Spencer Fane LLP Logo

How Your Thanksgiving Feast Compares to a Construction Project

I was recently thinking about how hard it must be to get everything right in the kitchen on Thanksgiving. Shopping for the food, cooking it, setting the table, dealing with relatives, and of course, cleaning up. Kudos to anyone who has wrestled with this task. Our Country thanks you for your service-without you, we would be France.

After some consideration of how much work goes into the Thanksgiving meal, I realized it is just like any other construction project. All the key players are on the site, but we know them by different names. Planning and understanding your workforce are the key components to a successful Thanksgiving meal.

Owner

In my family, the owner of the Thanksgiving meal project is my father. He wants to have the Thanksgiving meal “substantially completed” on or before noon. This will allow him plenty of time to watch football after the meal, take a nap, and eat a second meal sometime in the afternoon. In your family, the owner of the Thanksgiving meal project may be someone else but generally they all have the same criteria: DELIVER THE PROJECT ON TIME AND ON BUDGET.

General Contractor

The general contractor of the Thanksgiving meal project is likely married to the owner. In my house there are never any bids accepted on the project and it is just assumed my stepmother will be awarded the contract. In her role as general contractor, she will order materials from local suppliers (Hy-Vee is where she does her trading) and she will engage subcontractors to complete various portions of the meal.

Subcontractors

The subcontractors generally consist of my aunts or my sisters. Sometimes a subcontractor will be an unrelated guest but they are generally only awarded small contracts (i.e. bring a relish dish or a bottle of wine). I imagine that at one point my stepmother was a subcontractor for her mother on the annual Thanksgiving meal project but her responsibilities have grown over the years and she is now running her own project.

There is a list of approved subcontractors. This list is not necessarily written down but is known within the “industry” about which subcontractors can be trusted to deliver. Because so much of the Thanksgiving meal relies on timing, it is imperative that only approved subcontractors be used on the project. A subcontractor that shows up late with the “green bean casserole” or “pumpkin pie” can ruin the entire project’s delivery and upset the owner. Not a good thing, even if there are no liquidated damages on the project.

Construction Manager

My stepmother also acts as the construction manager. In essence, the Thanksgiving meal’s project delivery method for my family is the “Construction Manager At-Risk” model. She works at coordinating the different trades (see subcontractors above) to ensure that that the hot dishes have the appropriate oven space, that those subcontractors needing stove time have access, and that the desserts are staged in a guarded area away from my nieces (look for a separate blog post on construction site theft in the coming months).

Design Professionals

My family has been working off an old set of plans for the Thanksgiving meal feast. These plans were drawn up in 1621 by the Pilgrims at Plymouth and fortunately for us, the architects/engineers of those plans transferred all rights in those “instruments of service” to the people of the United States of America. Thanks architects and engineers!

Change Orders

No construction project would be complete without change orders and the Thanksgiving meal project is no different. I can tell you from personal experience that change orders will not be approved by either the Owner or the General Contractor in my household.

One year my brother and I decided that we would deep fry a turkey for the Thanksgiving meal project. We presented a “submittal” to the general contractor, with the requested change order but were summarily rejected. The reasoning was as follows: (1) we were not “approved” subcontractors and couldn’t be trusted to deliver on time; (2) even if we became “approved” subcontractors our insurance policy limits could not cover the inevitable turkey fryer fire; and (3) the “deep-fried” turkey did not match the plans and specs developed in 1621. Apparently, only an oven-baked turkey would satisfy the Owner. Unbelievable. If you have ever tasted a deep-fried turkey, you know this is an acceptable substitute for an oven-baked turkey.

Please enjoy your Thanksgiving meal feast and remember to thank all the owners, general contractors, and subcontractors in your life that make Thanksgiving such a special day.