While Cinco de Mayo may not be a widely celebrated holiday in Mexico, its vibrant festivities have captured the hearts of Americans across the United States. Originating from the Battle of Puebla in 1862, this day has evolved into a cultural celebration marked by parades, music, traditional dances, and, most importantly, mouthwatering Mexican food.

According to recent data from SpotOn's clients, restaurant spending in Cinco de Mayo increased by 40% from 2022 to 2023. No doubt 2024 will be even better. As the demand for authentic Mexican flavors continues to rise, restaurants have a golden opportunity to elevate their Cinco de Mayo offerings and motivate dinners with unique experiences and delicious food.

May 5

Cinco de Mayo, directly translating to "5th of May," commemorates the Battle of Puebla, where, on May 5, 1862, the Mexican army achieved an unexpected victory over the much larger French forces. Contrary to a common misconception, only about 10% of people are aware that the day celebrates this victory instead of Mexico's Independence Day, which 40% of Americans mistakenly believe it to mark. Notably, Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday in Mexico, but Franklin D. Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy in 1993 played a key role in popularizing the day as an American holiday. Major celebrations occur in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston, although the holiday has gained international recognition in Canada, Australia, and Japan.

Cinco de Mayo ideas for your restaurant

Given that Cinco de Mayo falls on a Sunday this year, a typically busy day for restaurants, you can cater to guests looking to celebrate at your restaurant, bar, or home. Check out the tips below to see how your restaurant can make the most of Cinco de Mayo this year.

1. Add Mexican flavor to your menu

Some menu ideas for 5 de Mayo range from adding salsa and tacos to creating a full-blown Mexican-themed set menu. A Cinco de Mayo menu can include traditional rice with three courses, known as Mexican guisados like picadillo, chile con carne, or tinga de pollo. You can also try family-style dishes to feed big groups, like tacos or an enchilada casserole.

If you want something uncomplicated, you don't need to change your menu or develop entirely new dishes. Just incorporate some Mexican ingredients. Think about the strengths of your menu. What's your most popular dish? What dish do you "spice up" a little every other month? Offering to "make a taco" or adding a twist to your menu's favorites is a good option that doesn't need many changes or investments.

A taco display with drinks and salsas for Cinco de Mayo.
Photo by Heather Ford / Unsplash

Mexican Chicken Tinga recipe

Servings: 6


For chicken tinga:

    • 2 tablespoons of oil, preferably canola
    • 1 white onion, diced
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1 once of boiled tomatoes
    • 4 chipotle peppers from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce
    • 2 teaspoons of salt
    • Black pepper to taste
    • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked

For garnishing:

    • Thinly chopped lettuce
    • Mexican crema
    • Shredded cheese (cotija or rancho cheese)


  1. Add oil to a large frying pan or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and allow to come to temperature. Add the onion and the garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes, just until softened. Remove from the heat.
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, and softened onion and garlic to a blender. Secure the lid, and blend until soft.
  3. Pour the sauce into the pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Once the sauce has reached a simmer, add the chicken breasts, shredded. Cover with the lid slightly ajar and reduce the heat (as necessary) to maintain a simmer.
  4. Add the chipotle chiles and allow the chicken to simmer for 45-50 minutes.
  5. Garnish with lettuce, crema, and cheese. Serve, and enjoy!

2. Go with the classics

Most of the Mexican staples are already established dishes across the country. And most of them are great appetizers that are easy to put together. Nachos, bean dip, guacamole, flautas, street corn, pico de gallo, queso fundido (melted cheese), fajitas and even churros. Put them all together, and now you have a Mexican Fiesta Menu to share for big groups.

Even better, these appetizers travel well together and become an excellent option for diners looking to order online and celebrate at home. Online ordering software streamlines the ordering process and reduces wait times on a busy day. It also allows customers to browse your 5 de Mayo menu, place orders, and pay directly from their smartphones. Easy for you and your guests.

3. Don't forget the drinks

Cinco de Mayo is a popular holiday for enjoying Mexican spirits and drinks like tequila and beer. If you don't have a Margarita, Paloma, or Michelada in your drink menu, this is the perfect time to debut them at your restaurant. If these drinks are already a favorite with your guests, spice it up and make it a 2 for one promotion. Mexican beer is also a favorite that you can take advantage of during happy hour.

Paloma cocktail recipe

Servings: 1 drink

Ingredients :

  • Lime wedge and salt for rimming glass
  • Ice
  • 2 ounces of tequila blanco
  • 2 ounces fresh grapefruit juice
  • ½ ounce lime juice (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 ounces sparkling water (or club soda)


  1. Take a lime wedge and run it around the rim of a glass. 
  2. Dip the rim of the glass in salt and fill it with ice. 
  3. Pour in the tequila, grapefruit juice, and lime juice, and stir the mixture well. 
  4. Top it off with sparkling water. 
  5. Garnish the drink with a lime wedge. And enjoy!

4. Create a taco station

One of the most popular dishes in Mexico is tacos, which usually includes a tortilla, protein, and toppings. By adding a taco station, customers can just walk up and build their perfect tacos. This removes a lot of the back-and-forth of your staff. Or, even easier, feature a local taquería in your restaurant in a designated area. Not only will you be supporting your local Mexican community, but you'll also be giving a traditional experience to your guests.

5. Start the celebration online

Take advantage of your marketing channels and communicate any promotions, menu changes, new items for your online ordering, drink specials, Mexican happy hour, and all your activities surrounding the holiday. Also, think of creating a contest that would help you spread the word across your social media profiles. You could give away free nachos or special discounts for loyal diners who tag their friends in your posts or for the first party to make a reservation to get a free appetizer.

Mexican decoration
To create a Mexican atmosphere at your restaurant, consider adding some colorful decorations. Photo by Christy Ash / Unsplash

6. Decorate accordingly

To create a Mexican atmosphere at your restaurant, consider adding some colorful decorations such as papel picado banners, piñatas, and Mexican motives. You can also set the mood with lively mariachi music and decorate the tables with Mexican-inspired centerpieces.

7. Create a festive photo booth

Consider setting up a festive photo booth at your restaurant to allow your guests to take pictures. Provide a festive background for guests to pose with and encourage them to share their photos on social media using a branded hashtag of your restaurant, such as #CincoCelebrationAtYourRestaurant. You can also offer printed copies or digital downloads of the photos as souvenirs for your guests.

Take into consideration that when celebrating Cinco de Mayo, it's crucial to keep content and decorations respectful and positive, steering clear of stereotypes that could be perceived as offensive or vulgar. Capitalizing on this holiday offers an opportunity to unite people, but it's vital to celebrate Mexican culture festively and respectfully, avoiding cultural appropriation or inappropriate behavior. Maintain a tone of positivity in your messaging before, during, and after Cinco de Mayo. Share Spanish phrases, cultural facts, and pieces of Mexican history with respect and dignity to truly honor the spirit of the day.

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