So you want to open a pop-up restaurant? We’ve got you covered. Pop-ups are a very popular business concept among entrepreneurs (as well as their hungry audiences).
In this guide, we’ll touch on…
- The pros and cons of a pop-up
- How to choose a name and theme
- The importance of a business plan
- How to find the right location
- The paperwork you’ll need to have in order
- Whether you should have a mobile or temporary kitchen
- How to create an appealing menu
- Where to find a POS app to get paid
- Marketing your pop-up restaurant
- Examples of successful pop-ups
By the end of it, you won’t be in doubt about what to do next!
1. Consider the pros and cons of a pop-up restaurant
A pop-up restaurant can be a lucrative business if it’s done right. But like any other business venture, it’s important to consider the pros and cons before you take a leap of faith.
- Smaller start-up investment and overheads.
- Try a new menu, theme, or pricing before you invest in a permanent restaurant.
- Flexibility in terms of location.
- Free marketing if you open inside of an established venue.
- Limited resources and equipment.
- Challenging to form long-term relationships with customers.
- Very reliant on online marketing.
2. Brainstorm some pop-up restaurant themes and names
If you feel like the pros outweigh the cons, it’s time to start brainstorming pop-up restaurant themes and names for your budding business.
You need to set yourself apart from the competition. Pick a concept that is easy to market online and grabs the attention of any passersby.
Your branding should match your menu, so you could jump down to section #7 and reverse engineer it. If you only serve baked potatoes, then your name should probably involve that.
3. Create a business plan
As with any other business, it’s a good idea to spend some time on outlining exactly what you want to achieve and how you plan on going about it.
A business plan is particularly important if you want to court investors, sponsors, donors, or just get a bank loan to help you get started.
Tip: We’ve created a guide on how to write up a business plan to give you an idea of what’s involved.
4. Choose a location
Location is another important factor to consider when you plan your pop-up restaurant. Will it be outdoors? Inside of another venue? Or maybe even a pop-up food truck?
Regardless of which location you choose, you will need permission from the relevant authorities to open your pop-up restaurant.
5. Apply for licences, permits, and insurance
Now that you’ve looked at some pop-up restaurant names and locations, it’s time to read up on pop-up restaurant laws so all your paperwork is in order.
- Business licence
- Food service permit
Tip: Visit the Food Standards Agency to see what you need to get your pop-up restaurant approved.
6. Set up a mobile kitchen or temporary dining room
With the legal paperwork in order, it’s time to get those meals on wheels. You have two options when it comes to the practicalities of your pop-up: a mobile kitchen or a temporary dining room.
A mobile kitchen is the way to go if you want to cover more than one location. Research van and equipment providers to see if you can find what you need for a mobile kitchen.
Alternatively, if you’ve come to an agreement with an established venue, look up what equipment you’ll need for a temporary dining room. What you’ll need will depend on the size and layout of the space you’ve been allocated by the venue management.
Tip: Our guide on event equipment hire has a lot of great resources for equipment rental.
7. Create a menu
Dinner is almost served, but what will it be? Your menu will be a major (if not the biggest) selling point of your pop-up restaurant, so design it with care.
It should match the name, brand, and theme of your pop-up. But more importantly, it should be something that can draw a crowd.
- Locally sourced food: a lot of people like to support their local farmers.
- Exotic ingredients: wow your guests with something rare and interesting.
- Vegan options: it’s a popular trend that more restaurants are getting into.
- Specialisation: will you focus on brunch only or cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
Tip: Read sections #6 and #7 in our guide on how to plan a food and drinks event to see how you could design the menu.
8. Get an app and POS system
You’ll want to get paid after spending all this time and effort on your pop-up restaurant. Fortunately, there are plenty of convenient apps to help you rake in some cash.
9. Follow a marketing plan
Marketing should already be an integral part of your overall business plan, but it’s worth reiterating the importance of promoting your pop-up restaurant.
Make sure you partner up with a ticketing platform like Billetto. Spread the word about your new venture and contact all relevant local publications to get some coverage.
10. Pop-up restaurant examples to inspire you
If you’re still feeling a bit lost, then take heart. Many have tried to start a pop-up restaurant before you. You can learn from both their failures and their successes.
Let’s round off this guide by having a look at some successful pop-up restaurants that managed to not only make a profit but also turn their pop-ups into permanent restaurants.
Saison is a shining example of a rags-to-riches story. Not only did this San Francisco pop-up become a permanent restaurant, but they also managed to get three Michelin stars.
Coquine is a cute little mom-and-pop restaurant that serves anything from nibbles to four-course meals. The entire joint, from the kitchen to the front-of-house, is run by the two owners.
Semilla in Brooklyn is the brainchild of a chef and a pastry chef. Although they’ve had previous experience with Chez Jose, another pop-up, it doesn’t make their Michelin star status any less impressive.
Tip: Check out this list full of examples of hugely successful pop-ups around the world.
Starting a pop-up restaurant is not that much different from starting any other business. You need an awesome concept and a solid plan for how to attract your target audience.
Hopefully, this guide inspired you to get started and shown you some great resources to help you put everything together.
Got any tips you’d like to share with us? Drop us a comment in the section below!