As the nights start to draw in and leaves begin to drop from the trees, it’s a sign we recognise all too well as the countdown to Christmas begins. However, one event that’s fast growing – with the market worth £320million in the UK1 – is Halloween.

Over the years, Halloween has become heavily commercialised with brands using the theme as part of their offering, safe in the knowledge that this is a profitable move.

So what should operators be thinking about ahead of 31st October?


Showcase the brand’s personality with a Halloween themed makeover

It’s important for operators to showcase their personalities whenever possible as this is a huge driver for customer loyalty. Reminding them how their values align with their brand of choice helps to ensure an engaged customer base. If appropriate, operators could be encouraged to hold a themed night with a percentage of profits going to a local charity or similar organisation.

Whether this is on social media, on the company website or both, brands should be encouraged to engage with the event and show some character by shaking things up for Halloween and beyond.

This could be as simple as a logo change on their website or social media, right through to a whole new site look. Pubs, bars and restaurants should be encouraged to get into the spirit by decorating the premises (where operationally feasible) and encouraging staff to dress up for the occasion. In addition, hosting a staff fancy dress competition will not only add a bit of competitive fun throughout the company, it will also help to encourage staff to go all out.

It’s important to remember that it doesn’t have to cost the earth to participate in Halloween; almost all supermarkets and high street shops stock a range of accessories and adornments to help venues embrace the feel of the season. Operators could even consider making simple changes like serving their tomato ketchups and other sauces in skull shaped dishes.


Put a seasonal twist on products and services

Halloween is also a great time for operators to re-vamp their menus, bringing in spicier, more warming foods as the weather begins to cool. Creating a set menu for Halloween using seasonal foods and ingredients such as pumpkin and butternut squash, or something creative and gory for the kids will help to drive custom before the run up and during the event.

One chain that brings in seasonal flavours very well is US coffee shop chain, Starbucks. Famed for their Pumpkin Spice Lattes, which are brought out religiously every September, the brand arguably do a very good job at signalling the change of seasons as autumn and Halloween creep in. Sparking a worldwide pumpkin trend, there has been over 350 million Pumpkin Spice Lattes sold in the United States alone since they were launched in 20032.

Even a simple change to a menu or offering such as these can be a really powerful move to help drive brand awareness at key times of year. Spiced pumpkin soups and toffee apples are quick and easy additions to make to any menu to help capitalise on the season. For those wanting to go all out, serving dishes such as ‘witches fingers’ using cocktail sausages served with a side of Branston tomato ketchup for blood is an inventive way to have some fun with the food.

In keeping with the theme, we’ve created a recipe3 for minted lamb chops with pickled pumpkin which is the perfect seasonal twist to make to any Sunday lunch offering.


Prepare for the rush

As we move into autumn, it’s key for operators to prepare for the inevitable change in footfall. Consumers will be increasingly heading to pubs and restaurants for comfort food and festive catch ups and operators should be reminded that this increase could well lead to them needing to call in extra staff to help cater to the masses.

Any operator who chooses to host a Halloween themed event should be reminded that they might require additional members of staff to help on the night, but equally, autumn is a good time to start onboarding extra staff ahead of the Christmas party season which come around sooner than many of us realise.

While it is a good idea for operators to capitalise on Halloween itself, if possible, they should also be thinking about using this time of year as a signal point to begin preparing for the inevitably busy Christmas period that lies ahead.


Mintel, Retail Trends, 2017