Halloween Costumes for Working in a Restaurant 👻

Halloween Costumes for Working in a Restaurant 👻
Dew Smith

By Dew Smith

Halloween is fast approaching, and whether you’re a server looking for a costume, or a manager trying to get your staff in the spooky spirit, you know that costumes are a great way to attract more diners and boost sales.

Having your restaurant team dress up gives them a chance to be creative, be more engaged on the job, and increase their tips from Halloween-loving tables. You could even hold a costume contest with your team and give a prize to the most creative (yet on-brand) costume.

While under 40% of restaurant staff say they dress up for Halloween at their restaurant, the ones that do almost certainly see a bump in sales around Halloween from their spooky spirit.

Here are some restaurant Halloween costume ideas for your servers, bartenders, and hosts.

Retro Waitress

A retro waitress is an easy costume that keeps it classy and will easily fit into your workplace. Vintage or retro waitress uniforms usually consist of a collared and pocketed dress, an apron, and a sleek updo. This outfit pairs perfectly with your regular work duties of carrying serving trays, pouring coffee, and taking dinner orders—making it easy to stay in character all night.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Checkered dress
  • White apron
  • Poodle skirt
  • White socks
  • Red shoes (optional)
  • White cap (optional)

Throw your hair up into a 50’s style ‘do for the cherry on top of the cake!

Construction Worker

A construction worker is a simple, flexible, and unisex costume idea to keep your workwear comfortable while you’re on the floor. Be sure to keep the tools attached securely in the belt so nothing goes flying during rush!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Brown coveralls
  • Reflective neon vest
  • Tool belt with tools
  • Hard hat (optional)

Mime

What better costume to wear as a server than one that doesn’t speak? A mime is a classic costume that works for all gender identities, and can be a hoot to your diners. Play it out with big hand gestures and exaggerated expressions—there’s a lot you can say without words. Playing a mime will also help cut down on table chatter, which can help you stay on top of your tables on a busy night.

I did it [a mime] year when I was on tables and made a pretty penny without having to speak to a single customer all night. It happened four years ago, and I still can't stop thinking about it.

—A server on Reddit

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Mime makeup
  • Checkered shirt
  • Black pants
  • Red suspenders
  • Red scarf
  • Black cap (optional)

Nurse / Doctor

Another super simple costume idea for restaurant staff is to throw on a pair of scrubs and instantly transform into a nurse. A lab coat on top of your scrubs can elevate the “nurse” to “doctor,” and both outfits work for all genders. Just stay away from the clipboard or extra accessories, as they’ll likely get in the way on the floor.

Outfit pieces:

  • Scrubs
  • Allergy mask (optional)
  • Stethoscope
  • Lab coat

Chef

Flip FOH with BOH and put on your best chef’s hat, coat, or apron! Dressing up as a different role in the restaurant is a cheap and easy costume to wear and be recognizable—and maybe get a laugh or two.

Outfit pieces:

  • Chef’s coat
  • Black pants
  • Chef’s hat (optional)

Add extra details to mimic one of your BOH staff to turn your costume into an inside joke with your team. Mimicking any facial hair, adding a name tag, or changing your mannerisms can go a long way to achieve the desired effect.

Classic black cat

What costume is more classic than a cat? With minimal accessories required, and an all-black outfit that complies with even the most strict clothing guidelines, a cat costume is one of the simplest and most effective costumes you can adorn at work.

I've served in costume before, and it was tons of fun. I dressed up as a cat with ears, a collar, a tail, a cute little black dress, and some face paint.

Outfit pieces:

  • Cat ears
  • Black shirt/pants/dress
  • Whisker face paint
  • Collar (optional)
  • Tail (optional)

Sheriff

Any server, host, or busboy can uphold the law of the land as the restaurant sheriff with the right outfit pieces. This low-effort Halloween costume is easily recognizable with the classic Sheriff’s badge, and doesn’t require much outside of your regular wardrobe to pull off. Practice your old-timey or western accent to take your costume to the next level.

P.S, it’s best to stay away from the fake guns, but a plastic baton can do the trick.

Outfit pieces:

  • Beige shirt
  • Brown pants
  • Black tie
  • Sheriff’s star
  • Sheriff’s hat (optional)
  • Handcuffs (optional)

Tips for planning out your restaurant Halloween outfit

Besides your restaurant’s own dress code, there are a few things you should keep in mind as you plan out your Halloween costume to wear at work.

Four times in my career, I've seen someone have to sit out, switch back to their regular shoes, put their wig in a bag, and wipe off their running makeup. For the rest of the night they looked liked they rolled out of bed and put on a black cape.

Pick something that's still comfortable and lets you do your job. You're working—no one is gonna judge you for throwing it together for a shift.

1. Keep the hands out of the costume—avoid gloves and makeup

Getting your hands and arms involved in the costume with things like gloves and arm makeup are a poor choice for restaurant workers. Gloves can easily get stained or get in the way of handling tools and trays, and your diners likely don’t want you touching things with gloved or made up hands.

If your costume can’t live without a hand piece, it might not be the right costume for your restaurant.

2. Choose comfortable shoes

You don’t want to ditch your work shoes for costume-fitting shoes when you’re going to be on your feet all night, and most guests won’t be looking at your shoes, anyway. Keep your regular work shoes or something similar so you can stay upright and comfortable through the busy night.

3. Be wary of the wig

It can be hard to keep a wig on and set properly during a busy shift. Also ensure that your wig is decent quality so strands aren’t falling out of your head and into peoples' food—a surefire way to cut your tips.

4. Avoid flowy, clunky, and catchable fabric and materials

You don’t want to get stuck slipping past a coworker or between tables—make sure you can move around the restaurant easily in your costume. Avoid any materials or items that might catch or block your path.

5. Remember your audience

What kind of diners do you get at your restaurant? Remember that half of the point of dressing up for Halloween at your restaurant is to make conversation with tables and boost your tips—so the costume has to be appropriate and relevant to your diners. If you go too obscure, you won’t get the tipping benefit out of people liking your costume. If you’re working in a family-friendly place and you go too gory, you’ll likely be reprimanded and have a few angry parents neglecting to tip.

6. Respect the restaurant’s brand

Dressing up for Halloween at your restaurant is exciting, but don’t treat it like a night out with your friends. Depending on the type of restaurant you work at and the general atmosphere, you may want to hold off on some of your whackier costume ideas.

For example:

  • If you work at an upscale full-service restaurant, you may want to stick with more subtle costumes, such as adding cat ears, witch hats, or Zoro masks to regular attire.
  • If you work at a more casual bar or restaurant, you can go all-out with witches, ghosts, goblins, and more.
  • It’s not only gore and horror that may not be appropriate for your costume either—costumes “too silly” for your restaurant’s brand will also throw off the vibe and atmosphere.

Talk to your managers about getting a list of guidelines, including costume dos and don’ts, so you can dress up appropriately. Be sure to ask specific questions about things like what amount of gore/fake blood (if any) is acceptable, what size of costume is acceptable, and other considerations such as the use of sharp or dangerous objects in the costume.  

Are you ready to hit the floor with your new Halloween costume and rake in extra tips this Halloween? Make sure your managers add in any special Halloween events into 7shifts to keep you up to speed, and chat with your team over dress code guidelines, group costume ideas, and more to make it the best Halloween work night ever.

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Dew Smith
Dew Smith

Hey! I'm Dew, the Brand Strategist at 7shifts. I cultivate 7shifts' social and content garden, and I'm always looking for ways to grow our network of restaurateurs, local talent, and tech companies.