A man was chased with an axe as he waited at a McDonald's, while shocked onlookers thought the incident was a Halloween prank.
The male victim was understood to have been waiting in his van at the drive-thru on Church Road, Tullamore, Co Offaly, when a balaclava-clad attacker brandishing an axe ran towards the vehicle.
The driver jumped out of the van and fled around the other side of the fast-food restaurant with the attacker chasing him.
Staff and customers are believed to have thought the incident was a Halloween prank at first. But they became concerned when the driver didn't return to the van and cars were backed up at the drive-thru.
Gardaí arrived shortly after the Sunday evening incident that led to the victim being hospitalised briefly.
Officers are examining CCTV footage from the area and made a public appeal for help.
A female shop worker, an eyewitness to the scene just moments after the attack, said: "I was leaving work when I saw Garda cars at McDonald's. A garda was talking to a man, he looked shaken up.
"I'm shocked to know what happened because that's a family restaurant and there would have been kids around on a Sunday.
"There are lots of rumours going round online about what happened, but I can't say what is true from what's not - all I do know is it's worrying to know this happened in such a busy place."
An onlooker, who was inside the restaurant at the time, said: "It was dark, all you could see was a man run up to the van, the driver jump out and then the guy with an axe chase him round the back of McDonald's, but I thought it was a Halloween stunt.
"Moments later the guards were here, so I realised it was more serious. I'm glad I stayed inside and I hope whoever did this is caught because if the guards hadn't got here as quick as they did, it could have been much worse."
Fianna Fáil councillor for Tullamore Frank Moran said: "It's terrible for this to go on in this day and age. I don't have details about what happened, but I am relieved to hear no one was seriously hurt in this incident."
A shop worker who was nearby at the time of the incident only realised something was wrong when she went online after her shift.
"McDonald's is right beside the shop where I work but we didn't see any commotion so it must have been dealt with pretty quickly, so that's something we have to be thankful for and the guards did a good job in getting here so fast," she said.
The attack took place between 5.55pm and 6.15pm on Sunday and officers from the Laois/Offaly division are investigating.
Anyone with information should contact Tullamore Garda station on 057 932 7600.