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Turkey takeout is the 2020 way to celebrate Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving travel discouraged and smaller gatherings recommended, restaurants have ramped up their turkey takeout business.
Restaurants across the United States are advertising takeaway Thanksgiving dinners.
Restaurants across the United States are advertising takeaway Thanksgiving dinners.NBC News; Getty Images

With the pandemic still raging, more people are staying home for Thanksgiving, celebrating in small groups and over Zoom — but they’re also planning to splurge. Restaurants have taken notice.

“It’s still a time to get together, just in smaller groups or not at all, but still have that Thanksgiving comfort,” Michelle Poteaux, owner of Bastille, a restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia, told NBC News.

While Thanksgiving is typically a slow day for dining out, restaurants across the United States have been dishing out takeaway Thanksgiving dinners targeted at people who are celebrating in groups of between two and four.

In the week before Thanksgiving, Poteaux had nearly 100 preorders for Thanksgiving meals, which cost $89 for two people and $169 for four people. Bastille typically serves French cuisine, but Poteaux created a special traditional American menu for Thanksgiving.

The takeaway meals include pumpkin bisque, salad, turkey, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables and pie. For people who want to skip the traditional turkey, there’s also an Angus beef option.

“It would be nice for people to stay home and not worry about cooking this year,” she said. “As for our dine in, we have seen a lot fewer reservations. We are limited in what we can do since we adhere to our social distancing requirements and cleaning protocols.”

Mike Baran, owner of Parky’s Smokehouse in Indianapolis, Indiana, told NBC News his restaurant has offered Thanksgiving turkeys for 12 years, but due to Covid-19, is also offering smaller birds this year.

“We have sold more whole smoked turkeys this year than last,” Baran told NBC News.

Katie Trovitch will celebrate Thanksgiving at home in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband, Chris, and their 7-month-old daughter. While Trovitch said she wishes they could spend her daughter’s first Thanksgiving in Arizona with their extended family, she wants to make the responsible and safe choice.

She canceled their airplane tickets and instead picked up a “take and bake” meal from one of her favorite local restaurants, Olive + Oak in Webster Groves, Missouri.

For $60, the meal feeds two people and offers all of the traditional Thanksgiving fare, without the time spent cooking and cleaning up.

“We are choosing a takeout Thanksgiving meal this year because it will be much easier than making a whole feast for just two people and because it is an opportunity to support one of our favorite local restaurants in their efforts to keep their talented staff employed while indoor dining restrictions are in place,” Trovitch told NBC News. “Also, it's hard to turn down Thanksgiving prepared by a professional chef. It will certainly be much tastier than what I could make.”

In Boston, Shevaun Betzler and her husband said they are staying home and ordering something other than turkey and mashed potatoes for takeout.

“It's just going to be the two of us at our apartment in Boston, and neither of us have our hearts set on the traditional Thanksgiving fare. We'd much rather support our local restaurants,” Betzler said. “Patio season is short lived here in New England, and it's sad to see our favorite spots grapple with shutting down for the season as Covid-19 cases and, understandably, concerns around indoor dining, rise once more.”

Tracy Smith of Tuckerton, New Jersey, is planning a smaller gathering this year with her extended family. Since it’s an unusual year, she decided it was time to change the family tradition and pick up something different.

“We’re a tight knit family,” she said. “But we always end up with too many leftovers. We’ll go all out on the cheese board instead.”