If you’re thinking about trying a new menu concept and want to enlist trendsetters as evangelists for your restaurant brand, you may want to consider producing a “pop-up” restaurant event. These unique dining experiences attract trendy influencers who use social media and make restaurant recommendations to their friends.
The concept of temporary dining experiences originated with supper clubs in the 1960s and later evolved into underground restaurants. Pop-up restaurants are growing at an astounding rate of 82% in cities across the country. These temporary dining events are hosted in established restaurants, bars, theaters, arcades and private homes. Pop-ups allow chefs to test new menu ideas and raise awareness and funding for a permanent restaurant location.
Pop-ups attract experiential diners who crave unique events that are memorable and intimate. They like mingling with chefs, trying new food combinations and participating in an event available on a limited basis. Many pop-up diners are willing to pay more to have a unique experience and closer interaction with a chef than the traditional dining experience offers.
Chefs like the concept because pop-ups are cheaper to fund than a food truck or full-fledged restaurant. Pop-ups require only a minimal investment to cover food ingredients, insurance, labor and rental space. Chefs can test pricing models, try out different locations and even move from city to city to build their reputation.
The latest twist on pop-ups is that the concept is becoming a permanent business model in cities like New York and Oakland with high commercial space leasing rates. Perpetual pop-ups are less expensive to run than a conventional restaurant and give the chef more latitude for creativity, spontaneity and flexibility. Perpetual pop-ups can boost sales at regular restaurants as well.
Some restaurants host guest chefs for pop-up events and split the proceeds, with the guest chef taking the money spent on food and the host restaurant retaining money spent on drinks. Restaurants can offer greater variety by promoting events by different chefs, produce a wider variety of menu concepts, and fill gaps on normally slow nights in their calendar.
 “What is a Pop-Up Restaurant? 20+ Tips, Strategies, and Examples,” by Allie Tetreault, Toast Restaurant Management blog, Dec. 14, 2016. Available at: https://pos.toasttab.com/blog/pop-up-restaurants
 “Experiential Dining is on the Rise: Here’s What You Need to Know,” by Brian Hampton, Tiger Chef blog, Jan. 18, 2016. Available at: https://www.tigerchef.com/blog/experiential-dining-is-on-the-rise-heres-what-you-need-to-know/1375
 “The Rise of Pop-Up Dining Events and the Experiential Diner,” a survey of pop-up diners conducted by Eventbrite, March 2015. Study available at: https://www.eventbrite.com/blog/academy/the-rise-of-pop-up-dining-events-and-the-experiential-diner/
 “The Perpetual Pop-Up: A Dining Trend Digs In,” by Jane Black, The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 21, 2017. Available at: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-perpetual-pop-up-a-dining-trend-digs-in-1487699461
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