Cinco de Mayo has become a national American holiday of sorts. Every year, restaurants and bars—and not only Mexican ones—offer specials to attract patrons eager to celebrate on May 5. Interestingly, Cinco de Mayo isn’t a big holiday south of the border. Although parades and other festivities take place in Puebla, where an ill-equipped Mexican army, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Sequin, defeated the French in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, most towns don’t host full-blown fiestas until September 16—Mexican Independence Day.
While most establishments promote drink and dinner specials, Mexican and Latin restaurants are in a unique position to weave a bit of history into their celebrations. el Restaurante offers 7 ideas on ways restaurants can incorporate food, drink, community outreach and a touch of Mexican history into festive events this year.
1. Organize a traditional tareada (afternoon celebration), complete with an outdoor parillada (barbecue) featuring some traditional but unexpected ingredients such as rabbit or lamb. If weather makes an outdoor celebration out of the question, bring the party inside and offer a smaller (perhaps tabletop) version of the parillada.
2. Partner with a tequila distributor for a special tequila tasting, or a cocktail tasting with drinks prepared with the sponsor’s products.
3. Sponsor a margarita or salsa recipe contest. Ask customers to submit recipes in February, March and April then announce the winner(s) on May 5. Let local media know about the contest, and offer to share the winning recipe(s).
4. Encourage customers to learn about Mexican history by giving them a short quiz about Cinco de Mayo (click here to download a copy of this quiz). Place one quiz at each table, then offer prizes to customers who answer the most questions correctly. Or have servers ask guests at each table one question and hand out prizes when customers answer correctly.
5. Host a piñata or maraca deco rating party. Hire an art teacher, someone from an art store, or a creative employee to host the event in your restaurant, or at a local school (possibly during an art or Spanish class). Inside the piñatas, or attached to the maracas, could be a coupon good for an appetizer or dessert on a future visit to your restaurant.
6. Organize or co-sponsor a race or walk for charity. Team with other local businesses, and encourage customers and employees to take part. Participants could wear t-shirts with your restaurant’s logo, and money raised could be donated to the charity of your choice, or used for a scholarship (possibly tied in with a Latin charitable or social service organization).
7. Create a special multi-course dinner or kids’ meal that includes a give-away. Make a t-shirt, small sombrero, maracas or coupon for a future visit part of the offer.