Fright club: ideas for boosting profits at Halloween

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Halloween Tomato

Halloween: Good business opportunity for pubs
Halloween: Good business opportunity for pubs
Halloween is very much a social occasion, one that involves drinking, eating, dressing up, ghoulish antics and lots and lots of decoration. In other words, it’s an event that’s made for pubs.

With that in mind, it’s all the more surprising that so many pubs do very little for Halloween, or ignore it completely. Yet, in what is typically a very quiet time of the year trading-wise, and with nearly two months still to go to Christmas, Halloween can provide a much-needed revenue boost.

For those keen to make the most of Halloween this year, there is plenty of brand support on offer. Under its Public House of Horror theme, WKD is supplying publicans with ‘petrifying’ PoS kits with which to decorate outlets.

The kits include everything from giant cobwebs and hanging bats to grandfather clock cut-outs and coat-of-arms table talkers. Selected outlets will also received pumpkin-head hats.

“Halloween becomes a bigger and bigger event each year,” says Debs Carter, marketing director for WKD’s owner Beverage Brands.

“With the day falling on a Monday, publicans should really enter into the spirit of things with weekend-long celebrations. Our support will drive footfall, create a great atmosphere and get consumers in the mood.”

Southern Comfort (SoCo) will also be providing Halloween-themed PoS material to the trade. This will include hanging banners, giant bunting and drip mats. Voodoo hats will also be on offer.

Brand owner Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands (BBFB) is pushing SoCo serve Cajun Thunder for Halloween as well. BBFB claims Cajun Thunder — a mixture of SoCo and Tabasco sauce — has “gone down a storm” in the on-trade since being introduced last year.

As a spirits brand, SoCo stands out in its support of the trade. On the beer side, it’s fair to say that Hobgoblin has led the way for Halloween in recent years.


Continuing its run as the ‘unofficial beer of Halloween’ this year, Hobgoblin is set for ‘another season of mischief’ at a number of events up and down the country. These include the Sneaky Experience in Leeds, the Bram Stoker International Film Festival in Whitby, and Metal Hammer magazine’s 25th anniversary party at the O2 Academy Islington, in north London.

Pubs will be encouraged to get involved with the season of mischief by uploading their scary events on the Hobgoblin website. Hobgoblin is also running an online £5,000 free prize draw, and daily instant-win spot prizes until the end of November. Meanwhile, PoS will be available to pubs.

Wychwood’s unofficial status as the number-one Halloween brewer looks set to be given a run for its money this year.

To mark its first ‘witch season’, the Burnley brewer Moorhouse’s is adding 4.6% ABV Ruby Witch, said to be a dark ruby beer with subtle roast flavours and hints of spice and tangerine.

Moorhouse’s brands are inspired by the legend of the witches who roamed Pendle Hill, near Burnley, during the early 1600s. Ruby Witch joins Moorhouse’s regular five-strong line-up under the Which Craft Ales Will You Be Drinking this October? promotion — Broomstick Bitter (4% ABV), Witch Hunt (4.8% ABV), Black Witch (4.2% ABV), Witches Cauldron (4.2% ABV) and Witchfinder Gen-eral (4.4% ABV).

The specials join core ‘witch’ brands Blond Witch (4.5% ABV), Black Cat (3.4% ABV) and Pendle Witches Brew (5.1% ABV).
“This year we have created another special brew to further strengthen our annual selection,” says Moorhouse’s managing director David Grant.

“It marks the new brewery’s first ‘witch season’, and we expect sales to bounce. With our new £4.2m brewery fully up and running, Moorhouse’s is now the major brewer for Halloween.”

Cocktails represent another drinks category that should be exploited during the Halloween period.

Vicky Lee, trading and marketing controller at Continental Wine & Food (CWF), suggests using both Halloween and Bonfire Night as opportunities to devise a small range of cocktail ideas to give consumers a wider choice.

