What is a Pop-Up Restaurant?
A pop-up restaurant is a dining service held at a private residence or another suitable location. Pop-ups are typically limited to small and intimate groups, and diners typically reserve their spot in advance. Pop-ups can also be highly organized events that serve a large number of paying guests.
Opening and running a restaurant requires a certain appetite for risk. You have to put up a great deal of capital, whether it comes from your savings or a business loan. You hope that you are then able to sell enough food to cover the various expenses like rent, utilities, and wages. Your business depends on the ebb and flow of daily diners and whether or not you can pack in crowds during peak times.
The stresses and difficulties of running a restaurant are well-documented, which has made some chefs adverse to the entire ordeal. As a result, many talented cooks are turning to pop-up restaurants to pursue their passion for food without risking tons of cash.
Starting a Pop-Up
As you can see, pop-up restaurants are a great way for talented chefs or restaurateurs to start a business without the huge commitment required to run a brick and mortar restaurant. Success with a pop-up restaurant can eventually lead down that path, but for now, let’s focus on the nuts and bolts of starting a pop-up restaurant.
Startup costs for a pop-up restaurant are minimal compared to those of opening a traditional restaurant. You’ll need to cover the cost of cooking equipment, tableware, furniture, and food costs… and that’s about it. You might consider hiring a server, a sous chef, or a dishwasher if you have the budget for it.
Calculate your budget based on how much you plan to charge for your dinner and how many guests you will accommodate. For example, if you are charging $50 per person with a maximum capacity of 10 people, you’ll make $500. Consider your food costs and other expenses; whatever you have leftover will be your profit for the evening.
You will also need to obtain a venue. You could consider hosting at a private home, including your own. Other pop-up venues include galleries, empty stores, museums, warehouses or any other space.
Consider people in your own personal network that might have the perfect space to host your pop-up concept. Just about any place can work for a successful pop-up restaurant, as long as it has electricity and running water.
Know Your Audience
The primary clientele for pop-up restaurants is die-hard foodies. These diners are adventurous eaters who expect to have a one-of-kind culinary experience when they eat at your pop-up restaurant. Since it is such a unique experience, plan to use the freshest ingredients and to create dishes with a lot of flavor. Chefs are the stars of any pop-up event, and it is customary to personally introduce each dish and tell the story behind it.
Spread the Word
Part of the appeal of a pop-up restaurant is its exclusivity and limited availability. Build hype for your upcoming pop-up using social media. Preview some of the dishes that will be on the menu, show off your ingredients, and share photos of yourself cooking up some mouthwatering delicacies. Satisfied diners will spread the word about the exclusive dining experience, creating demand for your next dinner.
Pour Up Some Drinks
Upgrade your service by offering an optional alcohol pairing with your price fixe menu. This can be a good way to earn extra revenue. You might need a liquor license, so be sure to check out the laws in your jurisdiction.
Everything You Need For Your Pop-up
You will need a few key items to have a pop-up restaurant. All homes are equipped with a kitchen, but you should supply your own cookware utensils, cutting boards, knives, and assorted smallwares for the evening.
You’ll want to prep for service in advance, likely in your own home or commissary kitchen. That means you’ll need food storage bins and other containers so that all of the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time.
If you are cooking at a location that doesn’t have a kitchen, you’ll really have to do your prep ahead of time. You will also need to bring equipment, new or used to cook with such as a portable gas range, charcoal grill or an induction cooktop. Don’t forget iced-down coolers to keep ingredients cold.
Wherever you are, you’ll need enough tables and chairs for your guests. You’ll also need linens, dishes, glassware, napkins and utensils for everyone. Either buy a set of portable chairs and tables or rent them as needed. Either way, this is one major expense that you’ll need to plan for.
Pop It Off
Now you know everything you need to know about opening a pop-up restaurant! If you have a talent for cooking and a bit of ambition, you have just about everything that it takes to start one. Launching a successful pop-up is a very rewarding experience that can lead to other opportunities for cooking or attracting investors for a permanent space.
The flexibility of a pop-up allows you to experiment and pursue new culinary avenues while catering to a very select community that is passionate about eating great food. This makes pop-ups a breeding ground for innovative cuisine that you have to try to believe!