Halloween and Bonfire Night – Time to Cash in on Those Profits


“I’m a homicidal maniac, they look just like everyone else.”

Wednesday, The Addams Family

­I chose the above quote for a reason – my surname! Yes, as an Adams I’ve heard every Addams joke in the book at school my nickname was “Uncle Fester” so a spooky Addams family quote does seem rather apt!

Two great nights coming up the hospitality and on trade, Halloween and Bonfire Night, and everybody loves a theme! Both nights totally different requiring their own unique theme but both nights great for packing in the punters. Both very much social occasions, absolutely wonderful fun, for adults’ families and children and great ways to increase sales during what can be a typically quiet time of the year, in the lead up to Christmas.

While bonfire night has always been a popular on trade event Halloween tended to be largely ignored at worst or given “lip service at best”.

Now we are much more into the party spirit, Halloween is “frightfully popular” (see what we did there)? operators recognise both events as an opportunity for a much-needed revenue boost and given the pressure the hospitality and on trade industry is under with business rates, various other taxes, and supermarket competition in food and drink we really cannot afford to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Outside of the Christmas season and bank holidays weekends Halloween is the next biggest sales period for the on trade According to market analysts Mintel UK spent £419 million on celebrating Halloween in 2018, up by 5% from the £400 million spent in 2017. More than half (52%) of all Brits joined in with the Halloween spirit in 2017, with that figure rising significantly for key demographics such as millennials (77%) and parents of under-fives (85%). Of those that join in, more than half (56%) say they enjoy taking part in Halloween activities. Halloween continues to grow in popularity benefiting from the booming leisure market, and is a perfect opportunity for retailers to create experiences for customers,” said Chana Baram, retail analyst at Mintel. “Once again, sales are set to increase as retailers dedicate more resources and merchandise to this key seasonal event.”

When it came to Bonfire night last year, UK consumers spent £316m, up 2% from £310m in 2017, according to new research. Last year almost two in five (38%) Brits shelled out on products for Bonfire Night.

As fireworks take centre stage on Bonfire Night, they account for the largest share (50%) of spend, with Brits burning through £155 million worth of bangers, rockets and Catherine Wheels last year. Other major areas of spend include food/drink (valued at £62 million) and sweets/chocolates (valued at £39 million).

Overall, as many as three quarters (74%) of Brits say they enjoy attending public Bonfire Night events. But while Brits clearly love the thrill of the celebration, a cautious 46% of Bonfire Night purchasers say that safety concerns put them off hosting a Bonfire Night party, rising to half of women (49%), with people seeking a planned and organised event as a safer option. “As the smallest of the Autumn/Winter seasonal events, Bonfire Night presents a growing opportunity for the retail market. With continued uncertainty surrounding the UK economy, today’s consumers are happier to spend on experiences. Bonfire Night is enjoyed as an event, with many people going to a public Bonfire Night display. There is a definite opportunity for food & drink retailers to combine a Bonfire Night and food event, as, apart from fireworks, food is the main product purchased for the event.

These two events are less than a week apart, and in an age where analysts say that less people are making their visit to the pub, more time and effort spent in creating a unique themed evening one that cannot be replicated in the home will see revellers descend in large numbers, family, friends, work colleagues, there are many ways to create a unique celebration, an opportunity to stand out and attract custom.

Emmy Webster senior marketing manager at Brothers Drinks says: “Halloween is now the second largest on-trade event of the year with over £400 million spent on the occasion. It’s a time of year not to ignore, and you may be missing out on crucial footfall opportunity. One in four people will attend some form of Halloween event this year and the people driving this are young millennials. Halloween isn’t just for kids these days, with the experience craving millennials celebrating and driving what is now the second biggest trade opportunity in the on-trade. With 9/10 alcohol occasions now only featuring one venue, theatre and experience is key to driving footfall into your account and keeping consumers there. Consider putting on a themed event, such as a fancy dress night, put on a band or if your outlet doesn’t permit this, then try offering a seasonal serve.

As Halloween is now the second largest occasion for pubs after New Year’s Eve, the month of October is the perfect time for operators to capitalise on the growing popularity swooping the UK, says Nicola Randall, Senior Marketing Manager, Brothers Drinks Co Ltd, “It’s even estimated that throwing a Halloween party can increase incremental spend by 30%, when compared with the average late-night customer.”

