A pop-up restaurant is a temporary restaurant. These restaurants often operate from a private home, former factory, existing restaurants or similar space, and during festivals. Various other names have been used to describe the concept of setting up a restaurant without the typical level of up-front costs, such as guerrilla diners and underground supper clubs.
Not every restaurant has to be a full-fledged permanent operation. Pop-ups are gaining traction as the new way to get started in the restaurant industry. Whether you’re testing out a new menu concept or you’re building a restaurant for one night only, pop-ups give restaurateurs the flexibility to get in the hospitality business, without the long-term commitments of a regular restaurant.
While pop-up restaurants have grown in popularity in recent years, their history stretches back as early as the 1960s, when supper clubs were all the rage. In 2021, temporary restaurants are now popping up in every corner of the world, making them one of the most popular types of restaurants.
Types of pop-up restaurants
Pop-ups come in all shapes and sizes. They can even be set up within an existing restaurant. If a specific restaurant only opens for dinner, for example, a pop-up restaurant could be set up to offer breakfast, lunch or even brunch. Using an existing restaurant reduces the cost and logistics of setting up or finding a space with all the equipment and specifics required to run a restaurant.
Pop-up restaurants can be anything from a temporary stand in a food market that’s set up for the summer to a one-night experiential rooftop event.
How to start your very own pop-up restaurant
While opening up a temporary restaurant doesn’t require the same level of investment as a full-time restaurant, there are still a lot of things to consider before opening day.
Concept and menu
What makes your concept special? Your first step as a soon-to-be pop-up is to take the time to craft a unique concept, something that isn’t readily available elsewhere and sets you apart from the pack. Choosing a unique concept will be key in the marketability of your new venture as novelty plays a big role in this type of restaurant.
Once you’ve decided on your concept, you need to figure out your menu. Most pop-up menus only offer a limited number of options with a fixed price or “prix fixe”. Whatever you choose will depend entirely on your theme, but keep in mind that being original and offering something different will play a key role in your success.
Part of what makes pop-ups special is that most of them have an unusual temporary location. Will you be using an existing space? Do you need a lot of specialized equipment? Will a tent or stand do the job? Once you’ve decided on your concept, you’ll be able to look for the perfect location to fit your pop-up idea.
You’ll also have to factor in the lease. Will you be renting the location for one night, a few weeks or several months? All of this will determine the rate, ease of availability and type of contract or lease you’ll have to sign.
Opening a new restaurant requires a laundry list of equipment and tools. A pop-up restaurant might not need everything on the usual restaurant equipment list, but you’ll still need to be equipped to get up and running. Depending on how long you plan on hosting your pop-up, you might want to consider renting versus buying. If your pop-up will only be taking place for a night, you’ll only need to rent, but if you’re planning on being open for several months, you might have to buy.
If you’re not planning on using an existing restaurant space, you might need the following types of equipment for your pop up:
Tables, chairs, cutlery
Cooking utensils: pots, pans, chopping boards and tables
Equipment: portable grill, oven, deep fryer, pizza oven, stovetop
Fridge or freezer
Chafing dishes, food warmers or steam tables
Point of sale
The type of kitchen equipment you need will depend largely on your concept. For example, if you’re opening up a pop-up pizza parlor, you’ll definitely need a portable pizza oven, but if you’re opening a BBQ joint you’ll need a smoker and grilling equipment. Start with your concept and your equipment list will trickle down from there.
Not interested in starting your own pop up, but would love to have the experience? Contact Dinner Thyme today, and pick from a number of offerings, like Hibachi BBQ, Taco Bar, Sushi Bar and just about anything you can dream up on your own. Cheers, and have a Happy Hump Day!