Catering Profits on Thanksgiving Day

If you cook it they will come…

It was exactly 15 years ago when my parents decided they were going to offer dinner meals available for pick-up on Thanksgiving day. I distinctly remember thinking “Who would buy that? Doesn’t every family get up early to cook their own Thanksgiving meal?”

Well let me tell you, I could not have been more wrong! The business ended up serving about 300 Thanksgiving dinner packages. With each meal feeding up to 4 people, they fed about 1200 people that Thanksgiving Day.

So why did it work?

  • They did effective advertising. In the case of an inaugural launch of a “new product”, word of mouth would not be enough. The main marketing was done through some well placed ads in the local newspaper (remember 15 years ago the Internet wasn’t anything that it is today).
  • At the time, it was a relatively new concept – at least in their region of Western New York. It caught people’s attention.
  • My parents had an excellent reputation for fresh home cooked food. People knew it was going to taste great!
  • They heavily stressed how convenient and EASY it would be for people who bought the meals. All they had to do was follow the reheating instructions.
  • An on time promise for pickup. Meals would be ready either the night before or Thanksgiving morning – without delay.
  • They kept the meal simple. Each meal included all the traditional fixings : turkey, dressing, vegetable, sweet potatoes, vegetable, cranberry, chef salad, and fresh rolls.

My parents also knew that giving people more than enough food to provide leftovers was important too. Everybody loves those leftover turkey sandwiches on Friday! From a pure marketing standpoint, they were already thinking about the following years – and earning repeat business. The few extra dollars in food cost by “overloading” this year would be money well spent in families coming back year after year.  

So if your not offering a Thanksgiving dinner special this year, perhaps build it into your marketing plan for 2012. It could be a great spike in revenue and profits right before heading into the last wave of holiday business.