ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – For many New Mexicans, this year’s Thanksgiving will be anything but traditional. Now, restaurants are getting creative with their to-go options for the holiday week.

New Mexicans will be spending their Thanksgiving while in lockdown. Restaurants are banned from having on-site dining and families are discouraged from gathering outside of their household. So, this Thanksgiving many restaurants from Uncle T’s Sandwiches in Rio Rancho to Fly Star Cafe, D.H. Lescombes Winery & Bistro, and O’Niell’s in Albuquerque are, for the first time, selling to-go, family-sized Thanksgiving meals.

“We decided that with everything being what it is and suggesting reduced family gatherings, we didn’t know how many people would be going out of state or not going out of state and we thought that we can actually offer something that might help provide if it’s just a few people,” Jeff Trent, Operations Manager at O’Niell’s said. “Having gone to a grocery store and seeing just the crush of people either panic buying or just scooping up everything, it was another reason to do this. Where, you know, it’s one place, we’ll take care of all the issues, no capacity in the restaurants now, so people can just come in, grab their stuff and go.”

It’s also a way to help restaurants survive. “I suggested as supplemental. You know, because the restaurants were still open at the time,” Trent said. “And then supplemental became essential income really. When she shut it down a couple days later and we knew we had to move forward.”

The new meal option paid off. O’Niell’s sold out of its Thanksgiving meal with a few hundred orders at each location, according to Trent. “It’s humbling also to know that there’s that many people out there supporting us,” he said.

Restaurants that have been offering Thanksgiving meals for years, like Pecos Flavors Winery And Bistro in Roswell and The Range Cafe on Coors, said they’re seeing more orders than years past.

“So far it’s been exponential. So we’ve seen a fairly large quantity of responses this year as in comparison to the last few years. For sure,” Nathan Shore, General Manager of The Range Cafe at Cottonwood, said.

Shore said his location also sold out of Thanksgiving-day meals, which he said isn’t typical. “I think that it shows that people are trying to stay home and people are trying to socially distance and that this is an alternative route for people to go. So, I think people have shown quite an interest in supporting community businesses by doing stuff like this,” Shore said. “It says a lot about the people that live here, they want to support local businesses and that it gives them the opportunity to do so in such a climatic time.”

Restaurants said customers are buying these meals because they are having a smaller Thanksgiving or simply want to support local restaurants. For Trent, every meal sold to a family helps his own O’Niell’s family.

“It’s helped us by, you know, being able to bring people in. You know, that normally we wouldn’t have a need for another cook with just the to-go business or front of the house people, especially, that rely on tips. We’re able to bring them in at an hourly rate just because quite frankly, we’re going to need help assembling all of these when people start picking them up,” Trent said. “It’s helped us, the bottom line definitely. But also to bring the employees back in.” Many restaurants says because of the success, they plan to also do to-go holiday meals for Christmas.

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