Takeout’s Attempted Takeover of Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving has a long-standing tradition as the ultimate home-cooked holiday. But 14 million Americans are expected to dine out on Turkey Day, and another 16 million households will use ready-to-eat takeout foods for some or all of their “home-cooked” Thanksgiving dinner.

The cost of Thanksgiving dinner is rising: A traditional home-cooked feast for 10 costs just under $50, on average, up 13% compared to a year ago.

Dining out, of course, is even more expensive. Perhaps due to the sad state of the economy, fewer Americans are expected to eat the big meal at restaurants this year: Just 6% of the population (14 million people) will dine out on Thanksgiving, according to the Nation’s Restaurant Association, compared to 11% of Americans last year.

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A larger number of households (16 million) will incorporate some pre-prepared dishes and treats from restaurants, supermarkets, and caterers, though. Restaurants—well aware that consumers are willing to spend good money for their holiday dinner, if not by dining out then by getting some or all of the meal through takeout—are ramping up promotions and special menu “to-go” items for Thanksgiving.

The trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News highlights the holiday options offered by chains such as Boston Market and Luby’s Cafeteria. A full Thanksgiving dinner for 10 to 12 provided by Luby’s, for example, includes turkey breast, spiral ham, cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing, dessert (pumpkin pie or pecan pie), and rolls starting at $79.99. Everything’s pre-cooked, so all you’d have to do is reheat, then eat.

Consumers seem comfortable with the idea of gathering some or all of Thanksgiving to-go—especially if they feel like they’re getting a deal. A recent survey from daily deal aggregator Yipit has it that 40% of Americans would consider utilizing a daily deal to cover part of Thanksgiving dinner.

Sometimes restaurants’ efforts to attract business for Thanksgiving seem like serious stretches. For instance, The Consumerist notes White Castle’s push on something called White Castle Turkey Stuffing. The recipe requires 10 White Castle burgers (no pickles), ripped apart and mixed with diced celery, thyme, sage, and chicken broth. Once dry-heaving subsides, the instructions call for cooks to “Toss well. Stuff cavity of turkey just before roasting.”

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To tempt chefs into trying out the stuffing, White Castle will be offering $1 off coupons on 10-packs of sliders starting on Nov. 21. All of the chain’s locations will be open on Thanksgiving Day as well.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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