Coming home to Cracker Barrel: Eating out for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving dinners are drenched in tradition, but many make new traditions dining out. (Erica Palmer).
Thanksgiving dinners are drenched in tradition, but many make new traditions dining out. (Erica Palmer).

Americans have a Thanksgiving tradition of giving thanks and enjoying delicious turkey dinners, but many exchange home-cooked meals for restaurants.

Eating out for Thanksgiving dinner is becoming more popular. A 2013 study showed that 33 million Americans would rely on restaurants for all or part of their Thanksgiving meals, according to the National Restaurant Association.

“It’s much easier to eat out rather than cooking your own dinner,” said Vickie Nelson, a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store employee from Springville. “Cooking your own dinner is time consuming, and so I think eating out is just a much easier thing to do.”

Local restaurants and national chains market eating out for Thanksgiving. For example, Marie Callender’s Restaurant & Bakery says, “Don’t stress over the Holidays. Savor them. Order your Holiday Feasts and Pies online today.”

Many people eat out because there is no preparation or clean-up involved and it’s more convenient and time efficient. Nevada native Shae Bryant plans on eating out with his family this year to save time.

“I think because our family is older now, I think it’s a time thing,” Bryant said. “Because there is a lot of traveling between members of the family and we all have jobs and school and work and everything.”

While dining out for the holidays is becoming more popular, many families would rather cook the traditional Thanksgiving meal at home because they enjoy spending time together and making their favorite family recipes.

Savannah Ius, a sophomore from Orem studying communications, said nothing compares to a home-cooked meal.

“It’s like getting a warm hug from food,” Ius said. “But when it comes to Thanksgiving, it’s not just the food itself that makes it so special — it’s the experience. It’s the preparation, the cooking, the waiting and the satisfaction in seeing all that work pay off that makes it extra special.”

Maria Stoddard, a communications student from Cody, Wyoming, enjoys eating at home because it creates a safe environment.

“You can eat as much as you want and be as loud as you want, whereas in a restaurant you order one dish off the menu,” Stoddard said. “You can’t be loud and obnoxious, and you can’t just sit and talk for hours after the meal is over.”

For Moriah Mitsuda, an accounting graduate student from Bloomfield, Colorado, the very risk of cooking at home is appealing.

“A major part of the cooking experience is cooking it together,” Mitsuda said. “My dad is really into baking pies, so we get to do that. And you know, it’s always really fun to see what we can catch on fire this year.”

Restaurants such as Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and Buca di Beppo are open on Thanksgiving Day and provide traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Restaurants not only provide delicious meals on Thanksgiving, but the restaurant employees sacrifice time with their families so the guests can enjoy the meal.

Debbie Nelson, shift leader at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, from Provo, has worked on Thanksgiving for many years.

“I have mixed feelings about working on Thanksgiving,” Nelson said. “You have a lot of people grateful that you are open and that they have a place to go, but then you get those who are upset because we are on a wait or the food is taking a little time, and I just want to say to them that we are the ones away from our family so you can be with yours.”

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