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Holiday Shopper Hunger Helps Restaurants

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- That midshopping peppermint mocha or post-mall pile of fried onions may be the least of a consumer's holiday shopping worries, but they have a big impact on the restaurants serving them.

According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurants' outlook for this holiday season is better than it's been during the past two years, and an increased appetite for restaurant gift cards is a big reason America's more than 1 million restaurants and food service outlets are in a particularly festive mood. The National Retail Federation says 57% of shoppers will be buying gift cards this year, potentially giving restaurants an entree-sized portion of the take.

"An important factor to driving sales during the holidays is restaurant gift cards and gift certificates," says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the National Restaurant Association, in a statement. "Our research shows that 78% of consumers say they would like to receive a restaurant gift card or certificate on gift occasions, making them ideal gifts for almost everyone."

That doesn't mean restaurant chains aren't spicing up their holiday offerings and tweaking hours to woo weary and hungry holiday shoppers. TheStreet took a look at Starbucks and six sit-down food chains to see who's adding to the holiday menu and whose staff will be home for the holidays:
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