Halloween Hoopla

Nothing could be a better customer pleaser—just don’t forget to serve the Frozen Floating Hand.

Planning and running a Halloween promotion for customers of all ages can bring out the chuckles and childhood glee. As operators report, all you need to do is provide the suggestion of ghoulishness and creepiness—and food, of course—to create an awesome special event.

Bart Hipple, associate director of communications for dining services at the University of Maryland in College Park, notes that the annual traditional festivities are fun for managers and students alike. “Our dining hall is a foodcourt and we try to have our theme items featured in most of the ‘shops,’” Hipple says.

At the North Campus Diner, serving approximately 3,500 students for dinner, lights are dimmed and the ambiance is ghostly: Buckets of dry ice emanate an otherworldly chill while strategically placed synthetic cobwebs brush the faces of the unsuspecting.

Ghoulish menu: Tradition dictates the serving of Baked Bones: two manicotti shells with mushrooms, tomato sauce and cheese, available in the special value meal section. Stuffed Monster Heads (stuffed bell peppers, olives, onion straws, couscous, veggie crumbles, asparagus and marinara sauce), plus a side order of Black Bats Wings (chicken wings with barbeque sauce), are offered in the deli and rotisserie chicken area, respectively.

To complete the festive meal, there are homemade caramel apples on a stick, five types no less, available from the Ice Cream Shop and Bakery.

A Southwestern version: Leslie Bulkley, director of dining service for Chartwells Dining Services at the University of Texas-San Antonio, featured the following menu at the Roadrunner Café last Halloween and expects her staff will try to top it come October. The menu included: Assorted Road Kill with Albino Slime; Spooky Spuds; Steamed Grasshoppers; Boiled Mini-Hamster Brains; and Witches Brew. Worm Cake and Chilled Liver Cubes (red gelatin) were offered for dessert.

A note on the menu provides a more mundane translation: Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, Cauliflower Florets; Witches Brew is a mixture of Orange and Grape Punch with Ginger Ale. “Don’t forget the frozen floating hand and dry ice,” Bulkley warns.

Worm Cake is a crumbled chocolate cake, layered with Oreos and gummy worms, topped with pudding.

Being kids at heart, the 200 residents of Health Advocate, a luxury retirement community in New York, look forward to the Halloween celebration that is held in the dining room each year. According to Kelly Friend, Whitsons Culinary Group’s vice president of operations, the themed buffet luncheon draws a crowd—many in costume—and staff are encouraged to bring their children, also in costume, to enjoy the festivities.

The menu boasts a Witches Brew Soup (typically it’s chicken noodle), Skeleton Stew (a traditional stew served in a “witches’ cauldron” borrowed from the catering division), Baby Ghost Potatoes (mashed potatoes with cloves for eyes) and store-bought orange and black cupcakes along with novelty cookies.


‘How to’ tricks to make those treats

Food colors are “just the trick for conjuring up some wickedly good party favorites.” Consider these suggestions:

  • Bewitching Bread Sticks: Dip sliced almonds into red food color; press an almond into one end of each refrigerated bread stick to resemble a fingernail. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. Bake and serve…if you dare.
  • Green Lagoon Punch: A frozen, neon purple hand is the star ingredient. Just mix 1-1/2 cups of water with four-to-five drops of purple food color. Pour into a clear, plastic glove and secure with a rubber band or twist tie; freeze until solid. Just before serving, mix one bottle (2 liters) lemon-lime soda, one can (12-oz.) frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed, and 1/4-tsp. green food color in a clear bowl. Add the frozen hand and serve.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The menu served at Ottawa General Hospital in Ottawa, Ontario, is headed for an overhaul after its CEO and management team ate a strict hospital food diet for a week and were unhappy with their options. The foodservice department has been fielding patient complaints for years, but decided to take action after facing the issue head on.

“Getting food managers to eat three meals of hospital food a day for a week brought the point home that much of the food being served was bland, institutional and not what people would normally eat,” Director of Food Services Kevin Peters told Ottawa...

Industry News & Opinion

With overtime pay likely to become a reality for some salaried foodservice employees after Dec. 1, operators are rethinking what they expect managers to do off-site as part of their responsibilities. Answering email or scheduling shifts at home didn’t matter when the employees were exempted from overtime if they earned more than $23,660 per year. But with that threshold more than doubling on Dec. 1 to $47,476, a half hour spent here and there on administrative tasks could push a salaried manager over the 40-hours-per-week threshold and entitle him or her to overtime. And how does the...

Menu Development
frozen raspberries

“As a chef, I pretty much have grown up through the business thinking that fresh was always better—produce, fish and meats, especially,” says Ryan Conklin, executive chef for UNC Rex Healthcare’s culinary and nutrition services. “But the more ‘re-educated’ I get, the more I’m learning that some frozen options may be more appropriate for me to be using on my menus.”

Right now, the perception of frozen foods doesn’t match the reality, especially for high-volume foodservice operators, says Conklin. Often, chefs and operators picture not-great product that’s been sitting in a block of...

Sponsored Content
Roasted Beet Salad Pickled Blueberries
From Blueberry Council.

What’s trending in the culinary world? The basics! According to the NRA, diners today are craving authenticity, simplicity and freshness on menus. But basic ingredients don’t have to lead to boring menu options.

It’s easy to fall into the latest craze to capture consumer attention and drive sales. But we’ve learned it’s not always about novelty. Instilling a feeling of nostalgia and familiarity by using well-known and well-loved ingredients in new, experimental dishes can lead to an increase in adventurous dining decisions, while staying in your customers’...

FSD Resources