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By Katherine Pendrill
Halloween is a favorite time of year for kids and adults alike. Whether it’s the crisp October air, the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot, or just a sugar rush from all of the Halloween candy, there’s something magical about this day and its traditions. You can get in on the fun too by trying out a few restaurant Halloween ideas to bring delight (and fright!) to your guests.
October 31st is about more than jack-o’-lanterns and costumes, though – it’s also a lucrative opportunity for restaurants. Considering that Halloween consumer spending hit a record high of $10.4 billion in 2021, it’s worth your while to create some enticing restaurant Halloween promotions. Be sure to extend the fun beyond the day itself to bring in even more revenue.
In this guide to restaurant Halloween ideas, we’ll explore 14 ways to make October a spook-tacular time of year at your restaurant, including:
Before you start planning Halloween events or shopping for decorations, make sure your menu for the big day is on point. After all, your guests are craving delicious food and drinks!
Offering themed specials is one of the best restaurant marketing ideas you can leverage to create excitement around visiting your venue during a particular time of year. Make your restaurant the place to be on Halloween (or all throughout October, if you want to go big) by whipping up some specials or an entire menu that’ll cast a spell on your guests.
Turn a regular burger or sandwich into a “monster” version by sticking olives on toothpicks into the bun to mimic eyes, and slicing the cheese to look like jagged teeth. Or, create a Halloween-themed charcuterie board by cutting blocks of cheese in the shape of coffins and adding fake spider or vampire teeth decorations.
No list of restaurant Halloween specials would be complete without mentioning pumpkin-flavored desserts. Pumpkin pie or cheesecake are seasonal mainstays in the fall, but you can get a little wilder around Halloween with dishes like a Dead Velvet Cake or Cobweb Brownies.
Bring the thrills to the bar! Some of the best Halloween ideas for restaurants involve getting creative with your cocktail menu.
Why not serve up a green “Witches’ Brew” cocktail with a hat or broom decoration as a garnish? It’s as simple as putting a spooky twist on an Appletini. Classics like a Bloody Mary or a Dark and Stormy also make excellent additions to your Halloween cocktail list.
Pumpkin-flavored drinks are always crowd-pleasers, too. Whether you offer up pumpkin beer, cider, or an homage to the famous pumpkin spice latte – like this Pumpkin Spice White Russian – you’ll be sure to give your guests something to talk about.
While some folks like to go out on Halloween, others like to stay in and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters. Oftentimes, this means they won’t have a chance to cook dinner, which means it’s your restaurant’s chance to shine!
Share the festive spirit with your takeout and delivery customers. Surprising them with something small but thoughtful included alongside their food order will make their Halloween more memorable.
Our top pick? A Halloween cookie in the shape of a ghost – with icing, of course. Bonus points if this sweet treat is homemade! If you really want to give your customers a scare, opt for something a little creepier like Witch Finger Cookies.
Now that you’ve got your menu sorted out, it’s time to get your restaurant looking its best for the spookiest night of the year.
When it comes to Halloween restaurant decor, centerpieces are great for adding a little touch of festive flair to every table.
Pumpkins are an obvious choice, but if you want to take your decor to the next level, get a pumpkin that’s painted or covered in sparkles. Or, think outside the box entirely and use a cauldron, gravestone, or an open coffin propped up on a stand – you can even put a mummy or vampire figurine inside!
Candles, flowers, and ribbons are nice accents to add to your centerpiece. Stick with Halloween-themed colors like orange, black, red, purple, or green.
Adorn your bar with restaurant Halloween decorations. Cover the bar in fake cobwebs to create an eerie atmosphere, and sit a life-sized skeleton decoration on one of the stools. You can even make up a story to tell guests about how he stayed too long past last call. Kick it up a notch further by renting a fog machine so the bar will be shrouded in mist.
Or, turn your lounge into a “seance lounge” like Muriel’s Jackson Square in New Orleans, Louisiana did. Dim, red lighting will cast a creepy vibe in the space, where you can leave books of ghost stories on the tables for guests who enjoy a Halloween thrill. Don’t forget to play Halloween-themed music to add to the ambiance.
If your restaurant has a patio that you’re not using during the fall season, Halloween is the perfect time to turn it into a little outdoor haunted house that your guests can walk through before or after their meal.
Replace your twinkly string lights with a color that will emit a darker hue like red or purple. If you have a pergola or patio umbrellas, hang bats and a witch on a broomstick from them. Set up a walkway surrounded by gravestones, and add a few plastic hand decorations that look like they’re popping out of the ground for an extra scare.
Amp up the fun by placing a backdrop in the space like The Black Lagoon pop-up bar in Toronto, Ontario did, so guests can snap some Halloween photos.
