The Pizza Chef: Halloween apples, bat guts and dough brains, oh my!
By Diana ClineFeatures Business and Operations In the Kitchen Marketing Recipes Trends editor pick halloween pizza pizza chef planning for halloween at your pizzeria
There’s a reason that many families opt to pick up or have pizzas delivered on Halloween night. If you’ve got littles, you already know the excitement that’s been brewing for weeks: it’s likely they’ve been wearing their costumes for about as long, and they can’t wait to get out to collect all the free candy. It can be tough to get them to eat real food, never mind the parents, who are running their tails off to get home, finding time to eat in the middle of getting their kids dressed in costume, applying those finishing touches and heading out for trick-or-treating.
With the added task of handing out candy to all those trick-or-treaters, it’s no wonder pizza is the go-to meal for the evening. Unlike burgers and fries, pizza is still pretty good cold and it doesn’t mind if you can only enjoy a slice here and there during the hectic evening. Even if the pizza has sat on the table, waiting for some calm at the end of the night, it’s still delicious.
On incredibly busy nights like Halloween, I like to encourage my clientele to pre-order, but not everyone does, and so it’s tricky fitting in the walk-ups, phone, website and third-party delivery orders. Does the regular who pre-ordered the day before get their order promptly at 5:45 p.m., when the regular who just walked in to place their order at 5:15 p.m. and is hoping for a typical 25-minute wait? All the while your phone is ringing off the hook, and those third-party delivery orders are chiming in. That said, it’s a good problem to have, isn’t it?! Perhaps in a future column I’ll delve into some good practices for finding balance in this chaos.
This column isn’t about increasing your already busiest sales night, per se. It’s about increasing the holiday’s pull with some interesting, timely menu additions. There are plenty of opportunities for additional Halloween holiday sales, with jack-o’-lantern carving nights, pre-Halloween costume parties, and just in-the-mood-for-all-things-Halloween-y nights. Sure, you could throw some candy corn on a pizza and call it a night, but maybe you’re wanting to show off with a little more creativity. Here are some suggestions.
Halloween Apples – Try making a delicious dessert pizza with sliced Granny Smith apples, butter, cinnamon and brown sugar, and icing and caramel drizzled on top after it’s baked. Parbake the crust for this one.
Bat Guts Pizza – Yes, it’s supposed to sound gross! This is for those 10-year-olds who love this kinda stuff! (Chopped) Twizzlers, (chopped) Fuzzy Peaches, (chopped) caramels, marshmallows and gummy worms. Parbake the crust for this one too.
Dough Brains – This was my boys’ favourite when they were young. You take a dough ball that’s a little on the over-fermented side – where it’s almost “blown” – and gently cut an “x” in the top layer of dough skin and pull back the four points to reveal the gluten strands inside. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle dried herbs like oregano, basil, pepper, sea salt, minced garlic and garlic powder in the “dough brains,” throw some mozzarella and cheddar cheeses in there and bake it up to a golden brown. It’s meant to be a pull-apart-style loaf, but you can slice it for easy servings. Serve it with your house marinara on the side for dipping.
Jack-O’-Lantern – Marinara, cheddar and feta cheeses, with (shelled) pumpkin seeds. In case you didn’t already know, pumpkin seeds are a good source of iron, magnesium, potassium, fibre and zinc.
Frankenstein’s Chowder – Make this chowder using marinara, pesto sauce, goat cheese, caramelized onions, black olives and pepperoni.
Another sales-boosting idea for those who have dine-in spaces is to host a jack-o’-lantern carving party. Consider hosting this event on a typically slower evening, or Sunday afternoon a week or two before Halloween. You provide all the supplies: pumpkins, all the carving tools, templates, bowls to put the “guts” in, plenty of newspapers or drop cloths for an easier cleanup. Then pre-sell “everything-included” tickets. The tickets could include a pizza buffet or have a portion of the ticket going toward any menu item. A lot of parents will appreciate a one-stop-shop experience where they can show up with their littles, enjoy the fun, not have to clean up after the whole mess and get to go home with smiles and a carved jack-o’-lantern.
For those without dine-in spaces, you can still cater this carving party, just make sure to market it a few weeks before Halloween, so your clientele has this fun experience and keeps your establishment top of mind. | CP
Diana Cline is an award-winning pizza chef, a partner with Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating operational systems and marketing to help operators grow their business strategically. Contact her at email@example.com.
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