Halloween is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on October 31, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows (or All Saints). Today, Halloween is a more secular, community-based event, and activities include: dressing up in costumes, trick-or-treating and carving pumpkins into jack-o’lanterns.
Aside from handing out candy to your customers, there are lots of other fun ways to celebrate Halloween at your small business. It’s a great excuse to have fun with your customers and drive traffic into your location.
Though the origin of the word Halloween is Christian, the holiday is thought to have pagan roots – with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhaim, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as All Saints’ Day – a time to honor all saints and martyrs. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve, and later Halloween.
- In 2012, Ron Wallace of Rhode Island grew the world’s largest pumpkin! It weighs 2,009 pounds – making it not only the largest pumpkin in history, but the largest fruit ever grown in the world.
- Trick-or-Treating evolved from the ancient Celtic tradition of putting out treats and food to placate roaming spirits.
- One quarter of all the candy sold annually in the United States is for Halloween night.
- Host a costume contest at your restaurant or retail store, and cater it to your customer base. Have different categories (Best Kid Costume, Scariest Costume, Funniest Costume, Best Pet Costume, etc.) so that there are a variety of winners and prizes.
- Hand out Halloween candy to your customers at check-out.
- Treat parents (and kids) by giving kids in costume a free lunch or dinner when they dine in!
- Create a specialty Halloween cocktail at your bar.
- Have special / spooky treats ready for purchase at your bakery!
- Host a raffle drawing online – ask customers to post pictures of them in their Halloween costume on your Facebook page, and draw random participants to win gift cards!
- Participate in your neighborhoods Trick or Treat celebrations. Or, if there isn’t one for retail stores or restaurants, organize one with your neighboring businesses!
- Contact your city about sponsoring or being a part of the official Halloween celebrations. If it’s cold outside, set up a table with hot beverages and sweet treats for the kids and adults.
- Get in the spirit by dressing up in costume on Halloween, and encouraging your employees to do the same!
- Give a discount to anyone who comes in wearing a costume!
- Host a customer pumpkin carving contest and let customers vote on which they like best! The winner gets a gift certificate to your business!
- Host a pet costume contest, and donate proceeds or customer donations to a local Humane Society or other animal welfare organization.
- If you run a wine shop, sell tickets for a Halloween wine cocktail-making seminar, encourage attendees to dress up!
Here are some of the fun engaging Halloween activity we’ve seen this year and candy for thought to incorporate into your Halloween celebration next year:
Kids in Costume Eat for Free
Create a Specialty Cocktail
Have Special Treats Ready for Purchase
Host Raffle Drawings Online
Give Back on Halloween (and have fun!)
Give a Discount to Ghouls & Ghosts
Offer an Incentive to Book a Reservation on Halloween
Pumpkin Beers & Actual Pumpkins
McNulty’s Bier Markt in Cleveland, OH is hosting their annual Pumpkin Carving Contest on October 29. By purchasing a pumpkin beer, customers get a free pumpkin to carve! All entries will be on display in the bar throughout the weekend, and after customer votes are tallied up, the winner gets a gift certificate to their sister restaurant Bar Centro. This idea gets customers in the door (to carve pumpkins and to come back and vote on their favorites) and invites the winner to try their sister restaurant! Perfect mix of holiday fun and marketing strategy.
This October 31, Chipotle is bringing back their much-loved “Boorito” fundraiser. The fast-casual Mexican restaurant will offer $3 burritos, bowls, salads, tacos, or kids meals on Halloween to customers dressed in costume. Proceeds from the fund-raiser will benefit the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation. What a great way to raise money for your charity partner, and to have fun with your customers!
Fuel for Trick or Treating
Before heading out to trick or treat, The Loop Pizza Grill in Jacksonville, FL is offering free kids’ meals and treats to all children, ages 12 and under, who come in on Halloween in costume between 4 and 7 p.m. One kid’s meal is free for each adult entrée that is purchased. This promotion is great because it will likely drive traffic to the restaurant during a slower day part, and encourages adults to purchase multiple entrees to “cover” their multiple kids!
Dogs, Donations and Drinks
Boneyard Drinkery in Houston is a dog park/wine bar. Now, THAT concept is a great idea in and of itself, but it gets even better! On October 30, they are hosting their annual Boneyard Boo Bash – a dog party and costume contest, benefiting The Houston Humane Society. It includes treats, awards and photos for all dogs and their owners. What a fun way to include dogs in the Halloween fun and benefit a good cause.
On October 22, Total Wine customers in Alexandria, VA can learn how to make 5 wine cocktails for their Halloween soirees at the location’s first annual Wine Cocktail Event. What a great way to showcase certain wines, promote purchase of the wine and any other mixers, and get into the Halloween spirit!
Check out our Marketing Holiday Calendar for more dates to celebrate!