Ready to know more about San Diego?


Don’t Cook at Home This Thanksgiving

Restaurants need the big holiday sales more than ever

Dishpan hands are a trendy malady in our house these days. We’re going retro with our small hurts. Might try scurvy next week. The pads of my fingers are sore and cranky, my palms a vulnerable shade of pink, like those states on the digital election maps that CNN and Fox thought would eventually go red. My hands currently lean Republican.

I’ve never related more to stay-at-home parents who both parented and homed before the dishwasher was invented. I’m sure the first dishwashing machines were terrible. Better to let the dog lick the plate. But if I were in charge of dishes for my brood back then, I would lie on the machine’s behalf. “The machine leaves the food that’s still good enough to eat, so bon appétit,” I’d tell my family as they tried to scrape off the petrified granules. Food poisoning would be no match for my desperation.

Anyway, point is. Thanksgiving is next week and I’m not going to do any dishes. I’m going to pick a small local restaurant that I love—one that seems to be struggling—and order as much as I’m financially able. I’m going to order enough for leftovers.

I urge everyone who is able to do the same. Let’s try to order as much as we can from independent restaurants. They need as many orders as they can handle, and here’s why:

  • With business restricted to mostly (currently only) outdoor dining, local restaurants have survived on the PPP money and sunshine/warmer temps that make outdoor dining appealing. Now, PPP money has run out for many if not most restaurants, Congress has yet to pass another aid package, insurance companies are not helping, and the wind is getting nippier.

  • The first few months of every year—January through March—are always the slowest for restaurants. (September is also historically terrible.) They survive those by hosting or catering as many holiday parties as possible. Well, holiday party season is canceled this year. That lifeline income is not coming in. So that makes the marquee sales days, like Thanksgiving, even more important to get them through. For an industry that, on average, has a 3-to-5-percent profit margin (meaning they take home a nickel or less out of every dollar you spend), there is very little room for error.

  • Depending on which stat you look at, usually about 10 percent of Americans dine out for Thanksgiving. That may not sound like much, but it’s enough for restaurants to have a banner sales day. With COVID-19 peaking yet again and restrictions in place, that banner day is gutted.

  • Dishes suck.

Let’s help local restaurants sell out for Thanksgiving. Let’s send them so many orders that they have to cut it off. And when one says they’re sold out, move on to the next. Expand your ideas of the holiday meal. Don’t just think turkey and Americana. Have a ramen Thanksgiving where the whole family slurps together. Do an Ethiopian Thanksgiving where everyone tears at a huge roll of injera and dredges it into a spicy stew. Order a huge thing of birria that will keep you fed for days.

To help with this, here’s a list our awesome intern Kayla Wong put together. It’s just a small starter list. Call your favorite restaurant—especially a small one you think may really need it—and order enough for a feast.

Lastly, I know that we’re all in various stages of financial distress right now. On KPBS Midday Edition this week, I was asked what people can do to help if they can’t afford to order takeout. That was a tough question because, of course, first and foremost you should take care of yourself and your family. But even if you can’t afford a restaurant meal right now, you can help. Post to social media your own list of favorite dishes and favorite restaurants. Post a photo of what you’ll eat when we get through this. People who are able to eat out may see that and follow your recommendations.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Gelson’s Simply Delicious Dinners are precooked and ready to heat, serve, and enjoy at home.

By Troy Johnson

Troy Johnson is the magazine’s award-winning food writer and humorist, and a long-standing expert on Food Network. His work has been featured on NatGeo, Travel Channel, NPR, and in Food Matters, a textbook of the best American food writing.

Share this post

Contact Us

1230 Columbia Street, Suite 800,

San Diego, CA