The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way that the service industry operates. As fall approaches and more people focus on the holidays ahead, it’s time to start planning for a social-distanced Halloween. While it may be a major change from the typical festivities, there are ways that bars and restaurants can have a successful and fun Halloween; here is what you need to know.
The first way to get the most out of a social-distanced Halloween involves priming your customers with information and excitement. Decorating for Halloween is crucial as it makes your customer base think about the impending holiday and gets them asking questions. Every bar and restaurant should have the answers to those potential questions right in front of their customers or otherwise easily available. Is the establishment celebrating Halloween? Do they have to wear a mask? How many people are allowed in? What events will be taking place? Advertisements along with educated workers should provide your customers with definitive answers, and that means bars should start planning now.
Another way to handle social distancing and Halloween events is to be proactive about overcrowding at your event. That means events should require more than a cover charge to get through the door. Many bars and restaurants are going to operate at a lower capacity than normal, if not for customer safety, then to satisfy local laws. Using tickets as a way to control the crowds for specific events can make it easy to maintain proper social distancing in any bar or restaurant. That way, it’s possible to track the number of people coming into the bar on nights when the business could be at capacity. However, it’s important to remember that this entire idea is contingent on having planned events and activities.
If a business is going to sell tickets to events, then it is important to line them up and space them out. Many people enjoy Halloween festivities, but don’t go to a costume party on the actual night of the holiday. They have the party beforehand so they can serve candy or not feel the need to party on a work night. Although the holiday falls on a Saturday this year, plenty of people will look to attend events that suit their schedule and meet their safety concerns. That’s why restaurants and bars should consider hosting numerous events throughout the week, while also offering all the usual fare. That way, a business can still host regular guests while also having planned parties and festivities to satisfy their Halloween lovers.
There are some dishes and appetizers that won’t work because of the social distancing requirements. Namely, bars probably should avoid putting out a bowl of nuts that is shared by the community. Restaurants will want to cut down on having a bucket of candy offerings for their guests, too. That doesn’t mean it’s necessary to abandon a themed menu. Everything from the appetizers, main courses, and drinks can be designed to instill a Halloween theme and increase customer engagement without sacrificing safety. Instead of promoting common-use items like a punch bowl, use individual containers to sell a “witch’s brew” or have pre-made caramel apples.
Creativity doesn’t have to end with snacks and baked goods. Many different drinks can be added to the menu for the fall season that will keep customers coming back. Ginger beers, specialty craft beers, fall-flavored wines, whiskey, and more can be used as supplements to the original menu to bring customers in for Halloween.
Social distancing requirements have made bars and restaurants completely re-evaluate the space in which the business operates. Every business must optimize their available space to fit customers into the building and do it safely. Many businesses have started to focus on an outside dining plan, and that’s something that can be re-evaluated for use during Halloween. While some areas have weather that is too cold during this time of year, others can turn a portion of their property into an outside dining, drinking, and celebration space. Of course, every business must determine whether this is optimal for its location and needs, but the same concept can be applied to indoor seating, too. Find as many ways as possible to get the most out of every square foot in the building with barriers in place, social distancing markers, or any other required notices.
While it can be tempting to implement changes the week of Halloween, it’s a good idea to perform live tests on many of these suggestions. Specifically, work on the indoor and outdoor seating arrangements, include fall items on the menu, and train staff to address customer concerns. Furthermore, list ticket sales information and events on a calendar long before the events take place, perhaps as early as the first week in October. Your business and customers will be prepared and interested to see what you put together.
Halloween 2020 is going to be decided by the customers. Are they feeling comfortable enough to share an enclosed space with their fellow patrons? Do they like the idea of outdoor dining? How do they feel about your menu? It’s time to dig deep into customer analytics and see how they feel about the proposed Halloween offerings. Even doing an informal survey can provide valuable information that will let your business customize their plan for Halloween. Every area is going to offer different results, so it’s important to make an effort to understand your community.
The necessity of social distancing is going to have a great impact on Halloween this year. That doesn’t mean that businesses can’t be proactive to confront and minimize the impact that the pandemic has on their restaurant or bar. Offering an exclusive experience through ticket sales, working to understand customer needs, and emphasizing safety are things that every bar or restaurant can do to ensure that this Halloween is the best possible.
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