Food Of The Feast: Cinco De Mayo

Cinco de Mayo may be here, but you may have no idea how to celebrate the holiday , or even know what it means. This Sunday is May 5th (and “Cinco de Mayo” literally translates from Spanish to English as “The Fifth of May”); will you and your restaurant be prepared?

There’s a little miscommunication about Cinco de Mayo; while the name is clear to most people with an errant grasp of Spanish, the full name in Puebla is “El Día de la Batalla de Puebla”, or “The Day of the Battle of Puebla”. The holiday is also not Mexican Independence Day, or the country’s most-important holiday. The battle at Puebla wasn’t a major strategic victory, but it was a major social victory, proving that the Mexican armies could hold off the French. America, at the time, was embroiled in the Civil War, so they decided to, at best, remain neutral on that warfront while they were fighting between themselves.

In America, celebrations of the holiday have gone from “national pride” to a victory in a war about 150 years ago to a celebration of all Mexican culture and pride, especially in areas of high hispanic demographics. Much like St. Patrick’s Day, for many it’s an excuse to drink heavily, party, and eat good food, although you won’t be pinched if you’re not wearing green on the Cinco.

How Can I Capitalize?

As Cinco de Mayo is not a religious observance, as long as things are done tastefully, the holiday can be a blast. Some simple things you can do include

  • Include Mexican-themed decorations, such as flags, in your restaurant.
  • Craft a custom, Cinco de Mayo-”inspired” menu. If you’re a pizza restaurant, it might be time to try out that “nacho and bell pepper pizza” you’ve been kicking around in your head. If you’re a burger joint, you might want to offer tortilla chips with purchases, instead of fries. Corn, beans, and chili peppers are staples in Mexico, so any and all inclusions of these would be an interesting diversion, and hopefully delicious.
  • It’s a party day, so stock up on your Mexican and Mexican-inspired alcohol, such as tequila, mezcal, Kahlua, and more. Additionally, you may want to take this opportunity to stock up on your margarita drink glasses and salt.
  • Look outside of your own restaurant for cross-promotional opportunities. See if there are any Mexican food markets that you may be able to host promotional material in, or possibly work with a taco truck and come up with something. You never now how many people will come to your parking lot for a taco, followed by heading into your restaurant for a drink.

It may be a celebration dating back 150 years, but there’s no reason it can’t be celebrated effectively in the modern restaurant.