Pop-up restaurants, originating in London, have taken the United States by storm. These temporary restaurants are set up in strategic locations only for a short period. Essentially offering several courses for a set fee, they are great business models for those of all cooking experiences and backgrounds. New chefs have found that pop-up restaurants are fantastic ways to get their names in the game, while seasoned chefs can use pop-up restaurants to test out overall restaurant concepts or new menu ideas. These restaurants can stay open for one night, a weekend or even an entire month.
Why Open a Pop-Up Restaurant
There are several reasons why you may consider opening a pop-up restaurant. You can begin your own business for a relatively small sum of money, especially when you compare the cost to that of opening a full-fledged restaurant. Typically, a new restaurant can cost around $500,000, whereas you can run a pop-up restaurant for anywhere between $2,000 and $2,500 per week, decreasing your financial risk. Since restaurants are one of the riskiest types of start-ups, it makes sense to lower your financial exposure as much as possible.
Pop-ups can be beneficial to already-established restaurant owners considering opening a second location. By testing out the market in different areas, owners can gauge whether or not the menu would be well received at the second establishment. Once you test the menu and handle customers’ reactions, then you may consider opening a full-fledged restaurant at a fixed location.
These restaurants also offer great flexibility in terms of reinventing oneself. Many customers thrive on eating meals in new, exciting locations such as parks, streets, steel mills, rafts or even underground in old mines. Pop-up restaurants are ideal for creative owners who want to test the limits of their business concept.
Tips on Running a Pop-Up Restaurant
Once you have decided to open a pop-up restaurant, there are a few things to consider before taking the first step. Most importantly, you need to think about the location. This is the basis for your success and you should keep in mind the demographics of the customers and markets you will be targeting. For example, festivals can be ideal, but remember that you will need to charge festival prices. Additionally, you may need permission to operate if you choose a location off the beaten track.
Make sure you have all of your equipment well in advance of your opening day. Keep in mind the kitchen equipment and food you will need, plus licenses for electric, gas and water.
Keep your expectations realistic. Many people launch pop-up restaurants in hopes of becoming millionaires overnight. In reality, the most successful owners treat pop-ups as a public relations and marketing opportunity to spread buzz about an existing restaurant and to give people in other locations a taste of what they offer.
You will most likely be working with a brand new team, as your current chefs will be busy operating your fixed restaurant. Keep this in mind when planning your menu to ensure that everything runs smoothly and quickly.
You should also consider the price of your meals and fix them according to what your potential customers can afford. For example, if you are establishing a pop-up at a fair, expect to charge comparable prices and remember that most of your customers will be carrying cash. In this case, make sure you have lots of change available or set up near an ATM for smoother transactions.
Get creative with your pop-up menus and locations to create the most buzz for your restaurant. It’s a great way to try out new offerings and test the market.