From European to North American markets, we are seeing a new trend emerging in restaurants. Top chefs like Thomas Keller, Ludo Lefebvre, and Grant Achatz, just to name a few, are pioneering a new pop-up concept that is bound to hit the mainstream restaurant industry in the next couple of years.
Much like the tasting menus that are being embraced in most major metropolitan centres and are a focal point of most high end Las Vegas casinos, we are seeing the development of the same type of appeal for the pop-up restaurant. But how is a pop-up restaurant defined? What makes a pop-up restaurant different from every other restaurant down the block? And what is the appeal of the pop-up concept? To answer these questions, we have to first establish what ingredients are needed to create these unique dining experiences.
Ingredients for a pop-up restaurant
The first and most important ingredient is a top quality chef, preferably someone that has a certain amount of name recognition.
Almost as important as the chef, is the location. For a pop-up restaurant to work, you need a space that is funky, unique, and/or obscure - preferably all three.
An edgy, yet knowledgeable staff is a major asset in ensuring the success of the pop-up restaurant since most of the marketing for this concept, if executed properly, is word of mouth.
There must be an established “foodie culture” within the area that the restaurant is going to operate. This should provide a strong customer base to build from provided that the next ingredient is put together properly.
Fresh, local ingredients that are executed to perfection with a flair for dramatic presentation and unique service methods will give customers something they can talk about around the water cooler the next morning.
An excellent part of the mix is a local artist aspect. It may be pieces of art that help to accentuate the décor or it may be as bold as having the artist create a space or interactive art piece within the restaurant.
A small but thoughtful menu is what should be expected from this style of restaurant, as there can not be a lot of room to waver on quality or availability of product.
Essential in the opening of any pop-up restaurant is a strong social media campaign that uses direct to customer marketing, making it easy to approach the specific niche markets that are required to create a strong customer base from which to build. This will also help to define the exclusivity of the venue and increase the association each time a new pop-up is initiated.
There must be a known expiration date on the restaurant, as this is the major defining factor of what a pop-up is. It has to be fresh, vibrant and similar to the idea of a limited time offer, but on an entire restaurant scale.
If all of these ingredients have been laid out ahead of time and are put together with thoughtfulness and attention to detail, there is no telling what the impact can be. It is more of a back-to-basics approach in a way, where the focus is the food, the service, the product, and the space. This is a departure from the huge push to open restaurants with gala events and media-only campaigns that pay short-term gains only to be followed by empty seats when the next newest restaurant push is on. It is difficult to give the pop-up a true definition as it is a reinvention with each new concept, but with the obscurity of the definition comes the appeal of the interpretation.
Hoping you enjoy the next restaurant popping up in your neighbourhood.