Pop-up culture has taken over the hospitality industry in recent years; from a peanut butter fondue bar to a restaurant serving only tinned seafood, themed eateries are having a moment. The exclusivity that comes with a pop-up store’s limited run appeals to the modern shopper by maximising FOMO (fear of missing out), and offers the perfect opportunity for you to experiment with your own business.
There are a few different reasons you might be opening a pop-up restaurant: you may want to explore a new theme or new menu to test the response; you might be trialing a new location before expanding your business; or you might be starting a new business altogether to see if you have what it takes to make it as a chef.
Pop-ups can be open for as long as you want, whether this is just for a day, a weekend, or an entire season (seasonal pop-up bars are becoming increasingly common). But regardless of how long your restaurant will last, there are some essentials you need to consider. Here, we’ll outline the most important aspects, giving your business the best head start.
Choose the right location for your restaurant
Pop-ups can launch almost anywhere, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to pick a location. To have the most success, your pop-up needs to be based in an easily accessible location with high visibility and plenty of transport connections.
The restaurant itself needs to be large enough that it can host as many customers as you can feasibly cater to during the busiest time. Do your homework to make sure your pop-up won’t be in direct competition with any established restaurants nearby. Running a pop-up at a market filled with other pop-ups is an increasingly popular option, as customers in these areas will already be in the mood for something a little different.
Make sure everything is legal
While licensing laws change between councils and cities, you still need to make sure you complete the appropriate paperwork for your pop-up. For example, you’ll need a license if you’re planning on serving alcohol. Even if you choose the BYOB route, you may still need approval from the council. You will also need relevant licenses to play music for restaurants in the background.
Getting approval for these licenses can take some time, so it’s best to apply well in advance of your opening date. Find out which licenses you will need using the government’s helpful license finder.
Have enough room to cook your food
Regardless of what type of food you’re serving to your customers, you need the space to safely and quickly cook the meals. If you’re choosing to cook everything fresh on the premises, you’ll need to have the right equipment installed, and follow the relevant health and safety guidelines to protect staff and guests.
Another option is to cook some of your food off premises and transport it in every day, which could be helpful if your chosen location is on the smaller side. Instead of using your home kitchen—which likely won’t be big enough for your business—you can hire out a commercial kitchen. Some companies, like Dephna, offer commercial kitchens without the equipment installed, giving you the option to customise the space to suit your needs.
You may also need a commercial kitchen if you’re looking to launch a takeaway and delivery service. Having an extra kitchen allows your physical space to focus on serving customers visiting your pop-up, while a separate kitchen handles the delivery orders. This became more common in 2017, when delivery giants Deliveroo offered restaurants pop-up kitchen space dedicated to orders placed on the website. The scheme (previously known as RooBox) aimed to take away some of the pressure in the main restaurant, and the pop-up kitchens were conveniently located close to the city centre for speedier delivery times.
Ensure your marketing is as strong as possible
The beauty of pop-ups is that they’re temporary. Because of this, you to guarantee customers turn up from day one. Marketing your pop-up well in advance ensures people know about your restaurant, and can encourage them to turn up on the first day. You can do this on your own social media pages, or by collaborating with influencers to reach a wider audience.
Create banners for your website promoting your pop-up, and include click through links to the event registration page to encourage your customers to sign up for tickets. Setting up an event page on social media and issuing tickets, whether for free or at a cost, will remind guests that your pop-up is opening.
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Offering tickets to your guests also gives you the chance to get their details and any personal information you may want or need, such as dietary and allergen requirements. This also builds up a database of customers, which you can then email regarding business news and future plans, such as taking your pop-up to another city or launching a permanent store.
Hire staff with the right attitude
As your pop-up will only be open for a limited time, you have to ensure that every customer receives the best service possible, as it’s crucial to give the best impression. Your staff should share your attitude and passion for the business, and should have the drive to watch the business succeed.
Finding part-time or temporary staff with these qualities can be difficult, but it’s crucial to the success of your pop-up restaurant. One way to do this is through working with a staffing agency, who are experts in placing their staff in temporary positions, and will be able to find the right fit for your business.
Having excellent customer service can ensure that your initial customers keep returning for the duration of your pop-up and increases the chances they will spread word of your restaurant to friends, helping to grow your customer database. Having a dedicated customer base for a pop-up ensures that if you do ever relaunch at a later date, you will have returning customers, guaranteeing you some income from the start.
Whether you’re looking to expand your current restaurant business, or launching a brand new venture, pop-up restaurants are a great way to introduce your brand to new customers. If your pop-up does become popular, you can launch on a more permanent basis to grow your business even further.