“Popular cocktail favourites such as Orchards Peach Schnapps and Bali Rum strike a chord with publicans at this time of year,” says Lee.

“All brands are supported heavily throughout the winter, helping bar owners to make consumers aware of the wide choice



Halloween doesn’t have to be an indoor event — it can also be an outdoor celebration if the weather is reasonable. “Fancy dress is an obvious but very popular option with a themed menu of cocktails, food and decorations, so stocking up on pumpkins may be a good idea,” says Lee.

“Bar owners could look at a family-themed event. Where facilities permit, a bonfire barbecue can be very popular if the weather is good, but, if not, large vats of chilli, curry and stew can be prepared and served easily to many people.”

Party games can be very popular during these events, so stock up on bobbing apples or try your hand at pass the pumpkin or have pumpkin hunts, Lee advises.

“Don’t forget to provide a special offer on fruit juices to attract those driving and families with children,” she adds.

Plenty of ideas, then, to make this Halloween a spine-tingler for customers, and a profitable one for your pub.

Case study: the Black Bull, Etal, Northumberland

A plague of rats would normally be the last thing anyone would wish to see when visiting a pub. However, if you visit the Black Bull in Etal, in the week running up to Halloween, it’s just what you’re likely to encounter.

“Last year, our theme was the living dead, but I fancied a change,” explains licensee Karen Hunter, who has run the Punch leasehold since 2005.

“We’ll have plastic rats on the lawn, with their guts spilling out. There will be some ghoulish heads lying about as well.”

When it comes to staging a show for Halloween, Hunter doesn’t do things by halves. Over the years she has built up an enviable collection of skeletons, Draculas, cobwebs, spiders, and other spooky paraphernalia, all of which help pull in punters and make Halloween very profitable for the Black Bull.


“The pub will be ready on 17 October and, as Halloween is on a Monday this year, we will run events until 30 October,” says Hunter. “On the Saturday, we’ll have a Halloween quiz. Sunday will be our fancy-dress contest for kids.”

Hunter believes the secret to a successful Halloween is to make it scary and fun for kids, and the adults will follow. It’s also good to get the community involved.

“The residents in our hamlet get in the mood by putting up scarecrows in their gardens, or carving pumpkins,” Hunter explains. “People return every year to see what we’ve done with the pub.”

And the boost to business is clear. Sales in Halloween week usually top £10,000, a big leap from the normal £3,000 to £4,000 at this time of year.

Hunter says: “It’s a huge boost before Christmas. Pubs don’t make enough effort at Halloween, and don’t realise how profitable it can be.”

Ghostly grub ideas

Instant soup and sauces producer Maggi offers up a couple of supernatural supper recipes to tantalise your customers this Halloween.

‘Devilishly delicious’ Boston baked beans


1.25kg Maggi Rich & Rustic Tomato Sauce
4tbsp honey
1tbsp wholegrain mustard
1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
500g canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
300g canned mixed beans, rinsed and drained
2 bay leaves
A small handful of
chopped parsley



Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas Mark 4. In a deep, oven-proof dish, mix together the tomato sauce, honey, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in the beans and bay leaves.

Cover tightly with foil.

Cook in the oven for 45 minutes, stirring halfway through. Stir in the parsley before serving with baked potatoes or as a side dish.

‘Cauldron’ of roast pumpkin soup


400g onion, thickly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1.25kg pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cubed
500g tomatoes, halved
4tbsp olive oil
A handful of freshly-chopped rosemary
125g Maggi tomato soup mix
1.5litre of water
Freshly-ground black pepper
3tbsp double cream


Pre-heat oven to 220°C, 425°F, Gas Mark 7.
Place the onion, garlic, pumpkin and tomato in a roasting tin, drizzle with the oil and sprinkle over the rosemary. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes or
until slightly charred.
Make up the soup mix with
the water, according to pack instructions, and add the roasted vegetables. Blend to a pulpy texture, heat through then stir in the cream and black pepper. Serve with
warm bread.

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