by Dan Beaulieu
I love Mexican food. I love Mexican restaurants and I have been in many of them from El Paso, Texas, to Tucson, Arizona, to San Jose, California, to Bangor, Maine, to Portland, Maine, to Waterville, Maine, to Augusta, Maine. And get this, my favorite part of being in a Mexican restaurant is not necessarily the food. I like what I like (Carnitas Fajitas) but I am certainly no connoisseur of the food. Nope my favorite part of being in a Mexican restaurant is at the start of the experience (not even the meal yet) when we all sit there and have a drink ( and get this, I don’t even like Margaritas! But I do like a cold beer) and I like best of all the camaraderie. The sheer joy of being there.
And consider this, if you own one of these establishments. Most of your money is made with the beginning of the meal. That experience before the meal even starts is when you really make your money.
A good Margarita in a good restaurant will cost from $11 to $13 (which I think is a fair price value for what you are getting.) And if you have four people at the table, chances are they have already paid 50 bucks before they even order the meal.
And then they might order special queso and chips for another $10, and, or some special Guac for another $10 and before you know it the tab is now at $75 and no food yet. Man if I own that restaurant I am in 7th Heaven. And the best part for that owner or manager is that chances are the folks are going to order another round to go with the meal! Man you are getting into the five figure neighborhood already! Ole!
Now, let’s get to the dilemma, the thing I just cannot understand and that’s the salsa, the quality, the taste, and the amount. Look anyway you cut it salsa has to be pretty cheap to make. And it is probably even cheaper to buy. Heck, I have seen salsa, pretty good tasting national brand salsa in gallon jugs for ten bucks or so. I think that it can be said that salsa is a pretty cheap but very important part of any meal in any Mexican restaurant.
So, here’s my beef, and please remember I have been nice so far. I have been to two very good, in fact, outstanding Mexican restaurants in the past two months that serve salsa in those little plastic take out cups. You know the ones where you might get mayo or ketchup on the side in a takeout bag! All I ask is, why? Why would you possibly do that? It’s as though you are tacitly saying “okay, this is all the salsa you’re going to get so drink your drink, order your food, eat and get out, someone else wants this table!” Which, of course, is the exact opposite message you want to convey in any restaurant. Especially a Mexican restaurant where the bill/ tab is so front loaded.
If you serve great salsa and plenty of it, like a soup bowl full of it at a time, people are going to love it, they are going to eat it up and yes, the more important part they are going to extend this chip and salsa eating,
Margarita buying and drinking part of that entire meal experience! Without a doubt great chips and salsa and plenty of it will increase your drink sales by at least 50 percent and for little or no extra money! The least expensive part of this pre-meal experience (for you the restaurant owner) is the salsa.
So please, please, please, more salsa please. And that is a fantastic way to grow your business.