So you want to open a pop-up restaurant? We are here to give you a helping hand. Pop-ups are a very popular business concept among entrepreneurs (and their foodie audience).
In this guide, we will cover:
- The advantages and disadvantages of a pop-up
- How to choose a name and theme
- The importance of a business plan
- How to find the right place
- The paperwork you will need to do
- If you need a temporary or mobile kitchen
- How to create an enticing menu
- Where to find a POS app to collect payments
- Marketing your pop-up restaurant
- Examples of successful pop-ups
By the end of this article, you will no longer have any doubts about your next step!
Consider the pros and cons of a pop-up restaurant.
If run correctly, a pop-up restaurant can be a very lucrative business. But, like any other business, it’s important to consider the pros and cons before taking the plunge.
- Reduced upfront investment and overhead.
- Try a new menu, theme, or price before investing in a permanent restaurant.
- Flexibility in terms of location.
- Free marketing if you open inside an established site.
- Limited resources and equipment.
- Difficult to create long-term relationships with customers.
- Very dependent on online marketing.
Brainstorm restaurant pop-up themes and names
If you think the pros outweigh the cons, it’s time to get to work and brainstorm to come up with name and theme ideas for your future business.
It would help if you stood out from the competition. Find a concept that’s simple to market online and captures the attention of any passerby.
Your marketing should mirror your menu, so you can skip to section 7 and return to this once the menu is established. For example, if you only serve grilled potatoes, you should hint at it somewhere in the name.
Tip: You can use this restaurant name generator to come up with a name, and read our culinary events guide to help you decide on a theme.
Create a business plan
As with any other endeavor, it’s a good idea to spend some time shining a light on precisely what goals you want to achieve and how you plan to achieve them.
A business plan is especially important if you want to woo investors, sponsors, donors, or are just looking to get a bank loan to get you started.
Tip: We’ve put together a guide on how to write a business plan to give you an idea of what it involves.
Choose a place
Location is another important factor to consider when planning your restaurant pop-up. Outdoors? Inside another place? Or maybe a pop-up in a food truck?
No matter your location, you will need permission from the relevant authorities to open your pop-up restaurant.
Tip: Find inspiration by reading our guides on the different types of venues available, how to choose the right one, and how to negotiate with venue management.
Applications for Licenses, Permits, and Insurance
Now that you’ve found a few names and locations for your pop-up restaurant, it’s time to continue reading the legislation around pop-up restaurants to get your paperwork in order.
You will need :
- A business license
- A license to serve food
- Of an insurance
Tip: Visit the Food Standards Agency to see what you need to get your restaurant pop-up approved.
Set up a mobile kitchen or temporary utility room
Once all the paperwork is in order, it’s time to heat the food. You have two practical options for your pop-up: a mobile kitchen or a temporary service room.
A mobile kitchen is suitable if you want to move between several places. But, first, research a van and equipment supplier to see if you can find what you need for a mobile kitchen.
Alternatively, if you’ve already reached an agreement with an established location, look at the equipment you need for a temporary service room. What you need will depend on the size and configuration of the space allocated to you by site management.
Tip: Our event gear rental guide has many great resources for gear rentals.
Create a menu
Dinner is almost served, but what’s on the menu? Your menu will be one of your pop-up restaurant’s biggest (if not the biggest) selling points, so make sure you design it carefully.
It should match the name, branding, and theme of your pop-up. But most importantly, it should be something that attracts crowds.
Some ideas :
- Local food: Many people enjoy supporting local farmers.
- Exotic Ingredients: Impress your customers with something rare and interesting.
- Vegan option: This is a popular trend that more and more restaurants are embracing.
- Specialization: will you focus on brunch, breakfast, or even dinner?
Tip: Read sections #6 and #7 of our guide on planning a culinary event to see how you could create your menu.
Get an app and a POS system.
You’ll want to be able to collect payments after you’ve spent all that time and energy creating your pop-up restaurant. Luckily, there are plenty of handy apps to help you get the money into your pocket.
Tip: Take a look at this list of the best POS apps and read this article on how to create an app for your pop-up.
Follow a marketing plan.
Marketing should already be an integral part of your business plan, but it’s worth emphasizing the importance of promoting your pop-up restaurant.
Be sure to partner with a ticketing platform such as Billetto. Get the word out about your new business and contact all relevant local presses for media coverage.
Tip: Take a look at our list of marketing strategies and our step-by-step guide on how to market your pop-up restaurant to the right people. Click here for more info.
Some examples of pop-up restaurants to inspire you
If you still feel a bit lost, then pull yourself together. So many people have tried to open a pop-up restaurant before you. You can learn from their mistakes and their successes.
Let’s end this guide on a sweet note by looking at some successful pop-up restaurants that have managed to not only turn a profit but also turn their pop-ups into permanent restaurants.
Saison is a wonderful example of a poverty-to-riches story. Not only did this San Francisco pop-up become a permanent restaurant, but it also earned three Michelin stars.
Coquina is a cute little mom-and-pop restaurant serving just about everything from nibbles to full 4-course meals. The entire restaurant, from the kitchen to the front, is run by the two owners.
Semillon in Brooklyn is the brainchild of a chef and a pastry chef. Although they draw their experience from Chez Jose, another pop-up, that doesn’t make their Michelin star any less impressive.
Starting a pop-up restaurant is not that different from any other business. You must have a brilliant concept and a solid plan to attract your target audience.
We hope that this guide has inspired you to get started and that we have been able to provide you with useful resources to help you get everything in place.
Do you have some advice to share with us? Could you drop us a comment in the section below?
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