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What’s Up with Friendsgiving?

According to a new study conducted by Penn Schoen Berland for T.G.I. Fridays this month, 4 out of 5 Millennials still find a lot of meaning and importan...

Frazer Jones
|Nov 26|magazine11 min read

According to a new study conducted by Penn Schoen Berland for T.G.I. Friday’s this month, 4 out of 5 Millennials still find a lot of meaning and importance in a traditional Thanksgiving feast with their families. But another festivity has become just as important over the last few years: Friendsgiving.

It might be home-for-the-holidays high school friends getting together for drinks on Wednesday night, or a gathering of new friends celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday together—Friendsgiving comes in many forms. But altogether it’s a trend that has been growing in prominence and participation among Millennials. The Penn Schoen Berland study indicates that 25 percent of identified Millennial consumers have plans to attend a Friendsgiving celebration this year, twice the rate of the general population.

“Fridays has a great base of Millennial-minded guests and Millennials themselves,” says Matt Durbin, Vice President of Marketing, Beverage and Bar Innovation for T.G.I. Fridays. “They’ve long been coming to Fridays for Friendsgiving-type occasions, so we just wanted to learn more about the trend.” So the bar and casual dining franchise conducted the study as a way to look further into the trend, how it’s progressing, and what it means for social gathering spots like itself.

The study uncovered some interesting facts and statistics about the trend:

  • It’s a Weekend Affair: Thanksgiving may only be one day, but Friendsgiving casts a wider net. “The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving is one of the biggest bar nights of the year,” says Durbin. “But it also transcends through the weekend. We’ll see those trends on Wednesday, on Friday, and all the way through the weekend as guests dial up their social calendar and start to go out more particularly Millennial guests.”
  • Sharable Food and Snacks are Key: Sharing a feast is central to the Thanksgiving holiday, and that concept of sharing extends outward to the Friendsgiving phenomenon as well. T.G.I. Fridays found that its Endless Appetizer offering is especially on point for seasonal events like Friendsgiving. “It fits with Millennials’ desire to snack and enjoy social bar environments, along with great lineup of signature appetizers that we have,” says Durbin.
  • Millennials Value Friends and Family: For many consumers in the Millennial age group, Friendsgiving or traditional Thanksgiving is not an either-or situation. “I think the concept of Friendsgiving really just brings to life what Millennials like to do in terms of going out in packs and traveling in groups,” says Durbin. “It was interesting to us that Millennials love to spend time with their family, as you saw – 76 percent of Millennials still want to celebrate Thanksgiving with their family – but 25 percent of them will also attend a Friendsgiving event as well.”

But perhaps the most interest observation was that Friendsgiving isn’t as new a trend as everyone might think.

“Absolutely, Friendsgiving is hot—but I think Friendsgiving has long been in place,” says Durbin. “In other words, [young people] have always been gathering with their friends around the Thanksgiving holiday. The concept of formalizing it and the term ‘Friendsgiving’ certainly brings it to new light, but the trend has been going on for a long time.”

If this trend has always been happening, why is everybody talking about Friendsgiving now? That’s simple: because Millennials are phenomenal at elevating concepts into trends.

“Millennials are thought leaders,” explains Durbin. They like to travel in packs, they’re a little different from previous consumer generations, and what they’re doing in terms of socializing around the holidays is a little bit trendier than what previous generations were doing.”

So perhaps all of the Thanksgiving episodes on Friends had a bigger impact on the Millennial generation than anyone could have anticipated, creating this spike in the tradition. But while the term to describe it may be new, at heart it’s just that—a tradition all its own, and one that will keep young people gathering and celebrating their chosen families over drinks and dinners well into the future.

“I think it’s a trend that’s been going on for a long time,” says Durbin. “It was formalized with the catchy term, but before that, guests have been coming to Fridays for social experiences the night before Thanksgiving for 50 years. I love the concept of Friendsgiving because it fits exactly with what Fridays is all about. But I would submit that it’s a trend that’s been going on for a long time.”