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Five Ways to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo at Your Restaurant



A relatively obscure holiday in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrated primarily in the US, commemorating Mexican customs, music, art, and culinary culture. Revelers mark the occasion with parades, parties, and food festivals. 


A common misconception, Cinco de Mayo is actually not Mexican Independence Day, which is celebrated in Mexico on the 16th of September; rather it commemorates the 1862 victory by Mexican troops at the Battle of Puebla. 


Every year, on the fifth day of May, all types of American restaurants, from casual cafes to fine dining establishments,  take on a Latina twist, with colorful decor, contests, and  menu items honoring the Mexican lifestyle. 


Even if your restaurant doesn’t normally serve Mexican cuisine, you can still take advantage of the celebration and join in on the fun. Whether you’re known for your amazing sushi or outstanding burgers, adding some Mexican spice on the 5th of May is a great way to generate excitement at your establishment and kick off the warm-weather seaons. 


To help you gear up for Cinco de Mayo, we’ve done the footwork for you and put together this mini primer.



 


1. Create a Cinco de Mayo Menu  

There will undoubtedly be plenty of places for customers to find tacos and beer on Cinco de Mayo. To please your regulars and attract a new crowd, while staying on brand, create menu specials that feature your best sellers with a unique Latin twist. Step a bit outside your comfort zone and create dishes that your customers won’t be able to find anywhere else.  


If you’re an Italian restaurant, for example, create a Mexican pizza menu. For Japanese eateries, get inventive with sushi tacos and burritos. And if you’re a fine dining restaurant, add a few appetizers that feature Mexican spices and vibrant vegetables. 


Cinco de Mayo Menú Musts


  • Mole Poblano: A meat dish with a spicy, chocolatey sauce, Mole Poblano is the official Cinco de Mayo menu item.

  • Elotes: Another name for Mexican street corn, Elote is corn on the cob covered with mayonnaise, lime, cotija cheese, cilantro, and chili.

  • Guacamole: Also known as avocado dip, no Mexican menu would be complete without this Mexican classic. 

  • Tres Leches Cake: An indulgent Mexican dessert, tres leches (3 milks) cake, is a tasty finish to any authentic Cinco de Mayo meal. 



2. Set the Scene

Transport your guests directly to the streets of Mexico by immersing them in the ambiance of the culture.  


Decor

Start by incorporating bright colors reminiscent of a Mexican fiesta such as deep reds, bold yellows, and sparkling greens throughout your dining room.  Top tables with decorative maracas, mini sombreros,  and handcrafted decor such as papel picado, a traditional Mexican paper craft that adds a touch of authenticity to any setting. 


Music

Diners will be looking for a full experience on Cinco de Mayo, so consider hiring a mariachi band or a DJ to play festive music, hosting Cinco de Mayo karaoke, or holding a Mexican dance contest. 


Lighting

Lighting plays a crucial role in setting the mood. Opt for soft, warm lighting mimicking the Mexican sunset to create a playa vibe. Hang string twinkle lights or colorful lanterns to recreate a Mexican bar atmosphere.


Photo Ops

Set up a photo booth close to the bar with props such as sombreros, mustaches, guitars, and maracas to encourage guests to get into the spirit of the holiday. Ask guests to post their pictures on social media in exchange for a coupon for a future visit. Not only does this create an opportunity to promote the bar menu, but it’s a great way to have customers create user-generated content (UGC).


3. Take Five

Ask your staff to brainstorm fun ways to incorporate the number five (cinco) into your menu items and promotional pricing and award the best ideas with $5.00 gift cards.


Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.


  • Special Discount for Parties of Five or More

  • Flights of Five Margarita Flavors  

  • $5 Gift Cards with Every $50 Delivery Order

  • $5 Burgers

  • $5 Cocktails

  • 2 for $5 Beer Specials

  • 55 cent wings  

  • $5 off All Delivery Orders Before 5pm

  • Five Layer Nachos

  • Five Alarm Chili

 


4. Creative Cocktails

Customers will be expecting the quintessential margarita on Cinco de Mayo, and every establishment will offer them. Give your bartender creative license to color outside the lines and create one-of-a-kind cocktails and concoctions.


Experiment with exotic flavors that customers won’t find at every other place in town, offering flights for guests to sample. 


