Behind the Scenes: Cinco de Mayo Prep

Staff at one popular Mexican chain start preparations for the next year’s Cinco de Mayo celebration right after the previous one ends. 

“Immediately after the event the team meets to gather feedback and create a recap,” Kurt Pahlitzsch, Vice President of Casual Dining at Doherty Enterprises, franchisee of Chevys, told Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine. “In December, the team begins to plan based on the feedback from that recap meeting and the new ideas that have emerged since then.”

Cinco de Mayo events in the Linden and Clifton, New Jersey stores have grown over the years to include a parking lot bash with DJs, a Mariachi band and giveaways, reflecting a trend seen in other restaurants. According to recent data from SpotOn, its clients saw restaurant spending on Cinco de Mayo increased by 40 percent from 2022 to 2023. In 2018, Womply estimated restaurants saw a 44-percent increase on Cinco de Mayo over a typical day. Last year, the CGA by NIQ On Premise Impact Report which uses BeverageTrak data to track food and drinks sales across mainland bars and restaurants – both chains and independents – saw a one-percent uplift thoughout the U.S compared to an average Friday, with increases of seven percent in Texas and three percent in California. 

“It started as an in-restaurant event growing to a huge tent overtaking the parking lot,” said Pahlitzsch. “It is now the largest Cinco de Mayo party in the Chevy’s restaurant system.”


It’s estimated the two restaurants go through 27,000 ounces of tequila, 1,400 avocados and thousands of tacos on the day alone. From a storage aspect, they have to utilize an extra refrigerated trailer for the week to have enough space for all the necessary food and beverage supplies, Pahlitzsch added. 

One thing they need a lot of is ice. 

“Our ice machine takes on the most pressure causing us to buy ice from a local vendor to keep up with demand,” he said. 

Weather is among the key challenges. 

“We focus on the weather reports as all our vendors are on notice for increased volume,” said Pahlitzsch. “If we go north of 70 degrees that evening, the party doubles in size.” 

To make sure the day is all staffed up, they utilize an all-hands-on deck approach with no vacations during the week and have support from other Doherty teams. 

Even though the event has no trouble attracting crowds, the team does actively promote the festivities in a variety of ways including social media, email, billboard, digital advertisement, local radio, press and television, influencers, and social media collaboration with hired entertainment.