Industry News & Trends
What's a low-cost way to test out new restaurant concepts and menu ideas? If you’re a new or aspiring restaurant owner and don’t have $10,000 to dish out to start a restaurant, what are your options?
A few years ago, you might have said: start a food truck. You can test the culinary waters and give new guests a chance to learn about your food and the teams behind that food, without having to invest too much in location, equipment, or labor.
However, now a new trend has been popping up – literally.
Pop-up restaurants are temporary restaurants hosted in various spaces, such as existing restaurants, bars, abandoned arcades, bowling alleys, theatres, or even chef's homes.
A great way to start building a partnership with the community, many established and aspiring restaurateurs are turning to this trend to create buzz about their food. Plus, they're cheaper to start than a fully-fledged restaurant operation, at only $2,500 a week to cover ingredients, insurance, and rental space according to Wise Son's Jewish Delicatessan in San Francisco.
So where did this trend come from, and why is it only now popping up on your radar? Let's delve into the history of pop-up restaurants.
A relatively new trend, more and more restaurants – established and aspiring – are considering starting a pop-up restaurant, and more and more guests are getting excited about these unique dining experiences. Pop-up restaurants showed an 8% increase in trend growth on the National Restaurant Association’s Movers & Shakers list for 2016. According to the association’s What’s Hot survey, nearly 60 % of respondents say pop-up restaurants are still a viable trend.
But it wasn’t always that way.
In fact, the term “pop-up restaurant” only became common in 2014, according to this Google Trends report.
However, the term “supper club,” from which pop-up restaurants evolved, has been around for a while.
Let me explain. Back in the 1960s, the term "supper club" referred to traditional restaurants that also served as exclusive social clubs. They would present themselves as "high-class," even if the price was relatively affordable. Eventually, the term "underground restaurants" became synonymous with "supper clubs." These were "closed door restaurants" where famous chefs would cook food out of their home for the masses - or at least, for those who were "in the know" about the event.
In 2007, Ludo Lefebvre brought the underground restaurant concept to the public with one of the first pop-up restaurant concepts: LudoBites, in Los Angeles. LudoBites was a series of temporary eateries that appeared all across LA, seemingly by random - a few days here, a few weeks there - and then disappeared.
“I think the pop-up model can work great for quick service,” Lefebvre says in this QSR Magazine article. “It is a really great avenue to test-market a new concept. It can also help give a little energy to a quick-service restaurant that might be stale or boring. Instead of testing or launching a single product, think about a concept within a concept.”
Since then, several restaurateurs have hopped on the trend, and several diners have made it their mission to find exclusive pop-up events to attend. In fact, Eventbrite analyzed more than 40,000 of these events in our look at top food and drink event trends and found that the fastest growing trend was the pop-up dining experience, with 82% growth.
Now that we’ve shared some key statistics about pop-up restaurants and proved that guests are literally scouring event sites for these exclusive events, I’m sure you can’t wait to get your hands dirty planning a pop-up restaurant concept. But hold on! You shouldn’t just jump in. The decision to open a pop-up restaurant can’t be based out of fear or on a whim. You need to consider the pros and cons of opening a pop-up restaurant, as well as your purpose or mission for opening one.
Weigh the pros and cons, and research how other restaurateurs are experimenting with the pop-up concept.
After reading all of the above, are you still itching to start a pop-up restaurant? If so, here's your 8-step plan.
Have you ever started a pop-up restaurant? How did you measure success, and what advice do you have for fellow restaurateurs looking to follow the trend? If you're thinking about opening a pop-up restaurant, what would your concept be?
Share in the comments below, and don't forget to download your business plan template to help organize your thoughts.