Don’t Go Dark

“Like the Fourth of July, only cold and rainy.”

“Amateur night.”

“Dead.”

Is this how your restaurant thinks of Hallowe’en? For many, in fine dining especially, the occasion has historically combined the revenues of a sno-kone stand with the clientele of a halfway house. Even if family commitments, bad weather, and, sometimes, religious issues did not keep customers away, the staffing shortages, alcohol liability, and labor costs that owners are struggling with this year could make Hallowe’en seem the opposite of festive.

But according to the National Retail Federation, a growing number of businesses that invest in the occasion are seeing eye-opening returns. Quick-service restaurants (QSRs) have always led the charge and now begin their promotions as early as September when the first pods of pumpkin spice begin to fall from the Internet. One strategy popular with QSRs yet scalable for full-service restaurants is to tie Hallowe’en celebrations to the annual swells in fundraising activity and cause marketing between Labor Day and October 31 (fiscal year-end) or December 30. For independent places, joining with other properties in pub crawls, tours, or block parties can reduce risk and amp opportunity for the individual businesses.

Further consultation with our pagan oracles has revealed the confluence of a few unique factors that could change the Hallowe’en game for everyone this year–not just Big Candy and the LED-lights cartels.

Pizza’s Perfect Storm

Pizza businesses, whether sit-down, delivery, carry-out, or take-and-bake, make up about 17 percent of the U.S. restaurant industry with annual sales around $40 billion. Although sales have been flat so far across the segment in 2015, this Hallowe’en–after the Super Bowl, the biggest holiday of the year for many pizza concerns–could reverse that trend in a good way, for three reasons.

Timing. October 31, 2015, falls on the ideal night of the week, a Saturday. (If you haven’t bought candy for your house yet, Tuesday is probably too late.) That widens the window of celebration all the way back through Wednesday night–for bars in particular.

Tech. This year’s seismic shifts in the restaurant economy and labor force have pushed the point-of-sale landscape into a single dramatic feature: a Rocky Mountain range, if you will, of tech-assisted transactions. In the adoption and proliferation of new hardware and systems, pizza places have a marked competitive edge over other restaurants when it comes to making reservations, ordering, paying, and tipping easy for customers. Eating in a Minions costume is hard. Pizza should be, and is, easy.

Trends. Speaking of costumes, in a dead heat between the currently most popular two, Pizza Rat trumps.

To sum up, should these forces align on the 31st, they could produce a stunning spike for pizza–a blip whose influence could easily be magnified in the data-bedazzled sphere of restaurant marketing to encompass the whole industry and recast the value of Hallowe’en for all in the years to come.

That’s one enormous pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Whether you believe in it or not, you can’t argue with the wisdom of at least acknowledging the holiday, and to that end, here at KaTom’s Kitchen Krafts we’ve come up with a fun and disgusting diversion guaranteed to keep the kitchen busy without the usual vile spread of bloodborn pathogens. Click on the video below to see how we make our cold dead hands, and have a happy Hallowe’en!

Elaine Evans
Elaine Evans Elaine Evans is thrilled to blog for KaTom, where her work in restaurants, bars, catering, and artisanal food has caught up at last with her career in journalism and public relations writing. Connect with Elaine Evans on Google+
  1. October 28, 2015 at 12:34 am, Bill Rogers said:

    Marvellous! Wonderfully written piece.

    Reply

  2. October 29, 2015 at 2:31 pm, Dennis Duffy said:

    Nice going. I recall as a kid when my "Uncle" Bill (in fact a cousin) presented each guest with the "intestine of a pig" (cold macaroni) and "th eye of a goat" (peeled grape). SCARRREEE!

    Reply