“This year, consumers are looking for new and exciting experiences, of which a niche offering, as well as premium food and drink play a huge part. Operators looking to boost their sales during this festive period should be creative and experimental in order to attract both new and existing customers, providing something different to their competitors.”

For Halloween 2019, Brothers have created a host of Halloween themed cocktail recipes to help operators capitalise on consumers’ love of toffee apple. These recipes include ‘The Poison Apple’ a heady mixture of Brothers Toffee Apple Cider and Amaretto!

It’s all in the planning

Get the message out now, market yourself! Are you displaying posters? Menu cards? Have you devised the menu for food and drink? Have you organised any prizes for best costume? Are you organising fun activities such as ghost walks, a murder mystery or a horror show, or a Halloween and Guy Fawkes themed quiz night? Or have you lined up any other entertainment?
Have you put the events on your website? Are you taking advantage of social media? Great opportunities to get the message out. Can you tie the event up with a local cause? Raising funds for a charity, school, care home, we all love events with that feelgood factor of benefiting others.

Never be too scared to peek!

Getting into the spirit of things

Dressing up your venue is an important step , and a little bit of fake cobweb can work wonders in creating the right environment . Having staff dress up a little for the occasion, can do wonders in setting the tone and showing that your venue is embracing the festivities as much as your guests. When it comes to costumes Halloween has the atmospheric edge over Guy Fawkes, however in recent years the Guy Fawkes costume, the mask in particular has become increasingly popular, so getting your staff into the spirit of things by dressing up, zombies, skeletons, goblins clowns, vampires for Halloween and the Guy Fawkes costume is catching up particularly with the “V for Vendetta mask“, are fantastic ways to create a stunning party atmosphere, but the secret is not to have your staff upstage your guests, so make their costumes good (but not too good)!

Peeks the Event Maker have been selling Halloween products for years, managing director Nick Peek says: “Halloween might be a frightening prospect but we here at Peeks can make it fun. We are inviting pubs and bars to open their eyes and see what we have at Peeks for that October 31 celebration. It’s a day loved by adults and kids alike and with the date landing on a Thursday there is a whole weekend to devote to it.

“Peeks have cauldrons and costumes, blood and balloons, bats and brooms, skulls and tombs. Whether you want scene setters and bunting or dismembered hands and mad men’s masks we have the lot. And our giant Halloween party packs are a must for those wanting all they want in a single box.”

Prop4Shows have also got into the spirit of things. Marketing director Lin Ford said, “We have a massive range of Halloween props to give your parties and events that eerie feel. We have many themed items available, so whether you’re doing Scary Clowns, Gory Dinner Party, Spooky Graveyard, Dungeons and Dragons or Haunted House, we have that covered, plus much more.

“You can select from hundreds of products on our website, available for next day delivery. Our ranges also include many foliage, moss, fabric and rocks to complete your set. That aside, we have our vast selection of fake foods for decorating your open kitchen and eating areas, or even use it to create the best gory dinner party display! So don’t get caught in the dark; feed your frogs, tether your toads and wash out your cauldron to get ready for the witching hour!”

Spook the Drinks

Aside from getting your staff to dress up getting them to “push sales” is also vitally important. Halloween and Guy Fawkes themed food and drink are great revenue earners, furthermore your clientele will be expecting them. Point of sale is vital and can help increase footfall and drive sales for any promotion. Experience led consumers purchase 27% of on trade serves and primarily shop by promotions and offers when selecting drinks promotions are a key to trading up!

Themed drinks and cocktails this time year or every bartenders dream. If there is a time of year when bar staff can have some fun with drinks then it is Halloween and Guy Fawkes, from putting a twist on a classic drink and giving a creepy name there is plenty that can be done so add some horror and humour, particularly given the current state of affairs in Parliament!
Mulled ciders are always a favourite, going down well “warming the cockles” particularly for bonfire night!

