Spice Up Your Business With Cinco de Mayo Ideas

Help your dining guests celebrate the history and traditions of Mexico with flavourful food creations.

Eating and celebrating go together like chips and salsa, and that’s especially true on Cinco de Mayo. Restaurants regularly see business surge as people embrace Mexican food and beverages on the days leading up to and following the May 5 holiday.

Cinco de Mayo regularly comes in as one of the busiest restaurant days of the year, with operators reporting a 44% increase in business over the typical day. 

That amounts to a lot of tacos, burritos and margaritas. It’s easy to understand. People crave Mexican flavours. More than one in 10 dining establishments features a Mexican dish on the menu, and about 70% of people regularly partake in some kind of Cinco de Mayo celebration

“If your operation expects to see a Cinco de Mayo bump in business, it’s a good idea to plan ahead with offerings that stand out from the crowd,” said Juan Rosado, a Dallas-based Gordon Food Service Culinary Specialist. 

Chef Juan and Culinary Specialist Michael Viloria in Vancouver, British Columbia, have teamed up to share several food-forward ideas to spice up your menu with authentic flavours.

A Big Cinco de Mayo Window

This year, May 5 falls on a Sunday. That gives your business a chance to mark the occasion during the week before and the week after, featuring specials that will draw guests in and keep them coming back.

Since you have a large window of opportunity, start early by advertising limited-time offers (LTOs) for the days before and after Cinco de Mayo. Chef Michael suggests showcasing your chef’s creativity to incorporate ingredients and recipes that will align with your food and beverage menu.

“Use authentic flavours in unusual ways,” he said. “Agave, tropical fruits, tianjin, chamoy and even chocolate.”

One dish certain to make a statement is salmon sopes, Chef Michael explains. Sopes are a tortilla-like cake made using masa harina. As with tacos, this entree is an ideal way to present any number of toppings. The chef’s recipe calls for salmon, salsa verde, avocado crema and pickled red onions.

If your business serves breakfast and lunch, dishes such as huevos rancheros, migas and chilaquiles are great ways to think outside traditional breakfast burritos. The chef also reminds everyone that Introducing different varieties of chiles can inspire new takes on mole sauce or birria.

A Birria Bonanza

Speaking of birria, Chef Juan suggests bringing it to the menu if you haven’t already. Birria is traditionally made by marinating goat meat in a sauce made of vinegar, dried chiles, garlic, onion and other spices, then simmering the ingredients to create a reddish meat stew or soup.

Other meats – economy cuts of beef and pork – pair well with birria flavour as well. Brush taco shells with the birria sauce, toss them on the griddle, fill them with the shredded meat, onions, cilantro, cheese, etc., and serve with a cup of birria sauce for dipping. 

Birria is not limited to tacos. Add ramen to the rich juice for a noodle bowl with a bit of spice. Add the meat and a drizzle of sauce to a pizza for dine-in or takeout.

“Birria is everywhere,” Chef Juan said. “It’s like a flavour takeover, and I’m all in.”

Cinco de Mayo Snacks and Desserts

Snacking and shareables are other ways to introduce a taste of Mexico without a complete menu makeover. 

Salsas of all different varieties are becoming a standalone shareable instead of a side, Chef Michael explains. Serve with a basket of chips (or upsell to a bowl of housemade guacamole) to entertain the table.

Pork belly chicharrones served with a side of guacamole is a can’t-miss snack for taste and authenticity, according to Chef Juan. “They are the ‘it’ snack right now – crunchy, salty, with a smooth guac on the side. 

Don’t stop with shareables or appetizers. Dessert is also ripe for a taste of Mexico. “Play with chocolate and spice,” Chef Michael said. “Use them in churros or cookies as a simple way to change the flavour for Cinco de Mayo.”

Agave, Tequila and Beyond

Agave is another uniquely Mexican flavour ingredient. Most people know it because fermented juice from the blue agave plant is distilled to make tequila, and margaritas are a Cinco de Mayo favourite. However, some options aren’t strictly tequila to the table.

For example, agave syrup can be used to add a touch of sweetness to pancakes, marinades, dressings or sauces to bring authentic Mexican flavour to many dishes. An agave-glazed salmon or an agave barbecue sauce can change the flavour profile of regular seafood and meat entrees.

Agave syrup also can be used to sweeten beverages, including cocktails that traditionally use simple syrup. The agave that becomes tequila shouldn’t be overlooked, either. Scallops bathed in a marinade of tequila, cooking oil, brown sugar and jalapenos is easy to execute.

And, of course, there’s the margarita. Chef Juan suggests shaking up the usual drink by including ube, tamarind, guava or hibiscus flavours. Here’s a recipe using hibiscus that creates a 12-serving batch.

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