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cinco de mayo ideas

Move over, St. Patrick’s Day—there’s another national holiday celebration that’s sweeping the nation.

According to Nielsen, Americans spent upwards of $1.5 trillion on Cinco de Mayo celebrations in 2017. If you’re a fan of tequila and guacamole, there’s an opportunity to honor Mexico and celebrate the holiday in your restaurant or bar. Before you get a start on planning, we have three tips to ensure you have a perfect day.

Know the history

Your restaurant doesn’t have to be Mexican in order to participate in the fun. However, it does have to be respectful of Mexican culture and educated about the origin of the holiday. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day. The day is observed to commemorate the day the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza.

Be mindful of stereotypes

Throughout your promotion planning, remember to stay mindful of Mexico’s culture and stereotypes that can easily get out of hand. Be careful not to offend Mexico’s culture and remember that stereotypes can be harmful.

Check your inventory and your staff

Everyone loves a party. Once you’ve nailed down the date, time, and your specials, you should take a look at your restaurant inventory management system and your employee scheduling platform. Order some extra limes and add extra servers and bartenders to your shifts to make sure you’re well-stocked and well-staffed on May 5th.

Once you have all of your plans in place, it’s time to get into the details. With plenty of delicious Mexican-inspired flavors and drink options to explore, you can create your very own Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Cinco de Mayo Drink Ideas

According to Nielsen, more beer is consumed on Cinco de Mayo than on St. Patrick’s Day. Beyond stocking up on Mexican beers like Corona, Modelo, and Sol, the holiday gives you an opportunity to perfect some classic cocktails.


This quintessential Mexican cocktail traditionally includes tequila, Cointreau, lime, and sugar served in a salt-rimmed glass, but the variations are endless.


The Paloma is a simple concoction consisting of an ice cold, salt-rimmed glass filled with a mixture of tequila, grapefruit soda, and a squeeze of lime. Variations can be made with grapefruit juice. This offers a trendy, refreshing twist on the margarita.


The ever-evolving Michelada is made from mixing together lime juice, clamato (tomato and clam juice) hot sauce, salt, and Worcestershire sauce, before topping off the chile and salt-rimmed glass with an ice cold light beer.

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Cinco de Mayo Food Ideas

If you love an excuse to get creative in the kitchen, now is your chance. Traditional Mexican food allows your star chefs to experiment with some new flavors while you can attract customers that want to try your special dishes. According to the National Restaurant Association, “street food-inspired dishes” are one of the hottest trends in the industry. Since street food is made to be eaten on the move, it’s a great option for restaurant guests celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

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Known in the U.S. as Mexican Street Corn, elote is traditional Mexican street food. Corn on the cob is brushed in warm butter, and piled with cojita cheese, chili powder, and lime juice. You can also offer a deconstructed bowl of the delicious snack.


As a food that is found all over Mexico, empanadas are a great option to offer on Cinco de Mayo. This versatile snack consists of pastry dough filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables baked into easily transportable crescent shapes.


As one of the most common Mexican foods in America, tacos are guaranteed to be a winner at your Cinco de Mayo celebration. Serve up traditional Mexican fillings or experiment with out-of-the-box ingredients.

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Cinco de Mayo Restaurant Promotion Ideas

Since Cinco de Mayo falls on a Sunday in 2019, there are plenty of opportunities to attract partiers from sun-up to sun-down. We have cinco ideas to attract customers ready for a celebracion.

Throw a Cinco de Mayo party

Ready to go all-in on celebrating? It’s time to plan a party. Deck out your restaurant or bar in tasteful decor, create some menu and drink specials, and turn up the music for your party-goers. Before you begin promotion, give your event a name. If you know anything about crafting the perfect restaurant concept, you know that branding is important. Whether you go for a classic “Cinco de Drinko” or invent a spin on your restaurant’s name, you’ll likely get more attendees by creating a destination.

Offer brunch or dinner specials

For restaurant guests that want to have a low-key Sunday Funday on Cinco de Mayo, consider offering some brunch or dinner specials.

  • Create a two-for-one menu filled with specialty menu items featuring Mexican classics.
  • Offer $5 Micheladas at brunch or a unique margarita menu at dinner.
  • Promote a free traditional Mexican dessert with the purchase of a meal.

Whether you choose to get creative with food or drinks, the options for Cinco de Mayo food and drink promotions are endless.

Hold an Instagram contest

Show your customers how grateful you are for their loyalty by holding a contest on Instagram. Set up a photo booth in your restaurant during your Cinco de Mayo celebration and encourage customers to tag your restaurant and use a unique hashtag when posting on their account. Whether it’s a free cocktail during their next visit or a free dessert, your customers will jump on the chance to win something special. You’ll see a growth in your follower and engagement numbers while leveraging word-of-mouth marketing from your loyal customers.

Support a nonprofit organization

Guests love a brand that gives back. In fact, 85% of consumers think more favorably of and are more apt to support businesses that are charitable to their favorite causes. While you’re planning your Cinco de Mayo celebrations, consider including your business’s nonprofit of choice. Donate a portion of your restaurant’s sales or sales from a specific drink to the organization to show them some love.

Encourage responsibility

The most important part of holidays that may lend themselves to heavy drinking is to encourage safety behind the wheel. If you don’t live in a city with a solid public transportation system, consider offering $5 Lyft or Uber codes to guests if they need a ride. If a group of friends has already designated a sober driver, offer a complimentary non-alcoholic cocktail.

Written by   |  
Holly Everett is a five-year restaurant industry veteran turned small business marketing specialist. After working at Seven Stars Bakery in Providence, Rhode Island throughout college, she entered the world of marketing where she led B2B marketing initiatives at companies focusing on growing small businesses.
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