Published on: November 20, 2012by Michael Sansolo
When my family gathers on Thursday to celebrate the holiday, there is one thing I know everyone will be thankful for: that I didn’t cook dinner.
Actually there are two reasons why they’ll all be thankful for that. First, my wife is an outstanding cook and she likes to rise to the challenge of any holiday. This is a major reason why my kids and I research all the world’s religions to find new occasions and meals for her to try.
But second and more importantly, they all know I’m a terrible cook. I’m adequate around the barbecue, but beyond that…well, I’m no Kevin Coupe. (Seriously, Kevin’s a great cook.)
Here’s the thing: I’m betting there are more people out closer to my skills than my wife’s and these big family meal times often mean endless stress. Because in addition to cooking the turkey, there is the challenge of getting all those other items on the table at the same time.
No doubt this is why prepared holiday meals are getting so popular. But that’s no excuse to miss the emerging opportunity to help shoppers through these challenging times. Especially when the examples are out there so publicly.
Mother Nature Network, one of those strange websites I follow, reported last week on the new lifeline being thrown to cooks like me. The New York Times is offering a service through which people can use Twitter to send in questions to the Times’ food experts. The experts promise to respond quickly. (You can read the story here.)
Honestly, I think that’s pretty cool and at the same time, as a longtime advocate for and observer of the food industry, I find it pretty infuriating. I don’t know of a single supermarket company that promises to provide “all the news that’s fit to print” on its website. Sure, the Times is an excellent source of information, but when it comes to Thanksgiving, shouldn’t the food industry stand tallest?
But I’m not sure it’s happening. If you Google “Thanksgiving meal help” you get all kinds of information including where the Dallas Cowboys will serve holiday meals. Add the word “supermarket” to the search and you get pricing specials from a lot of different companies and, thankfully, menu tips from Wegman’s, Publix, Ralphs and a few others. (Wegmans, always the pathfinder, is also running Twitter help sessions with its executive chef.)
The simple truths are these: a Google search is the way most people look for things these days and supermarkets should dominate any search on Thanksgiving meal preparation. They sell all the ingredients, after all. (By the way, video instructions on how to prepare an entire Thanksgiving meal including wine, table settings and music, can also be found on YouTube. This, too, is a compilation that supermarket websites could both build and feature.)
This is a perfect time to bring that value-added component that companies trumpet constantly. This is a time for the industry’s food experts - chefs, dietitians, etc. - to step up and guide the unknowing cooks out there through the entire process: from menu planning to clean up. Let’s face up to the reality that many cooks out there don’t know how to season or set a wonderful table or time dishes to arrive together.
And certainly many of them don’t know the basics of food safety that are so essential and, in truth, so easy to learn and follow.
All that means this is a holiday season of opportunity. Because the better the industry helps them, the better they’ll cook. And the better they cook, the more they’ll like us the day after. And the more they like us the day after, the more thankful the industry will be for creating new loyalty, sales and profits.
Think of it as a Thanksgiving miracle.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
- KC's View:
- Just for the record ... Michael overstates my cooking talents. I'm pretty decent at getting supper on the table, mostly because I like to eat. But that's about it.