The month of May boasts some big-hitting holidays. The one that pays homage to Mexican heritage and culture is Cinco de Mayo, but it’s widely celebrated in the U.S. by people of all backgrounds. The day commemorates the Battle of Puebla. There, in 1862, General Ignacio Zaragoza led a small group of Mexican soldiers against a French invasion. For restaurant owners, this date presents a unique opportunity to create a special Cinco de Mayo menu, use your marketing activities, increase your sales, and maximize your profits. Cinco de Mayo 2019 has come and gone, but if you are thinking ahead to next year, these ideas can help.
15 Ideas for Cinco de Mayo Menu and Other Activities
1. Offer drink specials
When people are going out for dinner on Cinco de Mayo, they aren’t just looking to get a great meal (though that’s important too). They also want to kick back and have a drink. Get the drinks moving off the shelves by offering a special Cinco de Mayo margarita or other house-made drink of your choice. Don’t forget other traditional Mexican drinks like palomas, micheladas or alcohol-free aguas frescas.
You can also feature discounts for top-shelf tequila, a make-your-own-margarita option, or a range of Mexican beer. If you don’t have a liquor license at your restaurant, it’s imperative that you get one to take advantage of Cinco de Mayo and other popular celebrations throughout the year. Remember that it can take months to complete the whole process, so plan accordingly.
2. Offer some day-after specials too
If your restaurant serves breakfast, brunch, or lunch, offer some specials to help cure the hangovers from last night’s party. Whether that’s a special on Bloody Marys (or Bloody Marías, if you prefer), the option to get Mexican hot-chocolate, or just a good old-fashioned brunch spread, think about ways you can make your menu special. It’s a subtle way to keep the party going while making it totally new.
3. Encourage safe driving with a themed mocktail for designated drivers
There’s going to be some heavy drinking on Cinco de Mayo, especially if you offer specials on drinks. That means that parties are (hopefully) going to include designated drivers. There is no reason why designated drivers should be left out of the party. You can encourage safe driving and give them a fun option by featuring an on-theme mocktail on your Cinco de Mayo menu.
4. Run a margarita contest
Advertise an upcoming margarita contest in your social media promotions. Then, set your bartenders the task of creating each a signature margarita. On Cinco de Mayo, run the contest: your customers can pay to taste each one in smaller servings. They can vote for their favorite. If you want to continue the promotion (and make some more money), you can feature the winning margarita on your menu for the rest of the month of May.
5. Start some social media events
This should go without saying, but don’t forget to promote the evening on social media. Create a special event on Facebook and other sites and spread awareness throughout your community. You can even feature your Cinco de Mayo menu to drum up some excitement.
6. Team up with other businesses to do a themed “crawl”
You’ve heard of a bar crawl. Now, you can team up with other businesses in your community to do a special Cinco de Mayo crawl. This way your customers could taste tacos, tequila, or pan dulce in different establishments. Of course, this takes some coordination and preparation, so you’ll have to organize a month or two in advance. You can also finish with a big event at your own restaurant.
7. Offer a tasting menu of mezcal
Studies show that people drink a lot on Cinco de Mayo — in some places, more than they do even on St. Patrick’s Day. For most people, the drink of choice is tequila. However, most people are still learning about the tastes and options of mezcal. Consider featuring a tasting Cinco de Mayo menu that gives them the chance to get familiar with this traditional Mexican drink.
8. Offer a food challenge contest with some spicy peppers
A spicy pepper contest is exactly what it sounds like and might be a great choice for a bar. Anyone who wants to participate can take on the challenge of trying the spiciest peppers your kitchen can muster. Of course, there should be a prize for that pain. Whether that’s a special drink or a specialty coupon, the choices are up to you and your Cinco de Mayo menu.
9. Feature a piñata
Another great way to get your guests having some Cinco de Mayo fun is to feature a piñata. Relegate this to a specific time and place (inside your establishment or in the patio) so there’s some organization involved. This is a fun activity and perfect for Cinco de Mayo (especially if there are kids in your restaurant) but tread carefully to avoid encouraging stereotypes. Crowding your establishment with piñatas, sombreros and the colors of the Mexican flag will be simply tasteless.
10. Feature some traditional Mexican games
If you’re looking for some fun games that are a little more low-key, consider featuring some other games from Mexico. This includes games like lotería, dominoes, and la pirinola. This will take some planning beforehand to make sure it flows smoothly. You may also want to include instruction cards at each table so guests can familiarize themselves with the rules.
11. Get creative with Mexican desserts
Customers see the same desserts at most Cinco de Mayo celebrations: flan, tres leches, churros, and sopapillas. While all those options are delicious, you can go a step further and design a truly unique Cinco de Mayo menu of desserts that features other flavors, such as Mexican chocolate, Mexican cinnamon or desserts from regions throughout the country. Your guests will love it and your menu will stand out from the crowd.
12. Offer options for family dining
Remember that all kinds of parties will be at your restaurant on Cinco de Mayo. While promotions on shots of tequila and specials on single servings will be popular, offering family specials is a great idea too. It’s an incentive to get larger parties in the door, which is exactly what you want.
13. Take the theme of “five” and run with it
Cinco de Mayo simply means the fifth of May in Spanish. Incorporating the theme of five into your Cinco de Mayo menu is a fun way to make the night special. You can include appetizers of nachos with five toppings, discounts for parties of five or above, or a $5 drink special. You can also play around the number 5 in your upselling techniques.
14. Hire a photo booth and hold an Instagram contest
By now, you probably have witnessed the immense popularity of photo booths in celebrations of any kind. These are an original way to let guests have their own fun while keeping things more low-key. Provide some fun props and feature an Instagram contest with the best pictures.
15. Donate to charity
People are there for a party, but they also appreciate remembering the reason for the season, so to speak. Consider promoting a Mexican charity by donating the proceeds of a special drink or appetizer. Good choices include Simply Smiles Children’s Home or Casa Hogar Hijos de la Luna.
There are innumerable ways to host a great Cinco de Mayo at your restaurant next year. All you have to do is get creative, and you’ll have everything you need to make a night that’s fun, memorable, and well, profitable!
If you are looking for great menu ideas to use not only during special celebrations, but all year round, and if you wonder how to price your menu items, keep reading this article.
And remember: it takes money to make money. Some of these ideas can really boost your sales, but they may need an injection of capital to come true. It may be the perfect time to apply for a business loan. If you are considering this option, we invite you to fill this brief application that won’t impact your credit score. It’s all you need to know instantly if you qualify for a business loan with Camino Financial.