BOSTON (MainStreet) -- Holiday dinner may be the one time each year the whole family gathers around the table, but that doesn't mean a host has to sacrifice the rest of his or her time with them to make it happen.
This isn't the Depression-era Midwest, and there are far more holiday dinner alternatives available to revelers and their loved ones than Peking duck from the Chinese restaurant in A Christmas Story. Not only will some restaurant chains cook a family's holiday dinner for them but, as folks who don't celebrate Christmas know all too well, there are a handful of options for dining out Christmas night as well.
Given the costs and labor associated with with getting the family to the dinner table that night, even cooks who consider the holiday meal a labor of love may look longingly at a catering menu. Holiday shoppers plan to spend an average of $105 on food this year, up from $91 in 2004 and $86 as recently as 2008, according to the National Retail Federation. That's after serving up a Thanksgiving dinner that the American Form Bureau Federation estimated at an average of $49.20 for 10 people, or 13% more than families spent last year on turkey (which cost $4 more alone this Thanksgiving), stuffing, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and other holiday fare.
Though Thanksgiving turkey gives way to Christmas ham in some holiday households, the price of that ham has porked up by more than 20% since last holiday season, according to the CME Group's Lean Hog Index. Those rising costs at the supermarket may have something to do with the 31% of holiday travelers who told American Express' (AXP) (Stock Quote: AXP) Spending and Savings Tracker that they planned to dine out during their holiday trip home, up from 20% last year.
(AXP) For holiday hosts who want to spend more time enjoying holiday dinner with their family than preparing it for them, we've found five chains that have no problem doing the cooking while they get the credit: