July 11, 2023

Mambo Taxi drives chain's to-go beverage sales to the next level

Mi Cocina’s CEO says frozen drink led way to creativity and innovation.
Edgar Guevara, president and CEO of Mi Cocina

Guevara says the Mambo Taxi margarita, served frozen with a swirl of sangria, is one of the most iconic cocktails in Dallas, popular with almost everyone.

Whether frozen or on the rocks, creating the perfect margarita is sacred for Edgar Guevara, president and CEO of the Texas-based, 23-unit Mi Cocina Tex-Mex regional restaurant chain.

It’s especially true of the group’s Mambo Taxi margarita. Served frozen with a swirl of sangria, the cocktail is one of the most iconic in Dallas, Guevara says, popular with almost everyone of every [legal drinking] age.

“We sell a lot of frozen drinks—great house margaritas and all kinds of cocktails, but the Mambo Taxi drives 95% of our liquor sales,” Guevara says. “When the pandemic happened, we thought about how we could sell our drinks on a to-go basis, and as soon as the Governor announced we could sell cocktails to go, we came up with a way to serve them frozen, in mini-split containers with a nonalcohol mix on the side. People could pick them up, fix them for themselves, and enjoy them at home.”

Meeting the moment, and the challenges

The mini-split margaritas soon represented 80% of the restaurants’ liquor sales, and Guevara knew he was onto something: there was a market for great-tasting pre-made, to-go frozen alcohol beverages.

There were challenges, however. Guevara was insistent the drinks maintain their in-house quality, and management had to ensure there’d be enough inventory to support demand. Most important was the ability to comply with state requirements when selling alcohol off premises.

“The drinks had to be in containers sealed with black tape so no one could drink them in the car. We wrapped them in branded, black bags sealed with zip ties,” he says. “But once everyone knew they could get Mambo Taxis to go, everyone showed up. It was like the floodgates opened.”

They sold 2 sizes—10-oz. cups and by the quart. The demand was so high, the company purchased more frozen margarita machines and installed them in every restaurant to keep up. The brand even introduced a skinny version of the Mambo Taxi. Liquor sales jumped almost immediately, and 3 years later, their alcohol-to-go sales continue to grow. 

Through trial and error, they learned a few lessons. Frozen margaritas don’t maintain their quality in the gallon size and don’t pour well, either. 

These days, Guevara notes, “We get a lot of people who’ve invited friends to their homes for parties ordering 8 quarts of Mambo Taxis, chips, guacamole, and salsa.

“I always knew [our program] would be successful, that we’d do well,” he says. “Everyone has their favorite restaurants that leave an impression on hearts and in minds. We’re determined to replicate the same experience whether they’re here or at home—with consistency and quality of product. That’s super important to us.”

Guevara’s team has always been innovative and creative, but he says the biggest lesson everyone’s learned is to stay consistent and give customers what Mi Cocina is good at.

“We’ve learned to stay in our lane, and don’t do the things we can’t do. We’ve focused on margaritas because that’s what we’re really good at.”

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