While Halloween might not be a traditional South African holiday, it has gained commercial appeal over the past few years. An increasing number of children now take to their neighbourhood streets to trick or treat and more shops are selling ghoulish costumes and accessories.

The holiday is very popular in the United States where spending on Halloween alone has grown by more than $1 billion since 2012. But the trend is now catching on in other markets, notably the United Kingdom.

However, South African restaurateurs haven’t really picked up on the holiday. This is a pity because it presents a unique opportunity to rack up sales and have a little fun on October 31. You can always try these restaurant marketing ideas to cash in on the Halloween trend.

Stir up some scary fun

Carving pumpkins into crazy-faced jack-o’-lanterns is a cheap décor win, and you can put the pumpkin flesh to good use by whipping up some Halloween-inspired specials. Traditional American favourites include pumpkin soup or chilli, pumpkin pie, carrot cakes and pumpkin-spiced biscuits – let your imagination run wild.

Splash out on a theme

This year, Halloween falls on a Wednesday, which provides the perfect opportunity to create an event to attract a mid-week crowd. A Murder Mystery dinner is a fun idea to add some intrigue. Design an all-inclusive package that includes a “character pack”, Mrs Peacock-style glasses and a feather boa for a candlelit dinner or Halloween event.

In addition to the dinner, if you are based in a historic area, you can team up with a local tour guide to provide a ghost tour. And if your restaurant includes bar facilities, you can even throw a costume party and create unique Halloween cocktails for the occasion.

Family-friendly restaurant owners can consider setting up a Halloween craft-making table for the little ones to make some Halloween-inspired décor.

How about a small pumpkin enterprise?

While planning your Halloween menu, you can use it as an opportunity to set out pre-carved pumpkins to sell from a table outside your venue. Throw in some regular pumpkin gourds and Halloween accessories and you will not only set the mood for the event, but also become the go-to place to buy a scarce (in South Africa) summer resource. You can even run mini-tutorials on pumpkin carving and Halloween craft-making.

Opt for orange

Not every space lends itself to Halloween décor, particularly not those where tables are close together and waitrons will have to negotiate their way through dancing paper skeletons to get meals to tables. Consider grouping your décor around pay points and create organised clutter zones.

The same applies to social media. Halloween is a great opportunity to boost your restaurant marketing with social media campaigns. At the very least, update your banner image, but if you have an e-commerce section on your site, make sure you keep it tidy.

Group all Halloween-related products into one theme and if you decide to run Halloween-themed guides, ensure that the products featured in the guides are grouped together to make it easy for customers to find.

For more tips on how to create a buzz for your restaurant, read our, e-book, The definitive 21st-century restaurant playbook.

Author : Rudi Badenhorst