A strategically located pop-up restaurant can create excitement among diners with fresh, out-of-this-world experiences. It can be a rewarding journey with plenty of culinary lessons to pick up along the way if you’ve never done this before. For established chefs, mobile restaurants offer valuable growth opportunities without the cost of setting up permanent physical premises. Keep reading to learn more about practical strategies for starting a pop-up eatery business.
Pop-Up Restaurant: Learn What You’re Singing Up For
A pop-up restaurant is a temporary eatery innovatively set up for a brief duration of time, such as a night, several weeks, or months. The objective of establishing such a restaurant is to cater to the needs of people that love eating out and take pleasure in new, refreshing, and one-of-a-kind dining experiences. While these restaurants are unconventional, they offer the same superior standards as their traditional counterparts, focusing on customer service excellence and culinary prowess.
Why it’s a Good Idea to Open a Pop-Up Restaurant
You can start a pop-up restaurant business for various reasons, including:
- They’re a fun and innovative proposition to investors, making it easier to raise capital for your startup
- They’re not capital intensive, so you typically wouldn’t need huge loans to get started (you can cheaply lease restaurant furniture, equipment, etc on a short-term basis)
- If you’re new in the hospitality industry, pop-up restaurants let you test the waters and build your culinary reputation before making a heavy investment in a fully-fledged, permanent restaurant
- If you’re an established chef, you can open a temporary restaurant to evaluate a new location before permanent expansion in the future
Opening Your Pop-Up Restaurant: A Step by Step Guide
Follow these easy steps to start your pop-up restaurant business:
1. Determine your objectives
Decide whether you’re starting the business to build your hospitality reputation, creatively explore new culinary ideas, or sharpen your gourmet cooking skills. Maybe you’re looking to test the waters before launching a fully-fledged restaurant or raise funds for charity with a one-off venture. Execute your entry strategy based on your objectives.
2. Select a location
Unconventional spaces are partly responsible for the excitement around pop-up restaurants. Provided that a location meets your state’s health and safety standards, you can select it and create unique experiences for diners. Attractive locations include:
- Unoccupied restaurant premises
- Existing restaurant premises during off-hours
Be sure your restaurant space can accommodate the maximum number of targeted guests and will be available during your operating hours. Also, take into account the lease period and availability of mission-critical restaurant equipment.
3. Research and satisfy legal requirements
If even if you’re only operating for a night, you should run your pop-up eatery by the book. Apply for and get all relevant state permits, licenses, and other regulatory approvals before opening your doors to diners. You can avoid costly legal trouble when you obtain proper paperwork for your business, such as:
- Business license
- Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Certificate of Occupancy
- Food Service License
- Building Health Permit
- Employee Health Permit
- Resale Permit
- Seller’s Permit
- Sign Permit
- Music License
- Live Entertainment License
- Liquor License
- Dumpster Placement Permit
4. Showcase your talent with innovative menus
A killer menu is what will make you stand out as a pop-up restaurant chef. Not only should you create unique mouth-watering recipes, but you also need to be strategic with your menu types. To maximize sales and minimize leftovers, consider multi-course menus like prix fixe. Make sure your preferred menus match the overall ambience and setup of your pop-up restaurant.
5. Set up your mobile kitchen
If you’re not operating in existing restaurant space, you’ll need to bring several tools and equipment to build your mobile kitchen. It’s also vital to consider access to electricity and water where you plan to set up the kitchen. Important equipment for your pop-up eatery may include:
- Portable oven or grill
- Portable steam table
- Portable cleaning/washing stations
- Cutting tables
6. Build your pop-up dining area
Take into account the number of expected guests when building your dining spaces. While you’re at it, keep in mind that ambience and décor are essential components of superior restaurant experiences. Also, figure out what you need to buy or lease to maximize comfort for your guests. Tables, chairs, curtains, and fixtures can be purchased or rented depending on the duration of your temporary eatery.
7. Pop-up restaurant startup costs
Pop-up eatery startup costs can vary by multiple factors, including your state and size of business. In your financial plan, consider mandatory expenses for necessities like:
- Utilities (electric, water, etc)
- Furniture and décor rentals
- Employees and staff training
- Marketing and advertising
- Ingredients and cleaning supplies
- Menu design and printing
- Sound system
Also, account for paperwork/license costs. For instance, it may cost up to $7,000 to license certain operations.
8. Putting the word out
Use marketing and promotion strategies to create awareness for your pop-up restaurant. Some practical approaches include:
- Launch a public relations exercise on local papers, magazines, and popular cooking or food social media channels. Whip your target audience into frenzy by sharing exclusive snippets on what’s on offer while explaining your pop-up restaurant concept.
- Be on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and start posting your mouth-watering menus and engaging prospective guests.
- Engage local food influencers to spread awareness. You can tap into their local following to attract guests.
9. Select efficient delivery platforms
Leveraging multiple delivery platforms lets you access more customers and maximize sales. Viable options for your pop-up restaurant include:
- Online ordering: This creates convenience for people that need food delivered to their home or office and also expands your brand exposure.
- Third-party listings: Adding your eatery on Uber Eats, Doordash, or similar platforms increases your restaurant’s online visibility.
A pop-up restaurant is a low-risk venture that lets you excite dinners with unique and fresh experiences. It’s a viable business idea and can be an exciting adventure for you once you get your execution strategy right.