It’s almost time for Cinco de Mayo, the day that commemorates the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory against the French Empire in 1862.
It is not Mexican Independence Day (September 16), and it’s not particularly celebrated outside of the state of Puebla in Mexico. But in the U.S., according to one Nielsen study, Americans spent over $1.5 trillion celebrating the holiday in recent years.
Capturing the excitement around Cinco de Mayo makes good sense for restaurant owners, but it’s important to understand and acknowledge the culture rather than using the holiday as an excuse to serve more margaritas. Take the time to think about the impact Mexican and Hispanic Americans have had in this country. In fact, it’s helpful to consider how your marketing plan appeals to Hispanic consumers year-round, so if you haven’t already, now is a great time to start.
This year, Cinco de Mayo falls on a Thursday, aka little Friday, a decent enough day for celebrating a holiday that usually involves a fair amount of imbibing. It might even be worthwhile to host a Cinco de Mayo celebration on Friday in addition to or instead of Thursday, to capture a wider audience. Here are five ideas for creating a profitable, meaningful, and fun holiday.
Host a Celebration
Because this is a festive holiday, it only makes sense to throw a party! That means decor (green, white, and red are the colors of the Mexican flag), live music, and lots of fun. Put the date on your event calendar and event calendars in your area, share on social media, and send a note to local press to let them know what you have planned.
It wouldn’t be Cinco de Mayo without excellent Mexican food. If you’re not of Mexican heritage, you can still riff on classic dishes like tacos and tamales, with your own twist. It can also be smart to try fusion dishes like this Mexican Lasagna or Jamaican Jerk Tuna Tacos. If you don’t typically carry the ingredients you need for Mexican-inspired dishes, don’t worry, Contigo® and Corazo® have everything you need, from avocados to tortillas to Mexican cheese blends.
There are so many great cocktails that are perfect for Cinco de Mayo. Of course, margaritas are an obvious choice, but get creative with them. Offer different types of seasoned salt for the rim, frozen margaritas (soft serve margaritas, in particular, are trending right now), and fun mixers like prickly pear, which gives the cocktail a bold pink color.
Beyond margaritas, think about adding palomas, tequila sunrises, micheladas, and Mojitos to your drink specials for the weekend. Or try a guided mezcal or tequila tasting, paired with snacks. Check your inventory to make sure you have all the ingredients you need to execute a fun, share-worthy cocktail menu, and begin ordering shelf-stable ingredients now.
No party is complete without music, so consider hiring performers for the festivities. Whether you choose a live mariachi band or a great DJ, this is an important part of setting a great vibe for the night.
Contests and Giveaways
Look for ways to promote your Cinco de Mayo celebration throughout the week leading up to it. One idea is to hold a social media contest where the winner gets two free Cinco de Mayo experiences (cocktails, apps, entrees, split dessert) at your restaurant. You could also build a contest around the evening itself by setting up a photo station and encouraging guests to share their photo on social media, using specific tags and hashtags for a chance to win a prize, like a bottle of tequila or a free app on their next visit.
If you’re really going all out, it could also be a great detail to create some custom Cinco de Mayo swag with your logo on it. This could be something like a bottle opener or drink koozie, with a bold Cinco de Mayo design that guests will actually want to keep around after Cinco de Mayo is over. Let guests know that you’ll be giving them away to the first however many guests to encourage them to get in early!
Keep it Respectful
As with any cultural event, it’s important to avoid stereotyping and appropriating. Take the time to educate yourself about the holiday and make sure there is a consistent theme of respect guiding your party planning and execution.
And because this is a holiday where drinking is common, consider offering a promo code for Lyft or Uber rides for guests for the evening, while encouraging guests to make responsible choices for themselves in a kind way.