Campus Dining Gets Creepy

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Why do people pay good money to take haunted hayrides through spine-chilling apple orchards and walk through dark haunted houses, getting grabbed and chased by creepy, masked characters? People love to be scared! Sure, some feign being tough when they’re really crying inside but there’s something about being scared that makes a typically-ordinary moment more exciting.

It’s hard to believe, but October has crept up on us yet again, giving non-commercial foodservice operators the opportunity to drive sales and engagement in campus dining operations this month. Whether there’s a full moon or not, spooky things start happening this time of year, so engage diners with dark dining hall dinners, fun fall-themed events, and limited-time-only menu items.


Create A Spooky Atmosphere

  • During dinner meal-time hours, dim the lights in your dining hall. This creates an eerie atmosphere that will get students in the Halloween spirit but isn’t too over the top.
  • Play spooky sounds or a Halloween-themed playlist over the speakers to switch it up a little this month. You don’t want to give diners Monster Mash overkill though so pick certain days, or certain meal times, to play the spooky tunes.
  • Try incorporating dry ice throughout dining areas for a simple yet unique way to add to your Halloween ambiance. Maybe you simply buy some black cauldrons to put it in. Or, put silverware packs and condiments inside a container oozing with the smoky fog, making students a little uneasy as they reach a hand in for some packets of blood … er, we mean ketchup.

Host Fun Fall Activities

  • rsz_halloween-pumpkin-carving-faceBYOP: Bring Your Own Pumpkin! Although Halloween is synonymous for activities that make you scream, try sprinkling in some not-so-scary events that are fall-themed and fun for all. Host a night of pumpkin-carving fun for students, encouraging them to be creative, but appropriate, with designs. Don’t let participants throw away the guts though! Collect the carved-out pieces and pumpkin seeds that normally get thrown away to use for fall-inspired, pumpkin-y treats. You’ll lower food waste and cut the cost of purchasing pumpkins for seasonal recipes this fall.
  • Host a movie night! There’s an endless number of movies that are perfect for fall from The Nightmare Before Christmas to Psycho to the Friday the 13th anthology. Draw students in with free popcorn but also offer Halloween-themed snacks for sale to boost your bottom line. Need some ideas for horror movie-inspired items?- Michael Myers was a “cereal” killer, so if you decide to show any of the Halloween movies, serve up different kinds of cereal and milk to give movie-goers a good laugh.
    – Sleepy Hollow is a classic tale from Washington Irving, known by most. Couple this movie with another classic; Warm apple pie.
    – Playing The Ring, that urban legend movie from back in 2002? Sell viewers onion rings! Simple, silly, cost-effective, and delicious.
    – Every October, Hocus Pocus is a nostalgic must-see for many. Draw viewers in by playing the movie, and offer witches brew to satisfy the Winifred, Mary, and Sarah in all of us.

Offer Halloween-Themed Menu Items

  • This time of year you can’t go anywhere without seeing “pumpkin-spice this” and “pumpkin-infused that” but there’s a reason you see it everywhere … it sells. Think pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread French toast, pumpkin chili, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin cookies … you get the idea.
  • For breakfast, do something as simple as dying pancake batter orange. This drives interest for Halloween-lovers and only takes an extra couple of seconds.
  • All food allergies aside, have you ever met someone who doesn’t love pizza? What about spider pizza? Spook hungry diners with some creepy crawlers lurking in their cheese. (Creation tip: Cut the spider pieces ahead of time so they can quickly and easily be placed in the pie before cooking. I speak from experience when I say this will save you a LOT of time!)
  • Caramel apples will be a sure hit on campus, proving their worth as more than just a Halloween-time treat since they’re popular all season long. Partner with a local orchard to purchase the apples to appeal to more diners (hello, millennials!) and help the surrounding community.
  • Candy corn Jell-O, anyone? Colorfully-intriguing AND delicious? Who could say no!

rsz_pumpkin varietyHave you tried any of these ideas within your own non-commercial foodservice operation? Do you have ideas of your own that are tried and true? Let us know! We’d love to hear creative ways to (pumpkin) spice up campus dining throughout the fall season. Comment below or share on our Facebook page.

Did any of these ideas inspire you to add a spooky treat or seasonal item to your CaterTrax online menu? Submit a ticket to our Menu Team with any menu requests or additions from the back-of-house admin view. If you need assistance, please contact our Support Team.

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