2020 has already been one of the spookiest years on record, for a number of reasons, but that won’t stop millions of Americans from dressing up and decorating and telling ghost stories around the backyard fire pit in celebration of the creepiest of holidays.
Yes, it’s almost Halloween, and while this year will certainly look different, to date there have been over 179 million people celebrating and over $9 billion spent to induce goosebumps and fill our children’s buckets with sweet, sweet treats.
Halloween has long been a commercial and retail powerhouse for American businesses, and that trend has only increased over the years. So, what are some of the best ways you can harness the spirit of Halloween to engage your patrons as they seek shelter from things that go bump in the night?
Here are nine unique ways your restaurant can engage patrons for Halloween.
Decorate your restaurant
Nothing says “bah, humbug” like walking into a business in October and finding no spooky skeletons or pumpkins or spider webs dangling from the rafters. Don’t be the proverbial wet blanket. People who love Halloween really LOVE Halloween! And you can bet that they’ll be much more likely to patronize an establishment that helps them enjoy that spooky atmosphere to the fullest.
Scarify your menu
Frankenstein-shaped cookies, pancakes decorated like jack-o-lanterns, custom cocktails with frightfully inventive names, and, of course, pumpkin spice everything—a seasonal revamp of your menu to include Halloween-centric dishes is another fun way to give your patrons something new to enjoy while enveloping them in the holiday spirit.
Tickets to Halloween attractions
Halloween means pumpkin patches, hayrides, walking ghost tours, haunted houses, and any number of other frightfully entertaining diversions for kids and adults alike. One way to amp up the fun during the holiday season is to give away tickets to local attractions like those listed above.
Simply purchase a small supply of tickets, add the names of every customer who purchases a meal or spends a set amount of money to the prize barrel, and have a daily drawing to find the lucky winner.
Participate in local events
Fall is also the time for a vast array of other special events, many of which involve food or drink. Festivals, food fairs, beer and wine tastings, Oktoberfests—tis the season for autumnal get-togethers, and if you’re not participating you’re missing out on a great way of getting your brand out in front of a public that might not be familiar with you.
Not only will you and your unparalleled cuisine be front and center at the event itself, but the organizers of these events will generally feature participating businesses in all of their promotional materials.
In addition to festive decorations, another great way to create a little seasonal hype around your brand is to invest in some fun, inventive Halloween-themed packaging or plating alternatives. Delightfully ghoulish takeout boxes, sandwich wrappers, napkins, or anything else you can think of are all great ways to engage customers and put a smile on their faces throughout the holiday season.
There are many ways in which restaurants could take advantage of the costume mania that accompanies the Halloween season. Of course, there’s always the tried and true costume contest on the big day itself, with discounts for all who wear a costume or prizes for the most inventive or spookiest disguise.
You can also encourage customers to post pictures of themselves in full costume on social media using your hashtag and reward them for doing so with freebies or discounts. You could even create and sell or give away your own costumes based on the theme of your restaurant.
Get in on the fun
But don’t let the customers have all the fun! Encourage your employees to wear costumes as well to take that festive atmosphere to the next level. You might even let customers vote on the best employee costumes and reward the winning employee at the end of the night. It’s a great way to engage your customers, while also motivating staff.
Everybody likes to get something for nothing. Offer a free drink for those who follow you on social media, free cookies for kids, or a discount for any guest who greets you with a “boo!” Freebies are the way to every customer’s Telltale Heart.
And, of course, whatever you do, be sure to feature it all on social media. None of these tips will make any difference if nobody knows about them, and social media is the best way to tell them.
But it’s not just what you share. It’s what your customers share about you. Encourage and reward those reposts, retweets, Instagram pics of your food, and user reviews! It’s the easiest, most cost-effective way to get your name out there and let people know that yours is the spookiest of Halloween destinations.