Saving a Restaurant with a Pop-Up

Some restaurants have a hard time standing out but other entrepreneurs have found a way to make this work for them. You can be one of them. Pop-up shops, temporary storefronts that can last from one day to three months, are booming in popularity and many restaurants use them as marketing tools. If you need a boost in customers, open a pop-up shop in a place where other shops are doing well. The “exclusivity” of visiting temporary dining adds to the appeal. Offering gourmet foods at affordable prices helps to level the playing field. These shops are also advantageous because you can move them around with the crowds.


The Benefits

  • A large majority of shopping is done offline so not only do you get to take advantage of a trend but it also allows you to personally know your customers.  If you can generate the excitement these shops usually bring customers may search out your permanent store front. And as your restaurant generates more attention the media will take notice.
  • Many pop-up shops secure their place at local bars their customers are likely to frequent. It’d be wise to follow this business model but at the same time, don’t limit yourself. These temporary shops are seen as a lower risk venture but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep yourself open to other ideas. If the food you cook is from a specific culture, try forming a partnership with a shop selling similar products. Think out of the box like vegan Ethiopian shop Bunna Café that appears at other small cafes because of coffee’s importance in Ethiopian culture.
  • Finding where to open your shop is now inexpensive. is a website that allows you to find available space in a matter of minutes and send a message to the owner. Consider the size and the logistics of setting up a mobile kitchen; will it have electricity, sewer and running water? If your pop-up is stationed in another restaurant you will pay a percentage of profits to owner.

Pokerstars Restaurant pop up (8)

What You’ll Need

  • Check with local and state authority to find out what permits you’ll need.
  • Local business licenses: fees are usually reasonable and these are easy to obtain.
  • State business licenses: if your restaurant serves alcohol then you’ll need this license too. You’ll also need approval from the federal government.
  • Sale Tax license: If you want to charge your customers a sales tax you’ll need this.
  • Zoning Permits: You’ll need this to prove that the site you chose is properly zoned for your type of business.
  • Set up a temporary dining room if your pop-up is going to be around long to make the effort worthwhile. You can set up tables and chairs in a more relaxed manner since it’s not a traditional restaurant setting. You don’t have to the pressure of keeping customers packed in to make a profit. This also allows you to open up to different practices like customer self-service.
  • When customers visit a pop-up they’re expecting to see something unique. Most shops solve this issue by coming up with a prix fixe (fixed price) menu; might include an appetizer, soup, salad, entrée and dessert for a set price per person.



  • Most pop-ups advertise on social media, using Twitter and Facebook to update customers on nightly specials.
  • You can open your pop-up within your brick-and-mortar store to advertise all of your courses. Opening it within a store you already own also bypasses having to get licenses because there already in place.
  • If you’re pop-up is mobile and you buying a food truck you can be sure of a steady income by going to popular lunch or dinner spots. Being there consistently builds up your reputation and gets the word out for

I knew from the very start that three things were needed for my success; I needed a great head chef, location, and concept. And they all had to work together.


I knew from the very start that three things were needed for my success; I needed a great head chef, location, and concept. And they all had to work together.

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