Leslie Park Lynn

Leslie Park Lynn is a 15 year restaurant industry veteran.

Pop-up restaurants are a fun and interesting culinary experience for diners and offer a great business opportunity for savvy operators. According to the National Restaurant Association in the U.S., pop-up restaurants are a hot trend that is capturing the hearts and minds of chefs and operators everywhere. In fact, according to this article, pop-up restaurants have recently realized a year over year growth of 85%! This is because many of the same benefits of traditional restaurants can be realized for gutsy operators and at a substantially lower cost of entry than brick and mortar restaurant locations.

Operators open pop-up restaurants for a variety of reasons and with varying results. Some are wildly successful and others, not so much. But, if you are interested in creating a new concept, expanding your current concept or just getting your name out there as a chef, a pop-up restaurant might be an excellent vehicle for you to explore. But, to be successful, you should cover off on some very important steps.

Step #1 – Set your goals for your pop-up restaurant

There are a variety of reasons for opening a pop up restaurant. Whatever your reason is, it’s important to set some goals for yourself so you have a way to measure your performance and success.

For example, if you are opening a pop-up restaurant to raise awareness in the market place for your existing brick and mortar restaurant location, you should develop some tracking tools to measure new trial in your restaurant. If you are utilizing a pop-up restaurant to test out a new concept, it’s important to capture feedback from your customers about what they like and don’t like about your brand and your culinary direction. Whatever your objective, make sure that you are focused on results.

Step #2 – Select a great location for your pop-up restaurant

The location of your pop-up restaurant is an important decision just like it is for any traditional location. Ideally, you want a location that can provide plenty of foot traffic and is easily accessible for set-up. Any location that you choose should be suitable for preparing and serving food but should also have access to key infrastructure such as electricity and running water. And, if the perfect space does not offer these amenities you should be figuring out how you will you address this. Size of the available space is also an important factor. Make sure you have to have enough space to operate your mobile kitchen efficiently and to serve your guests.


Step #3 – Get legal if you have to

Many pop-up restaurants do not worry about permitting or licensing and just wing it, setting up in the best location they can find. While the philosophy of it being better to ask forgiveness than permission has served some well, its probably a good idea to find out what is required and what the penalties are for non-compliance. Only then can you make a good decision about how you should proceed.

Step #4 – Create a great menu

Depending on what the goals are for your pop-up restaurant, you will want to create a menu that speaks to those goals. If you are looking to introduce new people to your existing restaurant then plan a menu that is representative of your brand and culinary offerings but is easy to execute in a mobile environment. If you are introducing a new concept, work to offer a menu that tells the story of your vision. Price it right so it is approachable to many people.

Step #5 – Design your mobile kitchen

Designing your mobile kitchen is a very important part of planning your pop-up restaurant. Just like the kitchen is the heart of the house in any restaurant, your mobile kitchen design will play a huge part in your success or failure. A mobile kitchen must be built for speed and efficiency so put a lot of energy and thought into how you will set it up to execute your menu.

Another consideration is how you will serve your guests and where they will be able to sit and eat. Make sure that your design includes enough space for a few tables and chairs and put some thought into how you want to design your steps of service. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. After all, a pop-up restaurant is a non-traditional restaurant so you can take some liberties with how you want to service your guests.


Step #6 – Marketing is key

Every restaurant needs good marketing in order to thrive and a pop-up restaurant is no exception. Social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are an excellent way to market a pop-up restaurant. Make sure people know when your restaurant is open for business to maximize your traffic and utilize the flexibility and reach of social media to communicate the unique aspects of your brand. Communicate your hours of operations, any events that are happening close by and any daily specials you are offering.

Opening a pop-up restaurant can be a fun and rewarding experience. The non-traditional aspects of a pop-up restaurant make it an exciting way to launch new concepts, promote your brand or simply create new pathways to profit. Careful planning and good execution will ensure you get the most out of your pop-up restaurant adventure. Don’t let 4 walls define your restaurant. Explore how a pop-up restaurant can take your concept and your passion to the next level.