CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — As many prepare for the holidays, so much has changed since last November when health officials were urging people to limit social gatherings and restaurants were limited in capacity.
Thanksgiving is already shaping up to be much different this year, from traveling, turkey orders, to taking extended family out for a holiday dinner.
With the days dwindling down, Thanksgiving kitchen prep is on, but what if you plan to eat or order out?
“We will have 400 pounds of turkey, 20 pounds of our housemade cranberry chutney,” Chapel Grille General Manager Jody Torres explained.
Staff at the Chapel Grille are excited about the flurry of holiday dining reservations that are being made, and they say they’re back on track to doing about what they did in 2019.
“One thousand of our closest friends will be dining with us for the day,” Torres said. “We just recently extended our hours, we were going to serve until 6 p.m., but we had such a large amount of people who wanted to dine in the later hours that we’re now open until 7 p.m.”
A much different experience than where the hospitality industry was at this time last year when masks were required, plexiglass was separating tables, and restaurants could only serve at a limited capacity.
Thanksgiving “to go” was a popular choice last year, and according to the Rhode Island hospitality industry, they’re expecting restaurants to be more creative in their offerings this year — providing more curbside and take out options, taking orders for oven-ready meals, and offering special desserts and appetizers for at-home entertaining.
“A lot of people are calling and still want to know what they can and can’t do from last year’s restrictions, so it’s fun to be able to tell them that it’s loosened up a little bit and it will be a more intimate afternoon for their family,” Torres said.
For families planning the traditional at-home Thanksgiving celebration, there is one essential thing that is already ensuing safer get-togethers this year.
“Last year at this time we didn’t have a vaccine. Our first dose of vaccine went in December 14,” R.I. Department of Health Medical Director Dr. James McDonald said.
McDonald is confident many families will have the traditional Thanksgiving this year but wants to remind everyone, even those who are vaccinated, that if you notice any symptoms, to test before going to a gathering.
“We are not going to have any kids fully vaccinated by Thanksgiving, it’s just not the case, because remember, you need that two weeks after that 2nd dose, so it really brings us back to, it’s still going to be helpful, and we still need as many kids as possible to get the vaccine, because we want our kids healthy for Christmas and for the other holidays we have to celebrate,” McDonald explained.
The R.I. Hospitality industry says while there are some positive signs this holiday season, some businesses are still struggling to find enough help and hire staff.
Some restaurants will even not be open on the holiday to give their staff extra time off after being short-staffed throughout the fall.