Don’t be a scaredy cat, get involved with Halloween this year to thrill customers and engage with your local community
Halloween has gained huge popularity in the UK over recent years and while we don’t spend anywhere near our cousins across the pond, this spooky celebration is now the UK’s third biggest event in terms of consumer spending after Christmas and Easter.
This year, spending is estimated to hit a monstrous £777 – a 300% increase compared to ten years ago when that figure stood at £230 million.
As more people are lured towards this festive occasion, there’s an opportunity for fish and chip shops to take a slice of this pie. From turning batter green to serving burgers in black baps to covering chips in blood red ketchup, there are a host of easy ways for shops to get involved with Halloween.
Last year saw the Soho branch of London-based Poppies team up with Heinz to offer a limited edition Heinz [Scarily] Good Black Garlic Mayo for customers wanting to add a dark side to their food. It also created a themed menu that included ghostly cod bites and chips as well as sausage ‘Severed Fingers’ and chips, the classic combination of a large, plain sausage and chips. It worked well for the busy chippy as it simply pulled together products it was already serving, requiring no additional spend or prep.
Down in Ramsgate in Kent, Newington Fish Bar added a dash of colour to the celebrations by turning its battered sausages green using food colouring. Again, it’s a quick, easy and cost effective move, however, owner Nigel Derrett admits it was more of a gimmick for marketing purposes and not many were sold on the day. Bear this in mind before making up bucket loads of batter!
The Fish Works in Largs, Ayrshire, comes at it from a different angle and markets Halloween as “kids eat free day”. Being a family business and knowing how stressful it can be getting the kids ready for Halloween with working and trying to make the dinner, it tries to relieve some of the stress by offering one free kids meal in a box with the purchase of every Full Works – its large haddock and chips.
Owner Tiffany Irvin comments: “It helps boost sales as it brings kids to the shop. And of course, we have wee bags of sweets for them if they come in dressed up.”
With the current cost of living crisis putting pressure on household incomes, and shop owners facing their own challenges, operators may be forgiven for wanting to sit this year out, especially if it isn’t a huge sales occasion. However, simply joining in with the celebrations by decorating the shop and encouraging staff to dress up can be a great morale booster for all.
The Wee Chippy in Anstruther, Fife, for example, is located down near the shore where there are very little children; families have to specifically head down to the chippy. Even with that in mind, owner Chris Lewis says it’s worth the effort to decorate the shop and it can, if he’s lucky, bring in about 50 kids.
“Truthfully it doesn’t benefit us or bring any extra trade but I’m a great believer in giving back to the community wherever we can,” he says. “We keep the decorations up for a week prior to Halloween. The older generation love that we’re doing something for it and it gives us photos to advertise ourselves.
“The staff say they hate dressing up but always make a great job of it. They get really involved with it and like having a laugh with the kids.”
This is a sentiment echoed by Newington Fish Bar’s Nigel, who says: “The staff all seem to enjoy getting dressed up for halloween, there’s always a large amount of parents out with children around teatime so it entices them in for free sweets and then on their way home they often buy food.
“Having fun with customers and a bit of banter can only be a good thing. It helps customers remember us if they are not regulars so it’s another form of advertising to help get noticed.”
TOP FIVE HALLOWEEN TIPS
- Promote products that support Halloween – sharing platters and family boxes for those having parties or staying in, and cones of chips for trick or treaters to enjoy on the go.
- Offer a discount for customers that come in dressed up.
- Pop a bowl of sweets on the counter for an added treat for children to help themselves while waiting for food.
- Organise a pumpkin trail with other shops in your local area.
- Hold a pumpkin carving competition and display all the entries on the ground outside your shop on Halloween. It’s a great way to decorate your premises and engage with your customers.
STUCK FOR AN IDEA
When Byland Road Chippy in Saltburn-by-the-sea, North Yorkshire, ran a Facebook competition to win a free meal plus a haul of Halloween sweets, it got 96 comments and 81 shares!