I remember being a kid and looking forward to Halloween. So much hesitation and agitation over what costume to wear; Batman, GI Joe, hobo or a ghost, the classic white sheet with eyes cut out. Growing up in the mid-Atlantic, it really did not matter, by the end of October; we all wore coats that covered our getup anyway.
Over the past 20 years, Halloween has become a BIG American holiday. It is the No. 2 holiday, behind Christmas, in terms of commercial success. People spend over $4 billion dollars annually during the Halloween season on costumes, candy, parties and decorations. According to the National Confectioner's Association, Halloween candy sales account for one quarter of all of the candy sold in the United States.
Businesses of all types promote Halloween by decorating their stores, giving out candy and encouraging participation of staff and customers. The small town where I live closes off the main street from 1-4 the Saturday before Halloween. All the merchants give out candy and the community goes store-to-store in costume. The event has become huge and thousands of people attend. One thing is certain, no matter how the economy is doing, or what gas prices are, parents will spend lots of money to keep their kids happy on Halloween. Now is the time to scare some extra sales out of your regular customers and some new customers, too.
What will you do to promote Halloween? Here are some ideas:
Place signs, posters, cobwebs and lots of black and orange everywhere. Get your staff involved in the fun and encourage them to dress up. Take special precaution, fire, knives and costumes rarely mix.
Give free candy and orange colored drinks — Kool-Aid is inexpensive and a fun option.
Have contests; guess the weight of a pumpkin or the number of Jellybeans in a jar. Give gift certificates to your restaurant as a prize.
Serve pumpkin- or ghost-shaped slices of pizza or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Think of St. Patrick's Day with all the dyed green items – go black and orange for this season.
Incentivize parents to place food orders ahead of time for house parties.
Encourage online buyers with special deals if they buy the day before. Parties are often impulsive and you want your food served at customers' houses.
Deliver to trick and treat neighborhoods — send 5 to 10 pizzas out with a driver to busy neighborhoods and drive up and down the street selling whole pies and slices.
Team up candy and appetizers. Buy an appetizer, get a bag of candy.
The key is to be creative and promote louder than your competition. Halloween originated as a night to scare kids and adults alike. Build business and be part of the community and Halloween won't be scary at all ... BOO.
Ed Zimmerman is a pizza industry veteran and President of The Food Connector. His almost four decades of foodservice experience includes food manufacturing and distribution leadership, food industry technology, marketing services and restaurant and grocery operations management.