The crowning glory of the Thanksgiving table is a choice of Turchetta (turkey breast made like Italian porchetta) or porchetta served with truffle gravy, miso mustard, salsa verde, and cranberry mostarda.
While most of the restaurants above have prix-fixe options, you can also consider a pared-down a la carte menu, like Bistro d’Azur does. Their menu includes a la carte options for 2-4 people (and it even includes a half-turkey, perfect for smaller groups).
Adding a beverage option is a profitable way to increase holiday catering sales (especially if they’re alcoholic). Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen offers a wine pairing with each dinner, taking the guesswork out for guests.
You may not even want to supply the bird at all, like White Birch. Sidesgiving is a thing for a reason: many people are there for the stuffing and couldn't care less about turkey. To cater to these people — or to those who've perfected their turkey cookery and don't want to think about the sides — they’ve removed the mains entirely, opting to focus on a wide array of sides with a few pies. While not prix-fixe, this could be a great option for guests who already have a main dish and want the flexibility of additional restaurant-quality dishes to round out the spread.
Plan your Restaurant’s Holiday Feast
Now that you're inspired, get planning your restaurant's holiday catering menu! Use our menu engineering worksheet below to make sure you're including your most profitable items as well as the popular heavy hitters.
And as many of the restaurants above have done, be sure to promote these offerings widely on social media in the weeks leading up to the holiday.
Stay safe and warm this holiday season!