March 5, 2018 |

What’s with the pop-up restaurant trend?

By Denise Greer


Explore the pop-up movement and logistics involved

The ultimate pop-up restaurant is a mobile unit, of course. Current trends also point to another way restaurateurs are popping up. They pick super cool locations like rooftops, breweries, other restaurants and natural spaces to set up shop for special pop-up events that can be one-night only, weekly, monthly and even seasonally.

Pop ups can be exclusive and experience driven. Brooklyn-based Roberta’s has popped up for short stints at a shopping center in Los Angeles, a tent in Miami’s Design District and at Dusek’s, a gastropub in Chicago.

Emily, also located in Brooklyn, popped up at Cane Rosso in Dallas and Austin, Texas, for a one-night only charity event. But instead of serving its signature pies, its popular and mouth-watering burger was on the menu.

For some pizza makers pop ups are an economical way to enter the restaurant landscape to test products and transition to a brick-and-mortar pizzeria. Pizza Delicious launched as a weekly pop up at a community kitchen in 2010, opening a permanent location two years later. Last year, the slice shop made its debut on Pizza Today’s Hot 100 at No. 97.

Established as a pop up, Pizza Bruno, in Orlando, Florida, opened an off-the-beaten-path, brick-and-mortar location in 2016 that has kept its underground destination style.

Whether you are setting up on-site or rolling a mobile unit in, here are a number of logistical tasks you need to set in place before you pull the trigger on a pop-up event:

  • Figure out the why. What will a pop-up event do for your business? Who are you trying to reach? Does the event fit your brand? Are you trying to recreate your product or venture into a whole new style?
  • Where do you pop up? Knowing the why will lead you to where to pop up. Are you thinking of opening a location in a new neighborhood or testing different markets? Are you trying to attract a certain customer base to your brick-and-mortar spot? Where are you attempting to establish name recognition? What type of spaces would be optimal to partner with for a pop up? Will the pop up cannibalize on your existing business?
  • Breakdown the numbers. What will the total expenses be? And will your return on investment be enough to put in the legwork?
  • Establish quality controls and food safety protocols. It’s your name on the product, even if it’s not at your store. How will you replicate your pizza off-site? The environment many differ. Do you have food safety checklists in place?
  • Get your licenses and permits in order. While it’s cool to be underground, it’s deadly for your bottom line to be shutdown by the health department or excise police for not having the proper paperwork. The requirements will be different than your brick-and-mortar location. Also, does your insurance cover off-site events?
  • Create a limited and unique menu. Do what you do best and keep the number of items your menu manageable. Remember: people who are drawn to pop ups are looking for innovation, creativity and knock-your-socks-off cuisine.

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