The diverse impact of Hispanic communities has touched all parts of our culture. From music and the arts, to fashion, family, and, of course, food – Hispanic influences across the spectrum are an essential part of who we are.
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from mid-September to mid-October, with Sept. 15 commemorating the national independence days of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. In our industry, the period provides a great opportunity to salute an array of Hispanic cooking, as well as to recognize the contributions of the broader Hispanic restaurant community. Here are a few tips for inspiring guests to join you in an authentic observance of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Toast Your Staff
In the dynamic team environment of a restaurant, various cultures and backgrounds collide to create a unique dining experience. Use this monthlong celebration to recognize your entire team, putting a special emphasis on those with Hispanic heritage. Craft menu/drink specials based on favorites or suggestions from staff. Someone on your team may love a specific cocktail or want to honor a family member with a generational recipe. Or call out enthusiastic teammates on your social channels, giving them a chance to show off their personalities and backgrounds to the local community.
During the month, encourage team building with a weekly staff meal, designed by a nominated employee. This can foster bonding, while kickstarting important conversations between team members, especially when bridging the divide of FOH and BOH. Give staff the chance to select music for the day or night service and recognize high-performing employees by conferring prizes/awards during team huddles. Remember that not all restaurant workers feel comfortable in the spotlight so consult with your managers to find ways of supporting more introverted staff.
Specials with a Story
Regardless of your concept, you can incorporate menu items that honor Hispanic communities. But it’s important to consider authenticity and respect when doing so. Take the time to research authentic ingredients and culinary methods when creating a Hispanic-inspired dish. This can also provide some accurate descriptions for your waitstaff to share with guests or to add to menu blurbs.
Today’s patrons are interested in stories that connect them to the food they order. If your restaurant is Hispanic based, tell the story of your influences, family background, and the inspiration behind certain dishes in promotional materials and on social media. If you are interested in recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month by adding a special, create a quick caption describing the concept, including any personal connections, and perhaps some information on ingredient sourcing – highlighting Hispanic-owned farms or regional distinctions.
Fun, colorful sidewalk signs are also great for catching the eye of potential guests and increasing foot traffic. Use these boards to feature your creative specials, such as portobello tamales or birria pizza. The right glance at the right time can make all the difference. For more authentic ingredients, specifically designed for different kinds of Hispanic kitchens, consider adding Contigo® to specials. Meaning “with you” in Spanish, Contigo offers a range of tortillas, salsas, peppers, custom cheeses, and specialty items like empanadas, barbacoa, and diced pork cushion to enhance the complex flavors of your recipes.
Hispanic contributions to military service have been enduring and powerful. More than 60 service members of Hispanic heritage have been awarded the Medal of Honor, our country’s highest military decoration. During Hispanic Heritage Month, recognize their service by offering a complimentary meal to Hispanic veterans and their families.
It’s easy to tie the celebration into other aspects of your community as well. Commit to donating the proceeds from your Hispanic-inspired specials to a local organization or club. Consider making food donations to a pantry or food bank representing Hispanic neighborhoods in your area. Even partner with groups or other businesses to sponsor events or provide meals during community activities throughout the month. Performance Foodservice One Source partner GiftAMeal is a fantastic resource for charitable giving.
It’s also a good idea to take full advantage of your outdoor spaces. Collaborate with local schools and faith-based groups to feature musical acts, dance teams, and artisans on your patio or in the parking lot. Food is obviously a central component of any Hispanic Heritage Month celebration at your restaurant but bringing people together for a more in-depth appreciation of culture can have a real impact in your community.