Pizzerias around the country are prepping for what could be a bright spot in an otherwise dark economic season. Halloween is just around the corner, and the holiday is traditionally one of the busiest sales days of the year for pizzeria operators.
According to Pizza Marketplace's 2007 Pizza Industry Study, pizzeria operators rank Halloween as the third-busiest pizza day of the year, behind Super Bowl Sunday and New Year's Eve.
"We staff heavily on Halloween, because it's a mad rush," said Patty Phillips, owner of gourmet take-n-bake Patty's Pizza, located in Santa Monica, Calif. "We make everything fresh to order, but we have orders coming in a couple days ahead of time."
Domino's estimated that last year, when Halloween fell on a Wednesday, its business was up 50 percent compared with a typical day. Operators are hoping for an even bigger boost this year.
"It should be a triple witching holiday for us," said Jeff Rosati, chief financial officer of Chicago-based Rosati's Pizza. "It's Halloween, it's on a Friday, which is our busiest day anyway, and we have an extra hour of daylight, so people are going to be out even longer. When they get home they aren't going to want to cook."
Promotions focus on safety
Phillips' typical Halloween customers fall into two categories, she said.
"A large majority are families staying home, people getting home early after trick-or-treating with the kids," she said. The rest are people throwing parties who want to have a take-n-bake pizza to cook as guests arrive.
Many of the promotions operators are rolling out are centered around child safety.
"I am running a box topper with safety issues and a special on it. It is also going in the newspaper as an insert," said Tony DiSilvestro, owner of Ynot Pizza in Virginia Beach, Va.
Kiersten Walton, who operates a Fox's Pizza Den in Watkinsville, Ga., hands out candy to children and works with local businesses to create a "safe place" for people to trick or treat and have a good time.
"All our team members are able to dress up if they want as long as it's okay in the kitchen," she said.
At Home Run Inn Pizza in Chicago, the company began planning for Halloween in July. The seven-unit chain launched a Video Challenge on YouTube, encouraging people to create a 90-second, original horror film featuring Home Run Inn.
The winner will receive $2,500 cash, a free Halloween pizza party and custom outdoor Halloween decorations.
"So far, we've had about 29 videos submitted, and we've been getting tremendous response" said Gina Bolger, Home Run Inn's director of marketing. "We've had over 14,000 views on YouTube so far."