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Cinco de Mayo might not be until Saturday, but for some, the celebration started Thursday night – along with the profits.
The festival, originally a commemoration of a Mexican army triumph over the French in 1862, has come to be something of an Americanized excuse to party – which means it is often a pretty good business day for restaurants.
But the timing matters.
“When Cinco de Mayo falls on a Tuesday or Wednesday, we don’t see much of a bounce,” said Marco Foelske, director of food and beverage operations at Hilton Atlanta, which houses Nikolai’s Roof, Trader Vic’s and Southern Elements.
This year, he hopes to build mometum moving toward the weekend, Foelske said. “This year, because it falls on a Saturday, and we already have a live band at Trader Vic’s on Thursday nights, we are trying to stretch the mood.”
For Georgia restaurants, the next 10 days include two of the year’s highest-revenue days, according to a crunching of transaction data by Womply Inc., a San Francisco-based software company that handles transaction data for more than 100,000 small businesses.
Saturday is Cinco de Mayo. A week from Sunday is Mother’s Day.
“On Mother’s Day we see an increase in demand, mainly for Southern Elements,” Foelske said. “We have a Mother’s Day family-style menu and we get calls (for reservations) right up to the last minute.”
Both Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day are strong restaurant days here, at least partly because they just amplify habits that consumers already have, said Brad Plothow, Womply vice president. “On average, a lot more people go out to restaurants in Georgia than most places.”
Last year, Cinco de Mayo was a Friday.
The average Georgia restaurant saw revenue of $2,563 – a jump of 45 percent compared to an average day, he said.
Yet the average customer’s tab was $31 – the same as a typical day, Plothow said. “People aren’t spending more money, but lots and lots more people are going to restaurants.”
Mother’s Day is good too, but nowhere as it is for restaurants in many parts of the country, he said. “Mother’s Day is the number one day of the year for 44 percent of restaurants nationally. It is the number one day for restaurants in 13 states.”
Yet it’s only the 20th best sales day of the year in Georgia. That may be because Sunday is less of a restaurant day in Georgia than in many states, Plothow said.
Even so, the average restaurant bill on Mother’s Day in Georgia is $45, while restaurants pull in 48 percent more revenue than on an average day.
Yet good as they are for business, neither of the two coming holidays are in the top five for restaurant revenues.
But sometimes there’s a spillover, Plothow said: when a holiday approaches, people are thinking about celebrating so they might go out the day before or after. But there are other effects, too: the most important is probably school vacations, when so many people are eating on the road or just feeling more like a relaxed time out.
In general, consumer spending depends on having disposable income. And Georgia has seen healthy job growth. There are also conjunctions that can add to the desire to entertain out. Cinco de Mayo also happens to be the day this year for the running of the Kentucky Derby.
The very best restaurant day of last year was March 18th – yes, the day afterSt. Patrick’s Day. The second best day was May 13 – the day before Mother’s Day last year. The next three were March 4, Feb. 25 and March 11.
“In Georgia, the top five days for restaurants were all Saturdays,” Plothow said. “So Saturday is it in Georgia.”