Some of the simplest Halloween ideas for restaurants include decorating your entranceway and main dining area.
Why not have a famous character like Frankenstein or Jack Skellington greet your guests at the door? You can buy a life-sized decoration or ask your staff if they’d like to dress up. Better yet, if you have enough space out in front of your restaurant, set up a large inflatable decoration that potential customers will be able to spot from down the street.
Ghosts are also a staple when it comes to Halloween decor. Hang some ghost decorations from the ceiling inside your restaurant to create the look that they’re flying around the dining room.
Who needs the Monster Mash when they can celebrate Halloween at your restaurant? Make it a night to remember with these fun, themed events and party suggestions.
Trivia nights are one of the best ideas for bar events, because they draw a crowd and keep guests in your restaurant ordering drinks and snacks. Halloween enthusiasts will also love the idea of a themed trivia night where they can show off their knowledge of all things spooky.
Movies are a go-to trivia topic, so consider crafting your questions or facts around classic Halloween films like Hocus Pocus and Sleepy Hollow. Give the players a fright by adding a round based on scarier horror movies like It and The Shining. Prizes for the winning table can include treat bags and gift cards.
Dining in the dark has been a popular concept for years, as it’s said to be an incredible sensory experience. It’s also a perfect event to host when it comes to restaurant Halloween ideas.
“Studies show that 80% of people eat with their eyes; with that sense eliminated, the theory is that the other senses, namely taste, and smell, take over to elevate your meal to a whole new level,” according to this article about a recent blindfolded dining experience in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Your guests will love the opportunity to enjoy a beverage and appetizer at your restaurant while painting their very own Halloween creation.
Paint nights are a popular restaurant event idea, and your customers don’t need to be artistically inclined to participate, since they’ll be guided every step of the way. Hosting a paint night is an excellent way to attract new guests who could just become loyal regulars.
Your first order of business: team up with a local artist who can help you pull off this event. They’ll have lots of suggestions for beginner-friendly Halloween-themed paintings and maybe be able to help you source supplies.
Your loyalty program members deserve some extra love, so why not host a Halloween party just for them in advance of October 31st? Use email marketing to get the word out about the exclusive event and prepare treat bags for attendees to take home at the end of the night.
Food? Check. Decor? Check. Next, let’s figure out how you’ll get the word out about Halloween at your restaurant.
Make sure your customers know about all of the fun they can have at your restaurant in October by sending out an email marketing campaign. You can even sweeten the offer by including a deal specifically for email subscribers, like 50% off spooky cocktails or a free Halloween dessert.
Remember that people need to see a marketing message at least three times (and up to seven times, some experts say) before they’ll remember it. So, don’t just send one email about your restaurant Halloween promotions and leave it at that. Start sharing the news about your deals and events well before the big day, as early as September if you like. Don’t worry about being too repetitive, as long as you’re not sending multiple emails per day.
Instagram contests are one of the best options for generating a buzz around your restaurant holiday promotions. These kinds of contests are also effective at helping your brand reach a new audience, since they often involve Instagram users sharing your posts in their stories, exposing your brand to your followers’ wider networks.
To run a simple Instagram contest, the first thing you need is a great prize that will make it worth your followers’ while to participate. A free dinner for two is a good place to start, but brainstorm with your team to see if you can get even more creative.
Once you have your prize determined, post about the contest on Instagram and make it clear what users need to do for a chance to win. Hint: it’s often liking, commenting on, then sharing the post with their network. Comments are usually based on tagging friends in the comment section of the post itself. Many Instagram contests encourage multiple entries. This is a smart move because for every person a user tags, your restaurant will reach an even wider audience. Just follow the lead of Bubblewrap – home to the one and only Bubblewrap waffle.
Costume contests are always a winner among restaurant contest ideas. Give your guests the chance to show off their best Halloween threads on October 31st at your venue.
To generate hype for the contest, promote it on your website and social media channels, and via email marketing. You want to make sure as many people as possible know about the contest, so you’ll have fierce competition (read: amazing costumes)!
Again, you also need an enticing prize. Perhaps you offer up a $250 gift card for the best costume, or even team up with some of your suppliers to provide a basket of curated local ingredients for favorite dishes and cocktails so the winner can recreate them at home.
You now have 14 restaurant Halloween ideas to try this year so that your venue will be the center of the festive action on October 31st. To ensure the celebrations go off without a hitch, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Say it with us, now: trick or treat!
Katherine is the Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, where she writes about trending topics in food and restaurants. The opposite of a picky eater, she’ll try (almost) anything at least once. Whether it’s chowing down on camel burgers in Morocco or snacking on octopus dumplings in Japan, she’s always up for new food experiences.
By Debra Weinryb
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