It might be an event filled with ghouls and ghosts but Halloween represents an opportunity to pubs that is anything but scary.

Only Christmas and Easter can top it for annual events that are guaranteed to bring in the cash — but nothing is growing at quite the rate of the October spookfest.

The Halloween industry is now worth £400m — a giant 3,000 per cent increase since 2012, when revenue was closer to £12m.

Brits have truly embraced the spirit of Halloween and so too have pubs.

The Old Sergeant in London's Wandsworth is one of many that sees the pub, staff and customers all dressed for the occasion.

Manager Bronwyn Cooper explains: "We do the same thing every year because it is so successful. We get a fortune teller and put her in the love shack in the garden. She is incredibly popular and has been incredibly accurate with what she has said about customers moving and having children and so on."

The pub also puts on a band who rattle out a few Halloween classics (see p44-45 for some of our own ideas for Halloween tunes). "I love it because it's great fun and there isn't the pressure you get for Christmas or New Year," continues Bronwyn. "In fact, it's the last thing before you really get into that Christmas mode. It's also a great one for families because the kids love it too and we do lots of sweets on the bar for them."

 

 

Last year the pub went with a "Malice in Wonderland' theme that enabled customers to get creative with their costumes. Bronwyn described it as a "one off event" but she kept the decorations up for a few days and held a themed pub quiz later in the week.

 

Mischief makers

Brands also like to get involved in the event. Hobgoblin has long been the unofficial beer of Halloween — last year it sold 5.6 mliion pints during what it calls "the season of mischief".

This year Hobgoblin is driving a campaign called "Smash for Cash", a competition being promoted in the on-trade, with more than 8,000 point-of-sale kits.

Players use the Hobgoblin website to digitally smash "pumpkinised" celebs characters piñata-style. Those with the best scores will be in line for Hobgoblin gifts and cash prizes.

 

 

Sarah Mahoney, marketing manager for Hobgoblin, says: "Halloween gives everyone the perfect excuse to embrace something a little bit out of the ordinary and Hobgoblin certainly leads the charge.

"For us, it is about creating an experience that our consumers can get wrapped up in."

Meanwhile, drinks distributor Matthew Clark is offering a range of point-of-sale kits and discounts on relevant brands such as Frankenstein, Bucket of Blood (both nine-litre casks), Aspall Mulled Cider and Jägermeister, with free zombie kit. Customers will also receive offers on tequila or mezcal purchases, allowing pubs to tie in with the "Day of the Dead" celebrations and the growing popularity of both spirits.

But with Halloween being an occasion for all of the family, it is important not to overlook your soft drinks range.

Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola Enterprises, says: "As an occasion that naturally lends itself to a family audience, it's advisable for licensees to consider their soft drinks range, making sure there's a wide choice available for those not drinking alcohol."

She adds: "Even for events without a family focus, it's important to consider that many adults are now drinking less alcohol. As many as one in five people are now teetotal so there's a real opportunity to increase soft drinks sales during Halloween."

Whether your customers choose soft drinks, beer or even spirits, Halloween is an event that offers a unique opportunity for pubs.

 

Tips for a spooky Halloween

Themed cocktails: Decorate with novelty ice cubes, cobwebs and anything else you wouldn't normally put in a drink

Games: Whether for the kids or grown-ups, apple-bobbing and pumpkin carving could drive competition. You can also give a prize for best-dressed guest.

Disgusting food: Not in taste but in appearance. Use of lots of greens, reds and oranges to create snacks that are terrifying to look at but good to eat.

Social Media: Your customers will never look better/worse. Make sure the evidence is on your social media channels.