Ahh, Thanksgiving. There’s nothing more mouth-watering than some savory Turkey, buttery mashed potatoes, and flavorful stuffing, with a side of…McDonald’s Big Macs? While cooking a Thanksgiving feast remains a beloved American tradition, an unexpected alternative is sizzling in the back grill. Due to the rising inflation, 84% of Americans are turning to the fast food lanes to cut back on holiday costs, and it’s leaving its mark at the Thanksgiving table.
To savor the Thanksgiving spirit, we took a deep dive into the sizzling world of fast food to uncover the most visited drive-thru lanes on Thanksgiving and motivations behind the culinary shift. We conducted a Google Trends analysis to find the most sought after fast food chain, for a state-by-state breakdown; and surveyed 2,000 Americans to unveil the reasons behind their turkey to “finger lickin’ good” fast food swap.
- McDonald’s reigns as America’s #1 Thanksgiving take-out order, according to 16 states
- Wendy’s is the second most-searched fast food chain during Thanksgiving, winning the hearts of six states
- Burger King is the third most sought after to-go Thanksgiving meal, nationwide
- The #1 reason Americans are swapping traditional Thanksgiving meals for fast food is due to laziness (21.7%)
McDonald’s the new Thanksgiving meal? America is lovin’ it
Whether you’re looking to cut back on grocery costs or craving a speedy, hassle-free meal to complement your Thanksgiving festivities, here’s what the nation plans to munch on this holiday.
“Ba da ba ba ba, I’m lovin’ it,” echoes from 16 states across the nation as McDonald’s is the #1 top-searched fast food chain on Thanksgiving. While McDonald’s doesn’t serve juicy turkey or delicious stuffing, they’ll still satisfy your cravings. You can easily swap out the turkey for a tasty burger of your choice, mashed potatoes for crispy french fries or hash browns, and dessert for their classic baked apple pies. Ronald McDonald’s got your back this Thanksgiving holiday!
turkey beef? Wendy’s clinches the silver medal as the second most googled fast food chain for the big holiday, according to six states. As the Thanksgiving fast food frenzy is an unconventional twist, what better way to embrace this new trend than with Wendy’s famous squared burgers? Top it off with a Pumpkin Spice Frosty to really encapsulate the fall spirit.
Hopping on the untraditional bandwagon, five other states embrace the “have it your way” slogan by Burger King as it’s the third most popular fast food chain, as per our Google Trends analysis. With the famous BK combo, you can quite literally “build your own Thanksgiving meal.” So, why not eat like a king this Thanksgiving, by whop-ping out the turkey for the signature Whopper?
KFC’s “finger lickin’ good” chains caught the taste buds of three states, making it the fourth most popular chain for the Thanksgiving holiday. But the competition really sizzles with In-N-Out, Bojangles and Popeyes sharing a three-way tie for fifth place, nationwide.
Meanwhile, in sixth, is a six-way tie featuring Jack in the box, Wawa, Domino’s, White Castle, Whataburger, and Papa John’s. What a mouthwatering medley of options to have this Thanksgiving!
Why Americans are opting for fast food on Thanksgiving
Out with the stuffing, in with the fries! But why are Americans skipping the turkey for the everyday convenience of fast food? We dished out a survey to 2,000 Americans to spill the tea on this sizzling trend.
Approximately 21.7% of our respondents confessed to being too lazy, when it comes to cooking a grand Thanksgiving meal for their friends and/or family. Following closely behind, another 20.4% don’t have the time to prepare a traditional turkey dinner. Given how most households spend the entire day cooking up a storm, this comes as no surprise!
Another 17.8% skip the holiday all together, but celebrate their love for fast food instead. 15.8% find it cheaper to buy take-out, while 7.9% deem fast food as less food waste. Additionally, 5.9% have plans to travel during the holiday.
However, 10.5% of respondents cooked-up ‘other’ reasons. Some answers shared were: “just trying something different this year,” “family will be out of town,” and “we get takeout every year, as there’s just the two of us and it’s more relaxing.” Who knew you could have a relaxing Thanksgiving!
It’s clear that Americans’ love convenience and fast food, according to our study. So, whether you’re feeling a bit lazy, miles away from family, or looking to spice up your Thanksgiving traditions this year, why not give the Thanksgiving turkey some competition by driving to your closest fast-food chain this holiday?
To find the most searched fast food chain, we used Google Trends to analyze the search volumes for ‘fast food’ chains in the week leading up to Thanksgiving day in 2022.
We also conducted a nationwide survey of 2,000 U.S. residents in November 2023, to discover their reasons behind the Thanksgiving meal swap. The average age of respondents was 38.2 years old. The representative sample comprised of 56.0% female, 41.5% male, 2.1% non-binary, 0.3% transgender, and 0.1% other.
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