On the Line / Marketing / Halloween for Restaurants: 13 Halloween Marketing Ideas for Restaurants

Halloween for Restaurants: 13 Halloween Marketing Ideas for Restaurants

Haunt your halls with these 13 Halloween restaurant promotion ideas.

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Built for Restaurants
Restaurant Marketing Hero min

DISCLAIMER: This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal, accounting, tax, HR, or other professional advice. You are responsible for your own compliance with laws and regulations. You should contact your attorney or other relevant advisor for advice specific to your circumstances.

Halloween brings families, friends, and communities out of their homes to enjoy the final days of fall before settling in for the winter. 

An air of celebration and chaos reigns – people don fun and wild costumes and embrace the darkest sides of their imaginations. Restaurants make the most of the beginning of the holiday rush with Halloween-themed promotions. And, kids excitingly trick or treat for all the candy.

Halloween is a perfect opportunity to welcome regulars and to attract new customers who go all-in for the spooky season. While we are still living with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants can expect (and take advantage of) a busy Halloween season. Americans are ready to celebrate after two years of holidays-on-lockdown!

It’s time to make the most out of your Halloween marketing plan. And, we have 13 ideas to help you out. 

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How to Design an Effective Halloween Marketing Plan

The best marketing promotions aren’t forced or gimmicky - the most successful build from a restaurant’s key performance indicators (KPIs). After you take stock of your restaurant’s performance, you can decide on the best marketing strategy for your Halloween promotion. You’ll likely use a combination of print and social media to spread the word about your Halloween events.

Consider Your Target Audience

One important aspect of building a Halloween promotion is identifying the audience you want to target. You’ll likely want to attract customers who already enjoy your restaurant, whether it is local regulars or adventurous eaters. Yet, a seasonal promotion can also be an opportunity to attract a new section of the market, like college students or families. 

Look at Your Inventory

Another strategy is to create a promotion based on your current inventory and menu. Many restaurants go wrong by putting new demands on their staff and budgets with promotions that don’t build on the restaurant’s current success. Think about how you can enhance your current menu with a Halloween promotion while using the inventory you’re looking to sell. The best promotions will lean into what your staff does well and require using familiar ingredients in innovative ways.

Analyze the Competition

It's a good idea to look around when creating a promotion – what are other restaurants in the area doing? Build a promotion that minimizes competition or attracts a different group of customers. Of course, don’t let another restaurant’s costume party stop you from hosting one. But, consider scheduling it for another night if you think your customer base is the same.

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13 Halloween Promotion Ideas, Examples, and Inspiration

Pick a Spooky Theme

Halloween in America is inspired by cultural traditions, movies, and stories. From vampires to the Adams Family, each theme offers a range of options for interpretation in your restaurant. If your restaurant goes for a subtler vibe, take inspiration from the colors and flavors of Autumn to inspire the theme of your promotion.

Seasonal Menu Items

Seasonal menu items are at the heart of many Halloween promotions – use the abundance of Fall harvests as inspiration for new appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Or, lean into a spooky theme that will appear in different elements of the menu. Perhaps your promotion marries a harvest of local beets with a bloody-looking vegan tasting menu, using the natural color of beet juice in culinary creations.

A limited-run menu can generate a lot of hype around popular seasonal flavors. And, our Delight cupcakery understood the assignment. They created an array of seasonal cupcake flavors just for Halloween weekend.

Themed Nights

If you want to pack your restaurant with Halloween enthusiasts for an evening, a well-planned themed event is a way to go. Themed event nights are a great way to offer a limited Halloween-inspired menu or create a supernatural experience for customers. Design an elevated atmosphere of discomfort and discontent with subtle decorations and consistent themes, or dive fully into the chaos of the season. 

Latitude 29 hosted a Spookilau with themed drinks and special makeup effects for staff.

Costume Parties

Costume parties are the quintessential Halloween event. Parties can range from family fun to a contest for those seriously spooky adults. Offer prizes, such as a tab at the bar or a gift card, to encourage customers to transform into their most ghoulish selves. Encourage the staff of your restaurant to wear costumes, too, so that everyone is in the spirit.

Remember that promotion's goal is to attract new customers or dramatically increase sales. Therefore, organize your budget and marketing strategy for your costume party carefully so that it is a profitable evening of frightful fun.

