Cinco de Mayo has been growing as a promotional holiday for restaurants and bars, getting an added boost this year with May 5 falling on a Saturday and coinciding with the Kentucky Derby.
The holiday, which was first observed in the United States after the Civil War, celebrates Mexican heritage and commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over French forces in the state of Puebla in 1862.
Falling in the middle of the dry April-May holiday period, Cinco de Mayo gives restaurants and bars a reason to lure patrons into a celebratory mood. The means vary from the promotion of drink specials, such as those at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, to gift-card prizes, such as those at Twin Peaks Restaurants.
Chili’s Grill & Bar, the Brinker International division, has tied its Margarita Madness promotion to Cinco de Mayo for years, using it to feature its signature brandy-added Presidente Margarita.
Edithann Ramey, senior director of marketing for Chili's, said, “At Chili’s, we’re constantly looking for a reason to celebrate with our guests, and Chili’s Southwestern roots coupled with our variety of margarita offerings are perfect reasons to commemorate the annual cultural celebration of Cinco de Mayo.”
This year, Chili’s extended the Margarita Madness promotion through April.
“As part of Chili’s ‘Countdown to Cinco,’” Ramey explained, “the brand has featured one delicious margarita every week during the month of April, leading up to the big day.”
Chili’s also tapped into social media by offering guests “badges” corresponding to the special drink offering in each of the promotion’s five weeks. “If a guest comes in and orders the margarita of the week, they simply scan a QR [quick response] code available on the menu to claim a weekly virtual Cinco Badge, shareable via Facebook and Twitter,” Ramey said.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House plans to piggy back its Cinco de Mayo cocktail promotion onto the running of the 138th Kentucky Derby. The 130-unit chain is offering the tequila-based La Paloma cocktail along with its new Derby Peach Tea.
“Our version of La Paloma is the perfect combination of sweet and citrus,” said Helen Mackey, Ruth’s Chris’ director of beverage strategy. It contains premium tequila, fresh lime and Ruby Red grapefruit juice, and is garnished with edible flower.
Addison, Texas-based Twin Peaks Restaurants will be rewarding its most frequent visitors on Cinco de Mayo with a chance to win a $50 gift card. The chain is asking guests to track their visits by checking in with the location-based social media platform Foursquare. The "Mayor," or guest with the most check-ins, at each Twin Peaks location by 5 p.m. on May 5 will receive a gift card.
Below are some other Cinco de Mayo promotions planned at restaurants and bars around the nation:
California Tortilla: The 37-unit fast-casual chain, based in Rockville, Md., is extending Cinco de Mayo into a two-day fiesta by offering customers a coupon for a free taco with any purchase May 4 and 5. The company said Cinco de Mayo is one of the chain’s busiest days each year.
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Taco Beach Shack: This intercoastal waterway spot in Miami Beach is offering an “over-the-top fiesta” with beer specials and $5 Mexican food deals along with live music and a mariachi band on Saturday.
MGM Resorts International: The Las Vegas company is offering a variety of traditional Mexican dishes and cocktails at its various restaurants and bars beginning Friday, May 4, and extending through Saturday. Revelers can indulge in the Buffet at the Bellagio or specials at the Border Grill at the Mandalay Bay. Other specials are planned at the Circus Circus, Luxor and Monte Carlo properties.
Las Vegas Hotel: This property, formerly the Hilton Las Vegas Convention Center, plans an all-weekend celebration with offerings of free Mexican beer and margaritas. On Sunday, May 6, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., it will host the Univision Radio Cinco de Mayo Fiesta and Concert in the Paradise Event Center. Ticket prices are $10 at the door.
Border Grill Downtown Los Angeles: On Friday the restaurant is offering what it calls “Countdown to Cinco De Mayo with 5 Courses, 4 Chiles, 3 Tequilas, 2 Tamales, 1 Spicy.” Monique King, executive chef at the restaurant, is pairing chile-infused dishes with margaritas and tequilas. The price is $55 for general admission.
The Belltown Pub: This Seattle spot, occupying space formerly used as a sleeping-bag factory, will have mariachi bands and feature Mexican menu items created with recipes from the families of the restaurant’s kitchen staff.
Pioneer Tavern Group: This Chicago hospitality company, which includes Lottie’s, The Pony and Frontier, will host its second “Cinco de Mayo Trolley Crawl” to each of the three venues beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday. The free trolley will be stocked with Mexican beers and serve until midnight. Each of the locations will have featured specials.
Porkchop: This Chicago restaurant is combining the horse races and the cultural holiday into “Cinco de Derby” on Saturday with half-priced mint juleps and Hornito’s tequila shots. Patrons can also dine on Southern-style cuisine, including friedand waffles, pan-seared catfish and peach cobbler.
La Calle Doce/El Ranchito: The three-unit group of Dallas restaurants is high-fiving the holiday on Saturday with $5 margaritas as well as the #5 sour cream enchiladas at La Calle Doce and #5 beef enchilada, chicken enchilada and beans at El Ranchito for $5.
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