With the holiday rush in full swing, local restaurateurs are enjoying the increase in business as residents seek ways to simplify the holiday season.
"Oh good gracious, it's been so busy you wouldn't believe it," said Vandy's Bar-B-Que owner Tony Sammons. "The Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we smoked more than 100 turkeys for people, in addition to 25 hams."
Sammons said customers will bring a thawed turkey to his restaurant location at the corner of Vine and Walnut Streets ready to go on his legendary 65-year-old barbeque pit.
"Customers have to bring in their turkey or ham ready to be cooked," he said. "The turkey can be no more than 13 pounds, and the ham can be a little larger. There is a weight limit because we have to make sure that they are completely cooked by early afternoon on the day that they are picked up. We put them on the smoker about 3 o'clock in the morning."
Sammons said he has noticed an increasing demand for his smoker each year.
"This is the most we have ever done," he said. "We are certainly happy to smoke turkeys and hams for folks. In fact, we have even smoked whole hogs for people. They may buy one from Ellis Meats and bring it to us, and that is just fine as long as we know ahead of time. It just seems to me that people are getting busier and busier, and having someone else take care of something like cooking a turkey or ham just makes preparing a holiday meal easier."
Thomas Rushing is the owner of Boyd's BBQ on Northside Drive in Statesboro, and his restaurant also smokes turkeys and hams for its customers.
"This holiday season we did about 25 turkeys and a number of hams," Rushing said. "I bought the business a year and a half ago, and the Wednesday before Thanksgiving this year was the busiest day that we have had since I purchased it. We didn't have any extra help, but we managed. It was a great day."
Rushing attributed his record-setting sales last Wednesday to the volume of "take home" side dishes that people ordered.
"Oh my goodness, we sold a ton of dressing," he said. "I mean, a lot of dressing. In addition to that, people bought green beans, rolls, cranberry sauce and some other sides as well. I certainly wouldn't mention any names, but we had a number of customers that purchased their entire Thanksgiving meal from us, and we are very grateful. You get the sense that folks want to spend more time with their family and less time in the kitchen. And, that's okay with us."
Sammons said he expects to smoke a number of hams — more so than turkeys —for Christmas this year.
"Hams are the popular choice over Christmas holidays," Sammons said. "The difference is we can handle a larger ham than turkey, up to 20 pounds or so. But you still have to bring them ready to go on the smoker, and bring them in the day before. People can start reserving their spot in the pit on Dec. 1. I would encourage folks to go ahead and do that because we only have so much room, and it does get very, very busy."