Serving Smiles with a Side of Gravy

Serving Smiles with a Side of Gravy

Thanksgiving, a time-honored tradition with deep roots in hospitality, showcases holiday spirit of sharing and togetherness. As families across the nation gather to celebrate, the impact resonates far beyond dining tables—it reverberates through the bustling corridors of the hospitality industry. In this exploration, we delve into the intricate dance between Thanksgiving and the hospitality sector, unveiling the staffing demands that orchestrate this grand holiday symphony.

The Travel Frenzy

Thanksgiving, falling on a Thursday, ushers in predictable travel patterns. According to a SmartTraveler study, Wednesday and Sunday emerge as the peak travel days, with approximately 50% of holiday flyers jetting off on Wednesday and returning on Sunday. As airports transform into bustling hubs of activity, long security lines and overcrowded terminals become the norm. Navigating this travel maze requires careful planning—arrive early, stay informed on updates, and brace yourself for the holiday rush.

The Hotel Hustle

The ripple effect of Thanksgiving extends to the hotel industry, with Boston area establishments witnessing a modest uptick in room and occupancy rates. While these increases seldom rival the heights of mid-summer, upscale hotels like Marriott International’s Tribute Portfolio seize the opportunity to offer holiday-themed packages, catering to guests seeking a touch of festive luxury. Furthermore, quaint inns in historic towns like Plymouth and Salem experience a surge in prices, providing a financial boon during what would otherwise be a sluggish winter season.

Restaurant Realities

From fast food joints to fine dining establishments, most restaurants keep their doors open on Thanksgiving. The financial allure is undeniable, but this decision places employees and employers in a delicate predicament. While diners can savor delectable Thanksgiving meals, the dedicated staff often sacrifices their own family celebrations for the sake of serving others. A tip of the hat and an extra helping of courtesy to these hardworking individuals become essential components of a Thanksgiving dining experience.

Industry in Overdrive

Thanksgiving is not just a feast for families; it’s a feast for the entire hospitality industry. Airlines, buses, trains, gas stations, hotels, and grocery stores all engage in a synchronized dance to meet the demands of the season. This year, anticipated to be the biggest Thanksgiving for air travel, saw airlines like American Airlines undertaking additional inspections and ensuring their staff was prepared for the surge in passengers.

Hotels, too, braced for impact, with many offering their own Thanksgiving dinners and attracting guests with holiday-themed experiences. Grocery stores, the unsung heroes behind many Thanksgiving meals, worked tirelessly to ensure the shelves were stocked with traditional favorites. Notably, the day before Thanksgiving emerged as the busiest grocery shopping day, emphasizing the pivotal role of grocers in this culinary extravaganza.

A Record-Breaking Thanksgiving for Hotels

As we reflect on the Thanksgiving just passed, the hospitality industry experienced a historic high. According to STR, the U.S. hotel industry marked its best Thanksgiving week on record, setting performance records that bode well for a robust holiday season. With occupancy topping 53%, hotels achieved the highest revenue per available room ever recorded for the holiday week, surpassing previous records set in 2018.


Thanksgiving, a time of gratitude and reflection, casts a spotlight on the tireless efforts of the hospitality industry. From the bustling terminals of airports to the heartwarming ambiance of hotels and the sizzling kitchens of restaurants, each sector plays a vital role in creating the tapestry of this beloved holiday. As we savor the leftovers and cherish the memories, let’s extend our appreciation to the unsung heroes who make Thanksgiving not just a meal but a memorable experience for all.