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More people eating Christmas meal out

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Traditionally the reserve of the hotel sector, dining out on Christmas day is on the up in the UK, with Christmas day bookings rising 20% year-on-year, online bookings site Bookatable.com said in a report.

Byron Lang, guest services director for the Gordon Ramsay Group, which opens a number of sites on 25 December, says that the popularity and demand for bookings on Christmas Day is growing year-on-year particularly in sites with a strong neighbourhood following.

“It’s nice to be able to offer the locals and regular guests a special Christmas without the stresses of food shopping, cooking and washing up,” he says

As eating out becomes an increasingly important feature of consumers’ daily lives and traditions, an increasing number are letting someone else spend 25 December in the kitchen.

According to Bookatable’s research, 23% of British people have eaten out on Christmas Day, and a further 35% would consider it in the future, with the research putting the surge down to stress contributors such as cooking and cleaning.

But at whose expense? Foodservice Consultant Duncan Ackery describes the phenomenon as “grim”.

“I can’t help but feel that the people who work in our industry give their lives at what would be generally considered to be traditional leisure time. I can’t help but feel that on Christmas day they should be with their families,” he says

But, says Lang, for the Ramsay Group finding staff to work on Christmas Day isn’t as hard as you’d expect.

“We generally offer the choice of working either Christmas or New Years Eve, and the divide is often equal. Many employees in our industry are living away from their home country, and being at work with friends and colleagues can be more enjoyable than being away from family.

“All our restaurants treat their staff to a special Christmas breakfast. Just before the booked guests arrive, all the team sit down together for a special meal, some champagne and carols.”

In fact, says Lang, often the biggest challenge that comes with opening on Christmas day is getting staff to work. With no public transport, all employees are picked up and dropped off by taxi.

According to a CBS report released ahead of Thanksgiving this year, the trend has extended to the USA, too, with 33 million Americans, or more than 10%, expected to eat out on “Turkey Day”.