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Restaurant chain’s decision to open on Thanksgiving draws backlash

More restaurants are joining the nation’s largest retailers in opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day, but their decision to bring in employees on such a family-focused holiday is drawing a backlash on social media.

Bob Evans restaurants are the latest to announce they will open on the holiday — a decision that drew immediate scorn on its Facebook page, with comments such as this: “Shame on you all for being open on Thanksgiving day! … There isn’t one legitimate excuse, other than making more money, for having your employees come in on such a family-oriented holiday.”

Another commenter on the Bob Evans Facebook page wrote that she was “very disappointed that a ‘family’ company is taking time with family away from their employees.” The Facebook page of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store restaurants, which are also scheduled to be open on Thanksgiving Day, contains similar comments critical of the decision to open on the holiday.

Bob Evans spokeswoman Margaret M. Standing said the company “realized the decision may not be popular with some guests or employees … (but) after surveying the competitive landscape and looking at the data on the changing ways that Americans celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday now, we realized that limited hours on Thanksgiving was a worthwhile pursuit to at least explore.”

A National Restaurant Association survey suggested that as many as 33 million people nationwide will utilize restaurants on Thanksgiving Day this year. The restaurant association’s consumer survey, conducted Nov. 14-17, suggested that 15 million Americans plan to visit a restaurant for a Thanksgiving meal this year, an additional 14 million intend to order parts of their Thanksgiving meal from a restaurant to be eaten at their home or someone else’s home, and 4 million plan to order a full takeout Thanksgiving meal from a restaurant.

And many restaurants are eager to serve those hungry customers. Several chain restaurants in addition to Bob Evans and Cracker Barrel are scheduled to be open, including Max & Erma’s and Golden Corral. And more than a dozen independent restaurants in southwest and west-central Ohio, from the Golden Lamb in Lebanon to the Mel-O-Dee in New Carlisle, will be open on Thursday. Click here for a complete list of Miami Valley restaurants that are scheduled to be open on Thanksgiving Day.

Some Bob Evans customers praised the chain’s decision. “Thank you for opening on Thanksgiving from all of us that have medical problems, are unable to cook a big dinner and don’t have family to visit,” one commenter wrote. Another said, “I disagree with all you negative people about being open on Thanksgiving. With this economy, it is a great opportunity to earn extra money. Many shoppers will be out, and the tips will be good.”

Standing said Bob Evans is first asking which employees want to volunteer for shifts on Thanksgiving Day before filling its staffing needs. “Many of our employees are looking forward to the holiday pay and the extra hours,” she said.

Nearly all Bob Evans restaurants are scheduled to be open only until 2 p.m., which will “allow our employees to spend the afternoon at home,” Standing said. However, the Bob Evans restaurant in Troy is among a handful in the country — the others are in Flint, Mich. and the Philadelphia area — that will stay open later. The Troy location will stay open until 7 p.m. on the holiday.

“This is our first year being open on Thanksgiving Day,” Standing said, “and we wanted to limit hours and menu to get an understanding of whether our guests are interested in joining us this day.”

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