Jägermeister has been the ‘Spirit of Halloween’ for the past 6 years, and are helping our customers get into the spirit by offering 1,500 kits across the UK. The kits are complete with themed POS, giveaways and materials for the bar staff, which will help drive footfall and keep customers entertained whilst enjoying a great night out.

The Halloween kits include bunting, bespoke back bottle labels, display cards, vinyl cutouts, chalkboard stickers and Trick or Treat scratch cards given out with every Jägermeister sold. The scratch cards reveal tricks or treats that the consumer has to perform such as doing the ‘Thriller’ dance or getting to skip buying a round of drinks. Large-scale activation kits will also include hanging ghouls, banners and a selfie curtain with the campaigns key visual encouraging consumers to partake in the Halloween festivities and share their night on social media.

Strangely enough for Halloween people tend to like the really gory themed cocktails however when it comes to food you have to keep it appetising, so although it may seem a good idea at the time brains, tongue, tripe would be great ingredients but probably not best sellers. Variations on existing menus are probably the better way to go, invariably it will have to include pumpkin which is great roasted and goes great with pasta, steak ribs and burgers are always a winner it’s all about being creative with the title.

The unofficial beer of Halloween Hobgoblin is looking forward to another season of mischief which doesn’t necessarily have to start and end with Halloween night itself “October is ripe for Halloween events says brand manager Alex Harrison “this season of mischief is starting earlier every year. A Halloween event doesn’t necessarily need to be on Halloween itself any time during October is perfectly acceptable”.

However, the brand is evolving for the first time in its 31-year history.

The Hobgoblin character, synonymous with the brand’s rebellious state of mind, will remain front of stage but the branding will be stripped back to focus on a more contemporary and modern look that is just the beginning for the refreshed Hobgoblin. Brand Manager Jo Wyke said : “This is a bold change for Hobgoblin. We know how much it is celebrated as the leader of the pack and its legacy amongst great British Beers, so we wanted to make sure we tested the new look, researched and tested again, ensuring we kept the character that everyone expects from Hobgoblin. The contemporary look will be supported by a new creative platform that will be launched in early 2020 – in true Hobgoblin style the original rebel beer is back and ready for more.”

However, don’t forget to cater for those who are not drinking with a good range of soft drinks and “mocktails”. Amy Burgess trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European partners said “even for events without a family focus it is important to consider that many adults are now drinking less alcohol, with many as one in five now teetotal, highlighting the opportunity presented by soft drinks to increase sales during Halloween and bonfire night. To add a sense of occasion pubs and bars may wish to get creative with a soft drinks offering by creating non-alcoholic themed mock tails to suit the occasion.”

When it comes to bonfire night particularly with this being such an outdoor event if you’re having a bonfire and firework display and people may very well be eating “on the move”, so perhaps a buffet style operation would be a good idea, and of course the old favourites such as baked potatoes and hot soup are a must, but an even better idea is to start the occasion with a hog roast or a barbecue.

While both Halloween and Guy Fawkes themed nights will be aimed at adults don’t forget they are a family fun occasion and late afternoon/early evening celebration should be considered so make sure you cater for the little ones, trick or treat, face painting, apple bobbing, fancy dress, or a safe and professional firework display will keep the kids occupied.


Top tips to boost your Halloween and bonfire night celebrations

• Get your message out as quickly as possible, in your establishment, on your social media, and on your website make everyone aware of any special promotions, offer discounts for pre-bookings
• Decorate for the occasion
• Compile themed menus and promote special offers on the night and cater for all ages
• Boost your drinks offering with themed cocktails and mocktails , ales and hot drinks mulled wines & cider or infused drinks with spices and seasonal
• Promote on the night! Use chalk boards images posters table cards, make sure your staff are well-versed and able to recommend pairing food with drinks
• Get your entertainment sorted, music, face painting, quiz, firework display (consult a professional), fancy dress competition, make sure you are providing something that cannot be replicated at home
• Have a ball – organise a competition for the best costume. Remember people go to a great deal of time and effort so if you are going to reward them be generous!
• Consider a ghost walk or employ the services of a good local Story-Teller. Does your venue have a tall tale to tell? Almost every pub will have gruesome incident or ghastly affair that has left a ghostly figure roaming the bars and rooms at night and what better night to tell people!