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TYLER, TX (KLTV) -
While the smell of a cooking turkey and the sight of casseroles galore may have filled your home this Thanksgiving, for many Americans it just isn't worth the work.
The National Restaurant Association reported nearly 14 Million Americans ate out on Thanksgiving last year, and this year seems to be no different.
Just one glance at this crowded patio and you could understand why there wasn't a parking spot in sight at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Tyler on Thursday.
"We have parties from 2 to 13 right now. We'll probably have parties as large as 30 later tonight," says Tyler Cracker Barrel Manager Darwin Noble.
Large groups of people were all lining up for the traditional trimmings... which patrons say are well worth the price and the wait.
"It's just a hassle to cook for three or four people. For Cracker Barrel's food, it just makes more sense to come up here and get all the trimmings. You don't have to spend all of your time in the kitchen, no clean up and it's just easy in and out," says Stefanie Smith of Lindale.
Smith's family is eating out for turkey day for the first time. For others, eating out on Thanksgiving has become a welcome routine.
"We had a great time. The food was wonderful. This is our second year to come. It's kind of a tradition. There were seven of us today," says Margaret Baldwin.
Baldwin says she and her dinner party have learned to show up early, "very early," she suggests.
After all, isn't turkey just turkey as long as you're with the people you love?
"If you've got family and friends with you, it's better because you get to visit more instead of spending all of that time cooking and cleaning," Baldwin says.
Over at Ryan's Buffet in south Tyler, the scene was no different.
"I'm expecting 1,400 people and I've already got 600 down, so I've got quite a few to go," says Ryan's Food Production Manager Marisela Marquez.
Marquez has been stocking the food she knew Ryan's would need to feed this crowd since the first of the month.
"We have it already here. All they have to do is just come, sit, enjoy their meal and go," she says.
And if there's just something special about eating your Thanksgiving meal in the comfort of your home, at Cracker Barrel, you can do that too.
"We sell in groups of 6, bulk to-go orders, and they get all of the trimmings just like they were eating here. It's served family style," says Darwin Noble, Cracker Barrel manager.
"I think next year we might call ahead and get take out. Then I can pretend like I cooked it and put it on my table," says Stefanie Smith.
Ryan's in Tyler is open on Thanksgiving until 7 p.m. Cracker Barrel will close at 10 p.m. For all of the Black Friday shoppers in search of a midnight snack, Applebee's will be open until 2 a.m.