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10 Wicked Ways to a Profitable Halloween

Halloween celebrates fun, food, and imagination. It’s a holiday that brings families, friends, and neighbors together to enjoy the final days of fall before hunkering down for the winter season. It’s also a nostalgic holiday, reminding folks of all ages about fond childhood memories.

From haunted houses to costume parties and from pumpkin carving to hayrides, there’s something magical about this bewitching holiday. Marking the start of the holiday rush, restaurants can make the most of the season with Halloween-themed promotions that tap into the emotions customers experience as the big night approaches.

Halloween is a perfect opportunity to welcome loyal guests and attract new customers looking for dining spots that celebrate the season in a big way. After two years of Halloween lockdown, Americans are excited to celebrate Halloween bigger and better than ever in 2022.

To help you make the most out of Halloween, we’ve come up with these frightfully fun tips to get you started.

#1 Know Your Target Audience

A keen awareness of your target audience is key when creating a Halloween promotion. While you’ll likely want to draw from your regular customer base, seasonal promotions can also be a great opportunity to attract a new market segment, such as college students or GenZ professionals.

#2 Examine Your Existing Inventory

If you’re still running on a skeleton staff (no pun intended), rather than making outlandish demands by creating a brand new set of menu items, stick to promotions that are based on your current inventory and menu. This isn’t the time to put unnecessary strain on your staff or your budget so think about ideas that enhance your current menu with a Halloween twistl. The best promotions lean into what your staff does best, using familiar ingredients in innovative ways.

#3 Friendly Competition

When creating a Halloween promotion, take a look at what other restaurants in the area are doing. Build a promotion that minimizes competition and complements other businesses’ ideas instead of detracting from them. Don’t hold a costume contest on the same night as your neighbor, for example.

Consider creating a promotion that complements your competition's event. Think hot chocolate and late-night snacks after your competitor's costume party. This could help attract a whole new set of customers using cross-promotional tactics with your neighboring businesses.

#4 Generate Excitement with LTO Promotion

Creating a promotion with an expiration date urges customers to visit or order from your restaurant. October 31st is an easy-to-remember date around which to create a frightful frenzy. Miami’s Krazy Vegan is taking full advantage of the excitement around the Halloween season by promoting a month-long 10% discount on social media.

#5 Create a Theme Night

Halloween is inspired by cultural icons, classic scary movies, and fairytales. From superheroes to vampires, each theme offers an array of options around which you can plan a promotion. If you’d prefer to go with a more subtle vibe, choose a theme around the colors or the season and fall harvest decor.

Offer a free Halloween-inspired beverage like an Alcohol-Free Apple Cider Moscow Mule or Sober Jello Shots for anyone who dresses the part and shares their photos on social media.

#6 Craft Halloween Cocktails

On Halloween, not only do your customers want to see your dining room dressed up, they’d like to see your cocktails dressed up too.

Looking for some horrifyingly tasty drink ideas for your restaurant’s monster mash? You’ve come to the right place.

Pumpkin Spice White Russian

Pumpkin Spice White Russians put an autumnal twist on a classic cocktail, transforming it into a creamy pumpkin delight.

Death in the Afternoon

What better cocktail could there be than Death in the Afternoon? A creation by the brilliantly dark Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon is a must-try champagne-based drink with a black licorice finish. It’s been said that the author created the drink after writing a book of the same name.

10 More Spooky Cocktails

#7 Create a Seasonal Menu

Seasonal menu items are at the heart of most October restaurant promotions. Use the abundance of the autumn harvests as inspiration for creative twists on appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Or, lean into a spooky theme that will appear in different elements of the menu.

Local farm stands can provide all the inspiration you need with bright red beets, juicy cranberries, colorful squash, and multi-colored pumpkins, providing a rainbow of options for menu items for everything from pizzas to pasta, salads to soups, and apps to desserts.

A perfect time to experiment with vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based menu items, let your Halloween menu provide a canvas on which to create a menu filled with veggie recipes. See which items are successful and which are not, then do some engineering to update your menu.

#8 Carve Out Pumpkin Promotions

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 them. 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 about $1 per table (for a small pumpkin), you’ll certainly reap some freakish attention for your restaurant.

Pumpkin Carving Event

Setting aside a day to hold a pumpkin carving 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 carving kits, 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.

#9 Cozy Fall 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:

  • 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

#10 Costume Party

Costume parties are the quintessential Halloween event and can range from family fun costume contests to spooky adult festivities. Offer prizes like free meals, gift cards, and movie tickets for the winners and promote the contest on social media. Encourage your staff to participate by wearing costumes. And don’t forget yourself. Be sure to go all out and greet your guests in full costume. It’s a great way to connect with your guests on a personal level.

Hold a remote pet costume contest by inviting customers to submit photos of their pets dressed up for trick or treating and offer prizes for the best costume. This is one of the lowest-cost ways to promote your restaurant and generate social media attention.

Take away

After the candy bowls are empty and the vampires have returned to their crypts, it’s time to measure your Halloween promotions’ success. Analyze the performance of each promotion so that you can repeat what worked and change what did not next year.

But it’s not just a numbers game. Building a sense of community can be just as valuable as boosting sales. Creating some joy during this spooky season while generating attention for your restaurant is a great way to greet the busy holiday season.

By Eileen Strauss


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