The New Economy of Pop-Ups: An Opportunity Worth Embracing

Pop-up restaurants are all the rage right now.  It seems like every time you turn around, there is another pop-up labeling itself as “the” event of the season.  But what are pop-ups, and is hosting or participating in a pop-up a good idea for you as a chef or restaurant?

A pop-up restaurant serves food in a venue that it does not own.  A very literal definition, they “pop up” in borrowed spaces.  Typically, the venue would otherwise be closed during the event.  Pop-ups can be held virtually anywhere: warehouses, clothing stores, lobbies of large buildings, restaurants, bars, gardens and more.

While many pop-ups are held to drum up business for new ventures, established restaurants can host pop-ups of their own as a fun marketing blitz.

Make sure you avoid pop-up pitfalls by taking the following necessary steps to ensure your pop-up is both well-executed and successful:

  • Why Do You Want to Do This: Think of what you’d like to do and who you’d like to attract.  Is there a certain cuisine you’d like to highlight or a theme you’d like to indulge?  Who is your target demographic and where do they live?  Always remember: stay true to your brand.  Make sure whatever your concept is that it plays into your overarching company mission or goal.
  • Do Recon: Forget the yellow book — let your legs do the walking. Now that you’ve determined who you’d like to attend and where they’re willing to go, take a walk.  Scout out the neighborhood during the time you’d like to host your event.  Hosting a breakfast?  Keep an eye out for bars or dinner-only restaurants.  Rather do dinner?  Consider warehouses or florists that close at the end of the business day.
  • Reach: Want to throw a large pop-up to target those outside of your regular patrons?  Consider partnering with social media deal sites such as ScoutMob, LivingSocialGroupon and others to appeal to a larger guest base.  They have the tools to reach thousands of potential attendees who may not know about your business.
  • Ambiance: Pop-ups are expected to be casual.  Don’t go overboard with decorations; keep in mind a little goes a long way.  Your efforts are best spent finessing details elsewhere.
  • Be Creative: Now is your time to shine.  Branch out, try something new.  Veer from your regular menu and offer something different.  Woo new customers and retain old ones by showing them you are adept at multiple genres.  Pop-ups are naturally cloaked in an aura of hipness and exclusivity — invitees will be flattered to receive an invitation and excited to try special one-time-only delicacies.  Embrace this opportunity for creative license and run with it. Just remember to stay true to your brand and core mission.

Engaging, easy, and requiring minimum funding, pop-ups are a no-brainer. This is a trend to embrace – just make sure we get an invite to attend!

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