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Franchisors Can Tap Into Catering Market Share Over Holidays, Study Suggests

Most consumers plan to gather with six to 10 people, and more than 30% plan to use a catering service for their gathering, according to a new survey by Tripleseat.

Traditionally, Thanksgiving and Christmas tend to be among the slowest days of the year for restaurants, and after nine months of COVID-19, most restaurants can’t afford any more slow days. Luckily, there may be a few strategies that foodservice franchisors can use to tap into holiday sales.

A new survey from Tripleseat finds that 49% of consumers said they will not change their holiday plans this year due to COVID-19. For a majority of those consumers (86.4%), that means an at-home gathering with six to 10 people, and over 30% plan to use a catering service for their gathering, according to the survey.

To tap into this demand, Tripleseat’s survey suggests restaurants offer to-go holiday meals or a-la-carte options as well as value-focused catering promotions. Creating delivery promotions specifically aimed toward small groups may be one way restaurants can optimize sales around the slower holiday season. 

Several casual dining brands have already started rolling out these types of catering and delivery promotions, including Dickey's Barbecue Pit, which is offering new "heat and eat holiday catering options.” The steakhouse chain McCormick & Schmick's is selling a full Thanksgiving meal that serves four to six people for pickup. Many restaurant brands are even looking for a way to provide a full Thanksgiving meal solution, a move that is likely a response to the pandemic crisis environment.

Some franchisors have also already introduced Christmas-themed promotions for guests to serve at home as well. Red Lobster, for example, is selling its Cheddar Bay Biscuits in holiday gift boxes, while KFC has unveiled limited-edition holiday buckets to cater to the family meal crowd. 

Catering promotions aren’t the only way that restaurant franchisors can tap into holiday sales this year. Consumers are also especially interested in purchasing restaurant gift cards. According to Tripleseat, over 53% plan to purchase a restaurant gift card this holiday season, and a Blackhawk Network report projects that consumers will spend 29% more this year on restaurant e-commerce gift cards than they did in 2019. Franchisors would be wise to set up an online gift card system to make these transactions easier.

Tripleseat also found that 24.6% of consumers plan to order a meal kit/recipe box and 18% are interested in buying a restaurant's branded merchandise, posing additional sales opportunities. 

Looking to the future, Tripleseat recommends restaurants offer incentives to book post-holiday parties in spring 2021 as well. That timeline might be ambitious, but with plenty of evidence showing such pent-up demand for dining out, consumers will hopefully be willing to pay now for the promise of a post-pandemic restaurant experience later.

"The 2020 holiday season will be a bit different than years past,” Jonathan Morse, CEO of Tripleseat said in the press release. “Food brings many families together and is an important part of a lot of holiday traditions. We are excited to see how many people still plan to find ways to celebrate and we are hopeful that restaurants will be able to support that in safe and effective ways."