Showcase your beer offerings with a few of these authentic beer creations.


Types of Mexican Beer

The majority of beers in Mexico are lagers, pilsners, Vienna-style light and dark beers, and  Munich dark beers.


Over 90% of the beers sold in Mexico are produced by the “big two” brewers.


Grupo Modelo’s Principal Beers

  • Corona Extra, a light lager pilsner beer with  a very mild flavor, is the largest selling non-domestic beer in the U.S. 

  • Corona Light, introduced in 1989,  is Grupo Modelo’s first low calorie beer, with 30% less calories than Corona Extra.

  • Negra Modelo, popularly known in Mexico as the “cream of the beers,” Negra Modelo is a dark, very smooth beer.  

  • Modelo Especial, the first brand produced by the Modelo brewer in 1925, is a lager beer with a slightly richer and fuller taste than Corona.  

  • Victoria, a Pilsner-Vienna fine brew with a unique amber color, is a tasty blend of a light pilsner and a dark beer.

  • Leon is a Munich, dark amber, and full-bodied beer.

  • Montejo is a pilsner with a light taste and aroma.  

  • Pacifico is a light refreshing pilsner that has been exported to the U.S. since 1985.  

  • Barrilito,  which  means “little barrel, ” is a light beer in the pilsner category with a refreshing taste and aroma.



Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma Principal Beers

  • Tecate, originally brewed in the state of Baja California, is a medium lager with a sharp, strong taste.

  • Tecate Light, a low-calorie version of Tecate,  was the first low-calorie beer to be introduced to the Mexican market.  

  • Ambar Dos Equis (XX) and Dos Equis (XX) are  the best selling non-domestic dark beers in the U.S. Ambar Dos Equis (XX) is a European Style Pilsner, while Dos Equis (XX) is a light lager beer, based on the ambar version, and is very popular in the United States.

  • Bohemia, is a dense, light, rich beer with a significant hops flavor.

  • Noche Buena, which translates to “Christmas Eve,”  is a dark, rich beer with a strong flavor, and is only available in Mexico during the months of October, November, and December. 

  • Indio is a smooth, dark, refreshing beer, popular in warm weather months.  

  • Sol, a light, tasty, lager beer, originally produced for the working classes, was recently re-launched to appeal to younger consumers. 

  • Sol 2  is a medium bodied light beer with a stronger taste than Sol.  

  • Sol Cero is the first non-alcoholic beer produced in Mexico.  

  • Sol Limon y Sal is a pre-prepared version of Sol  that comes with lime juice and salt already mixed in.  

  • Sol Cero Limon y Sal  is the non-alcoholic version of Sol Limon y Sal.

  • Superior, a light beer that has been a favorite among Mexican beer drinkers for over fifty years, is making a comeback after a long period in relative obscurity.

  • Carta Blanca, a pilsner beer, is one of Mexico’s oldest beer brands.


Michelada

Derived from the Mexican slang for beer, ‘chelada‘, michelada translates to mi-chela-helada, meaning “my cold beer.” A michelada is served in an iced, salt-rimmed glass with lime juice, whereas a michelada preparada is served in salt-rimmed glass with the lime juice and sauces such as Worsteshire, soy, or picante sauce. 


Traditionally, a michelada is served with the beer still in the bottle and the glass with its contents served separately so customers have an opportunity to check the contents of the glass before adding the beer.



5. Take It Outside 

As temps begin to rise, so will the desire for customers to enjoy outdoor seating. May is the perfect month to start offering outdoor dining and Cinco de Mayo is the perfect place to start. Not only will customers flock to your restaurant, but your patio can act as its own giant billboard for passers by. 


People who have previously walked by your restaurant might give your restaurant a try if they see customers outside enjoying themselves. But since spring nights can be unpredictable, weather wise, be sure that your patio is equipped with an appropriate number of outdoor heaters.  



Take Away

With the holiday just a few days away, be sure to start posting your Cinco de Mayo promotions and menu specials on social media now using captivating pictures and creative hashtags.


Download our Free 2024 Food Holiday Calendar,  filled with 12 months of the most widely known (and a bit obscure) food-centered holidays, to use in your restaurant's marketing.


By Eileen Strauss

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