Pumpkin Carving Contest

A pumpkin carving contest is a fun way to get families into your restaurant for an afternoon – provide pumpkins and carving kits, inviting local artists to participate. Or, have people submit pictures of their creations online. 

Pro tip: add an extra challenge by setting a theme for the contest!

To ensure the event is profitable for your business, charge participants in the carving contest just enough to cover the costs of supplies and any prizes. And, set your staff up for success by making it clear what their roles are during such events. Driftwood Restaurant and Lounge hosts an annual pumpkin carving contest – customers create intricate and creative designs for a chance at prizes.

Murder Mystery Party

Murder mystery parties have a unique appeal – and take a lot of organization and investment. Fortunately, you can contract a murder mystery party to host an event in your restaurant around Halloween. This can be an exciting way to entice new customers to give your space a visit.

Spooky Decorations

Decorations can transform even the classiest dining room into the haunted halls of your dreams. Whether or not you run an event, sale, or special menu for the season, spooky decorations can make any atmosphere eerie and chilling.

Think about your base of regular customers when deciding on decorations – what spooky aesthetic will appeal most to them? If your restaurant serves families with children, for example, avoid the gruesome gore that might make scare them away. 

Remember that certain decorations, like dry ice used to create smoky effects, need to be handled with caution and care. Don’t use dry ice in small spaces that aren’t ventilated well, and never touch it with your skin – use gloves and tongs to avoid injury.

Make it Memorable for Kids

While lots of adults (with money of their own to spend) go all-out for Halloween, creating events and promotions targeting the smallest of goblins creates happy customers for the whole family. Whether you’re throwing a party or hosting an online contest, consider making the event fun and memorable for kids if families are the promotion’s target audience.

Social Media Contest

A social media contest, offering prizes for the best pictures of a pet costume or the best decorations, is a low-cost way to promote your restaurant this Halloween. That’s especially true if you’ve invested in amassing a following on Instagram or Facebook for your restaurant.

The contest will generate attention for your business as your customers like, comment, and share each other’s frightful and festive photos. If you’re looking to expand your reach on social media, a contest is a great way to accomplish that without paying for pricey sponsored posts.

Sponsor a Community Event

One way to generate goodwill in the community and positive attention for your restaurant is to partner with a community event. Perhaps your restaurant can donate candy or reserve restaurant space for a safe trick-or-treating event in exchange for advertising space. 

A Staff of Spirits

Encourage your FOH staff to don fun and creative Halloween costumes to celebrate Halloween day. Any guests who visit in costume will feel welcomed. Make it extra and match your staff’s costume to the restaurant’s Halloween theme.

This team at Pain D’Avignon all dressed as the characters from Men in Black for their Halloween celebration. The effect is classy and simple since the costumes are also suits!

Promotional Codes

Go the traditional route and create promo codes to give your customers a discount this Halloween. Your restaurant’s POS likely enables you to run promotions with minimal hassle. Simply set the promotion to run on your restaurant’s online ordering platform and spread the word on online marketing channels.

Lean into the Local Scene

There’s something to be said for authenticity. What local traditions does your town or city have around Halloween? In New Orleans, for example, the entire city comes to life on Halloween night and all the restaurants in the French Quarter open their doors to the revelry. Design a promotion that leans into the traditions that have a special place in local culture.

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How to Measure the Effectiveness of Your Halloween Promotions

After the frightful festivities are done, it’s time to measure the profits and losses of your Halloween promotions. First, look at the numbers. How many additional sales did your promotion brings compared to the same days the previous year? When compared to last month? 

If your sales have risen, it’s a good sign that your promotion worked. But, be sure to adjust your promotional strategies if they don’t lead to increased traffic for your restaurant.

Ask your staff and customers to provide feedback on your promotion – set up an online poll or ask customers and staff for their ideas and suggestions. Staff will likely give the restaurant owner insights into how promotions affect service. Customers will let you know if the promotions provide them with something they want.

It’s important to analyze the performance of promotions so that you can repeat what works and change what isn’t profitable. Each promotion you run should push you further toward the restaurant’s goals. And, don’t forget that building community can be just as important as boosting sales. 

Create some joy this spooky season while generating attention for your restaurant with a Halloween promotion.

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