The Margin: McDonald’s Halloween ‘Boo Buckets’ are back — facing off against Burger King’s ‘Trick or Heat’ plastic pails

The burger chain wars are heating up this Halloween. 

McDonald’s
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is bringing its “Boo Buckets” back this month, swapping out its familiar Happy Meal boxes with plastic trick-or-treat pails for a limited time in October. 

The burger chain recently revealed that its beloved Boo Buckets will be back at participating McDonald’s restaurants beginning Oct. 17, just two weeks before Halloween. The collectible designs include an orange skeleton, white mummy, green monster and a purple vampire, and they will be available until Oct. 31 while supplies last. Prices will vary by location, but Happy Meals usually run $4 to $7 apiece. You won’t pay extra for the bucket, however, since the pail is replacing the toy that you would usually get with a Happy Meal.

The Boo Buckets had been an annual, seasonal McDonald’s staple, similar to the St. Patrick’s Day-themed Shamrock Shake, since the mid-1980s, but dropped off the menu in 2016 before bring bought back with fanfare last year.

Their 2022 return delighted plenty of customers.

And this year’s announcement led “McDonald’s,” “Halloween” and “Happy Meal” to trend among real-time Google searches on Sunday, with queries for “McDonald’s Halloween Boo Buckets” spiking 800% over the past week, as of Sunday morning. 

“They’ll be gone faster than you can say ‘boo,’ so head to your local McDonald’s to get a festive pail while supplies last,” the company said in a press release

But rival Burger King is getting in on the action with its own plastic pails — dubbed “Trick or Heat” buckets — which will drop in select markets four days before McDonald’s buckets so, on Friday the 13th. 

These limited-edition, glow-in-the-dark buckets were inspired by the Restaurant Brands International-owned
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chain’s spicy ghost-pepper dishes (including the “Ghost Pepper Whopper,” which is making a comeback this fall), and the black buckets feature white ghost peppers redesigned to look like ghosts. They will be available for $1 in a few cities, Today.com reported, including: Nashville, Tennessee; Las Vegas, Nevada; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Atlanta, Georgia. You can also ask for a matching cardboard crown. 

Fast-food restaurants aren’t the only places getting into the Halloween spirit. 

Pumpkin-spice season is already in full swing, with Starbucks
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and Dunkin’ pouring their autumnal lattes and other coffee drinks already, and food and beverage makers rolling out everything from pumpkin-spice flavored vodka to PSL applesauce and cheese. Yes, cheese. MarketWatch staffers taste-tested some of the craziest pumpkin-spice products, and you can watch their reactions on TikTok

And overall Halloween spending is expected to break a record $12.2 billion this year, the National Retail Federation reports, including more than $4 billion on costumes, alone. Here’s a deeper dive into what people are spending their money on this Halloween.

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