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Carving Out a Profitable Halloween

October is finally here, which means Halloween is just around the corner. To get your customers into the spirit of the season, start carving out some holiday-themed promotions and events that will pack in the profits and boost customer engagement.

Halloween is a holiday that appeals to customers of all ages. Not only is it the unofficial start of the holiday season, but it’s a great time to create connections with the community.

Your competitors may have already started stringing lights, displaying pumpkins and mums, and developing Halloween-themed social media posts to drive traffic. Stay ahead of the game by incorporating your own unique recipes, cocktails, and desserts to your October menu, getting your crew excited, and developing brand-cohesive promotions that show your customers a more relatable side of your business.

To get your team and your customers excited for the frightful fun, we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves that are sure to be treat.

#1 Get Creative with Cocktails and Mocktails

Not only do your customers want to see you and your dining room dressed for the occasion, but they’d get a kick out of all-dressed-up drinks as well.

If you’re looking to attract more customers to your bar menu this Halloween, consider creating a LTO themed cocktail menu, only available until October 31st. Draw inspiration from the classics like witches, pumpkins, zombies, and skeletons, craft a few Halloween-colored beers, or get creative with spooky cocktail combinations.

Keep your list limited to 5 cocktails (offering sober versions of every drink) and do your best to come up with recipes that incorporate mixes and liquors you already have on hand.

Here are just a few ideas to spice up your cocktail menu.

Halloween Menu Ideas

#2 Dress Up Your Menu

October is the month of pumpkins, spice, and everything nice, and dressing up your menu can go a long way to get your customers excited about your menu.

Seasonal produce is at the heart of October restaurant promotions. Take advantage of the abundant autumn harvest as inspiration for creative twists on appetizers, cocktails, entrees, and desserts.

Local farm stands offer the ingredients for festive decor with multi-colored pumpkins, oddly shaped gourds, bright red cranberries, and colorful squash, and provide a rainbow of options for menu items for everything from soups to sauces, and apps to desserts. For a seriously sustainable touch, use the harvest to its fullest by carving bowls out of pumpkins and squash to serve stews, soups, salads, and dips.

Jalapeño Ghost Poppers
Jalapeño Ghost Poppers

#3 Create Spooky Delivery-Only Specials

Boost your off-premise operations by tying promotional events to Halloween-themed delivery only menu specials:

  • Jalapeño Ghost Poppers

  • Make-Your-Own Ghost Pizza

  • Vampire Veggie Burgers

  • Haunted Hallo-weiner Dogs

  • Freddy French Fries

  • Psycho Subs

  • Michael Myers' Mozzarella Sticks

  • Chucky Chicken Nuggets

  • Rocky Horror Wraps

  • Black Mac 'n Cheese

Tip: Offer a free goody bag with order from your kids' menu.

#4 A Pumpkin at Every Table

To create some real social media madness, create this simple and inexpensive activity. Place a small pumpkin on every table with markers to decorate it. Or go all out by including child-friendly carving tools. If you go the carving route, be sure to cover the tables with kraft paper to make cleaning up a breeze.

Letting your followers know that your restaurant is offering free pumpkins with every meal is sure to generate some excitement with your base. Be sure to have your servers offer to take pix of your customers’ creations and encourage everyone to share on their social media channels. For less than $1 per table, you’ll reap scarily huge attention for your restaurant.

#5 Horror Movie Theme Night

Halloween is a holiday inspired by wicked witches, not-so-friendly ghosts, and frightful characters. From zombie attacks to chainsaw murderers, classic horror movies offer an array of themes that will ignite your customers' spooky spirits.

Have your staff vote on a movie and show it on a big movie screen on the night of the event.

Offer a free Halloween-inspired cocktails and mocktails- like a Black Lemonade, Rocky Horror Rum Russian, Texas Chainsaw Tequila Sunrise, or Dawn of the Dead Daiquiri for customers who dresses the part.

Top 15 Scary Movie Classics of All Time

  1. Texas Chainsaw Massacre

  2. Poltergeist

  3. Halloween

  4. The Shining

  5. The Omen

  6. The Exorcist

  7. Night of the Living Dead

  8. Nightmare on Elm Street

  9. Scream

  10. Psycho

  11. The Blair Witch Project

  12. The Ring

  13. Pet Cemetery

  14. The Fly

  15. Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Tip: Hold a family-friendly movie showing during the day and a spookier adult-themed party after dark.

#6 Pumpkin Painting Event

Setting aside a day to hold a pumpkin painting contest is a fun way to generate excitement with the community and get families into your restaurant for an afternoon.

Provide pumpkins and child-friendly markers and paints, invite local artists, and offer great prizes. Most importantly, be sure to take pics of every creation, no matter how simple to share on social media. When parents see their child’s creation on Instagram, it’s an invaluable promotional tool.

#7 Do-It-Up With Decor

Going all out with decorating for Halloween should be saved for the days leading up to the holiday, but October is a great month to decorate with natural elements that bring the outdoors in. Simple and inexpensive ideas to create an autumn ambiance:

  • Black and white pumpkins give a “grown-up” vibe to a Halloween table setting

  • Cover the floor of your dining room with artificial autumn leaves.

  • Create fall harvest centerpieces using sunflowers, gourds, and wheatgrass.

  • Burlap Table Runners give an immediate feel of fall to any dining room table.

  • Decorate with bowls of colorful food like oranges, apples, pears, and cranberries

#8 Host an Online Costume Contest

Costume parties are the quintessential Halloween event and can range from family fun costume contests to spooky adult festivities. To reach a wider audience, host an online costume contest on your social media platforms. Ask customers to submit pictures of their creative and spooky outfits and have your followers vote on their favorite costume the night before Halloween. Announce the winners on October 31st and offer a prize.

#9 Throw a Thriller Night

Go back in time by hosting an 80s ‘Thriller”’ night. Ask your staff to dress in iconic costumes and invite customers to do the same. And don't forget the line dance! To really get the party started, teach your staff the infamous Thriller line dance and hold a contest for the best dancers. Offer all guests a discount for their next visit or a free menu item for participating.

Go all out and hire a DJ to play music from the world-renowned album or host a showing of the movie on a big screen. Be sure to promote the party on your social media platforms ahead of the event and post a hilarious video of the line dance contest on TikTok to generate excitement and boost your restaurant's online presence. .

#10 Host a Remote Pet Costume Contest

Hold a remote pet costume contest by inviting people to submit photos of their pets dressed up for Halloween and offer prizes for the best costume. One of the most budget-friendly ways to promote your restaurant and generate social media attention, pet parents will love sharing photos of their cute little monsters. Offer a prize for free treats or discounts on their owner’s next meal for anyone who posts pictures on Instagram. Create a hashtag for your event so they can tag it in their posts.

If your restaurant is pet-friendly, host a pet costume parade and offer prizes to everyone who participates. Be sure to have plenty of treats on hand to fill the pup’s trick-or-treat bags.

Take Away

With the gift-buying season beginning earlier than ever, Halloween offers ample opportunities to engage with hungry shoppers, hype your online menu, and get creative with Instagram-worthy events. By capitalizing on the spooky season, you'll carve out a profitable start to the busy holiday season.

By Eileen Strauss


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