For many consumers, the Thanksgiving table is incomplete without turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. But what are headliners without their supporting acts? Green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, the ever-controversial sweet potatoes studded with marshmallows. The Thanksgiving holiday line-up varies from household to household, and that’s part of its beauty. Whether you prefer a traditional spread, or updated dishes infused with new flavors, there’s something for everyone on a Thanksgiving menu. Plus, debating the necessity of acorn squash or kale salad is safer than talking politics. 

For many families, in the words of the Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten, store-bought is fine. The growing popularity of incorporating store-bought or catered dishes into the Thanksgiving menu has opened the door for restaurants to expand their menu offerings. SpotOn restaurant customers have added 226 "Thanksgiving items" in the past 90 days, as SpotOn reported to Nation's Restaurant News. And according to SpotOn restaurant clients’ sales trends, plenty of guests are taking up the offer. 

1. Turkey takes over

Whether guests are looking for a fully prepared turkey for their holiday table, or a quick seasonal bite to get in the spirit, “turkey” menu items have increased by 7,417 in the past 90 days at restaurants using SpotOn’s restaurant POS. With unpredictable food prices and the predictable hassle of cooking and cleaning up, restaurants are finding an audience for prepared meal kits to make Thanksgiving dinner as effortless as possible. 

A chef cuts into a Thanksgiving turkey
For meat-eaters, Thanksgiving is synonymous with turkey. Photo by Claudio Schwarz / Unsplash

2. Stuffing fills menus

In the hall of fame of carbohydrates, stuffing stands alone. The bready dish has sparked many a debate—is it stuffing? Or is it dressing? Cooked inside the turkey or on the side? For many, it’s the ultimate comfort food. For SpotOn restaurant clients, stuffing has taken many forms: sausage stuffing at The Local General Store in Honolulu, Hawaii, turkey stuffing quesadillas at Buffalo Sports Garden in Orchard Park, New York, and ciabatta stuffing at Bella Bru Café in El Dorado Hills, California.

person slicing pie on stainless steel tray
Pumpkin pies are crowd-pleasers, whether mini or full-size. Photo by Timothy Wolff / Unsplash

3. Pumpkin pie shows versatility

You might think you know pumpkin pie. Ochre, spiced custard sitting placidly inside crust (all butter, gluten free, storebought…who’s to judge). This Thanksgiving season, restaurants have taken the familiar and transformed it into something new and exciting. Pumpkin pie cocktails and milkshakes have popped up on drink menus. Some restaurants have introduced mini pumpkin pies to offer guests a sweet treat, while leaving plenty of room for the main event on Thanksgiving day. 

4. Cranberry’s time to shine

Cranberries, a fruit native to North America, are often reduced to concentrated juices and vodka cocktails. But during the Thanksgiving season, many restaurants incorporate cranberries into their baked goods and holiday dishes. Cranberries play well with others. Whether with citrus in a cranberry orange muffin at Hartford Coffee Company in St. Louis, Missouri or with apple and savory flavors in a cranberry apple stuffing at Foodies Local Market in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

a basket of cranberries
Cranberries are in season and play well with other fall flavors. Photo by Philippe Murray-Pietsch / Unsplash

5. Green bean casserole stays controversial 

Nothing sparks heated dinnertime debate like green beans swimming in cream of mushroom soup, topped with crispy onions. Whether you’re loyal to the classic soup can recipe or you’re open to a fresh twist on the same flavors, there’s no better time of year to pick a side. Since September 10, 2023, SpotOn restaurant clients have added 67 “green bean casserole” menu items mostly in Missouri, Texas, and Tennessee. Is 67 green bean casseroles too many? Or not enough? Gather ‘round the holiday table and discuss. 

Whether you’re taking the opportunity to sell pies, whole turkeys, and side dishes, or just using Thanksgiving to inspire new menu items, tracking sales per item with restaurant POS reporting can help you anticipate popular items. And with the right Thanksgiving hashtags, you can create social posts that reach potential customers and boost sales. That’s something to be grateful for year-round, turkey or no turkey.

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