In recent years we’ve seen the emergence of more and more street food venues, where those with a simple idea can get out there, trade, test the market, and get feedback on their product. At POPertee, we have found that the natural progression for these types of retailers is to take the plunge from a weekend hobby to earn an extra bit of income, right through to finding a suitable premises and setting up their restaurant full-time. A huge decision, risk and undertaking for anyone, particularly for those who may not have much in the way of experience in running a full-time operation. Bridging the gap between these two vastly different worlds is the pop-up restaurant or ‘supper club’. In comparison to the full time set-up, a pop-up restaurant is cheaper, less risky and more flexible. For restaurant owners, pop-up’s offer the opportunity to test out a new type of cuisine or a new location before committing long term. For landlords, pop-up restaurants allow them to earn extra income by renting out part or all of their space, as well as attracting a new crowd to the venue. For it to be a success, it’s essential that the relationship between landlord and tenant is mutually beneficial.
So, having decided to go down the route of the pop-up restaurant, what are some of they key considerations that must be taken into account to ensure its success.
Before diving in at the deep end and deciding on location, menu and promotion of your pop-up, you start by answering some essential questions, the answers too which will provide you with a better understanding of what’s involved;
- How many people do you want to cater for?
- What size of space will you need?
- What hours and days will you need to operate?
- hats are the costs of your overheads – ingredients, staff, and electricity?
- What’s your budget for the venue?
Once you’ve answered the above it’s time to move onto the fun parts – location, menu and promoting your pop-up.
As with any pop-up, where you decide to locate is key. To make this decision, you should think of your ideal guest, where they live and where they normally eat out. The other option is to make your venue as memorable as possible so that the masses find you. Take the Secret Garden pop-up for example. The brains behind this operation chose Meeting House Square in Temple Bar to set up their 5 day outdoor pop-up, and transformed the dense space into an organic wonderland. Whilst location is important, if you can deliver on an exceptional all round offering, people will make the trip.
The menu is the most important part of your pop-up restaurant. Given their ephemeral nature, save yourself the hassle and keep things simple and tasty. Be as creative as you like with the mains, but keep the offering to 4 or 5 set offerings, and one special. Logistically, keeping the menu small makes sense, it also gives you an idea of what dishes would work in a full time setup. Eatily, Oliver Dunne’s successful pop-up restaurant on Parliament street from earlier this year, offered a simple fixed price menu for 3 courses.
Another key consideration for your menu is dietary requirements. We advise checking these at the time of booking – not only will it save you crucial time on the night, but the personable touch will please your guests. Lastly, depending on the length of your pop-up, we would suggest switching up your menu every couple of months to keep the punters and press rushing back for more!
Taking advanced booking and payments help proceedings smoothly. By doing so you can plan your night accordingly and avoid taking cash on the door. The later is risky given that on average the restaurant trade suffers from 30% no shows, which equates to both a substantial loss of income at atmosphere.The guys behind Eatily took bookings online via email sign-up, and mailed every guest their slot for the coming week on Monday morning.
From launch night antics and collaborations, to live music and quirky booking methods, pop-up restaurants allow for creativity across a range of spectrums. Take Salt Lick BYO in Ranelagh for example. The guys behind this pop-up restaurant used social media to take bookings and teamed up with a local off-licence to offer guests great deals on their tipple.
Have some extra hours to kill in your venue? why not take a page out of the Drop Dead Twice book. The BYO pop-up recently collaborated with SocialBee to offer up afternoon tea and scones before the bar opens it’s doors. These types of complementary collaborations are a great way to leave a lasting impression on your guests.
Spread the Word
The most important aspects in this regard are firstly, figuring out what sets you apart, and secondly, choosing the best means to communicate this to your target market.
We suggest finding out who are the key influencers in your space, be that food critics and/or food bloggers, and sort them out with a free invitation to your offering. It goes without saying but be on your best behaviour that night, as these are the very people who will spread the word and influence the masses.
As we all know, these days social media is a very cheap and effective tool for getting your message across and telling the story behind your pop-up. By regualrly posting photos of you turning your idea into a reality through stages of fit-out, sourcing your produce, and the people behind your brand, it will help make your brand more personable and increase customer engagement.
What do you think?
Lastly, get feedback fast and from everyone and anyone who’s willing to offer up an opinion. Finding out what’s working and what needs adjusting at this experimental stage will be a key ingredient in the long term viability and success of your restaurant if that’s the route you choose to go down. Online feedback forms are a great way to get anonymous feedback. Offer your guests an incentive to fill out the questionnaire such as entry to a competition for a free meal.
How can we help?
At this stage I’m sure the question on everyone’s lips is ‘so where exactly do I find a venue for my pop-up restaurant?’. At POPertee, we have a number of spaces which can cater for a variety of ideas.
Hidden away on Francis Street in Dublin 8 and home to Dublin’s most famous BYOC Drop Dead Twice, Tivoli backstage is a unique and versatile space, suitable for a variety of offerings. With kitchen facilities, wi-fi, and seating already in place, set-up costs are minimal.
Capacity: Upstairs – 150 people
Available Hours of Operation:12:00 – 00:00 (Mon – Sun)
Rate: Upon Application
Lock 6 is a lovely cafe situated on the bank of the Grand Canal in Dublin 2. With a new, fully furnished kitchen and ample seating room both inside and out,, Lock 6 is a great space to test the waters.
Capacity: 60 people
Available Hours of Operation: 17:00 – 01:00 (Mon-Sun)
Rate: Upon Application
Situated in one of south Dublin’s busiest suburbs, the Brick House Cafe, is a compact yet quaint space, ideal for evening time pop-ups. With full kitchen facilities and seating already in place the space is perfect to target an affluent catchment area.
Available Hours of Operation:10:00 – 00:00 (Mon-Tues) 17:30 – 00:00 (Wed – Sun)
Rate: €600 ex VAT per week