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Sarah Ward

Pop-Up Restaurant: 10 Tips to Open a Pop-Up Restaurant

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Pop-ups can be a great way for any business, from the hotel industry to a bar business, to promote their business. A pop-up restaurant is particularly well suited to make a splash, draw in customers with a great customer experience, and promote their business. 

With features like contactless payments making customer satisfaction a key goal, pop-up restaurants are in a unique position to rule the restaurant business. A pop-up restaurant can be a classic restaurant scene, a carnival-esque event, or something in between. The options are–nearly–endless.

In this BinWise blog post, we’ll walk you through the key points of how to open a pop-up restaurant. If you’re looking to branch out with your current restaurant management plan to have pop-ups, this is the place for you. If you’re starting a restaurant that will be primarily a pop-up, this is your spot too! 

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What Is a Pop-Up Restaurant?

Before we dive into the tips for how to open a pop-up restaurant, let’s define what a pop-up restaurant is. A pop-up restaurant is a temporary food-serving space, designed to showcase your culinary and beverage skills. It can be a one-night, or multiple yet separate occasions event. It can also be an ongoing pop-up in the same location. 

10 Tips to Open a Pop-Up Restaurant

Opening a pop-up restaurant has many similarities to opening a standard restaurant. From casual dining to fine dining to family style dining, a pop-up restaurant can cover any of the main restaurant types. 

There can be challenges, in terms of not having a full kitchen on hand, and having a limited space to work with. Those challenges, however, give you the opportunity to narrow in your menu types, and make your pop-up restaurant one people will remember. Your customer service can be a main focus, in a very direct sense. 

These 10 tips for opening a pop-up restaurant will help you on your way to having a successful pop-up restaurant. 

10. Write Your Business Plan

Writing a business plan is the first step for any type of business. From a brunch cafe to a wine bar, you need a plan in place. Your business plan for opening a pop-up restaurant will include everything, from the executive summary to the financial plans. 

9. Invest In Marketing

Investing in marketing from the beginning of your business will help you find customers before your first event. Learning how to market a restaurant does come with practice, but you can start with a general marketing campaign to get the word out. 

8. Choose Your Location

Choosing the right location for your pop-up restaurant is all about finding the right amount of space, and the surrounding businesses and events. Some suggested spaces include community markets, pop-ups in small businesses, and small business pop-ups in a monthly rental space. 

7. Select Your Restaurant Format

Selecting your restaurant format is especially important for pop-up restaurants. This is where you’ll decide if your pop-up is a one-of for each separate event, or an on-going business in the same space. It’s also important to decide how you’ll market your restaurant, depending on the restaurant plan.

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6. Learn about Licensing and Legal

The licensing and legal needs for pop-up restaurants change from location to location. Before you get started, look up your local regulations, and make sure you follow each rule. You don’t want to find out you missed something later on down the road.

5. Sort Your Tax Information

Sorting your tax information is all about getting set up as a legal business. From your dba to your business license, you’ll want to have those specifications sorted out before you have your first event. 

4. Budget, Budget, Budget

Getting your budget written up and planned for is vital for a successful business. This is a good time for a SWOT analysis, to find out what you’re up against. Include your projections, your costs and overhead expenses, and anything else you need in your pop-up restaurant budget. 

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3. Secure Funding

Securing funding won’t necessarily be a part of your pop-up restaurant needs. It depends on your upfront costs, and whether you’re in need of funding or if you’re drawing from existing profits or personal savings. If you need funding, however, this is the time to find investors or get a loan.

2. Create Your Menu

Creating your menu is a critical part of your business plan. It's also a helpful step in getting ready to open your pop-up restaurant for business. From choosing ingredients to detailing the preparations in your pop-up space, this initial menu should cover every detail.

1. Manage Your Inventory

Managing your inventory is critical for your long-term success. An inventory management system and software program will go a long way. BinWise’s beverage inventory management program can help you along the way.

"Key Takeaway: A pop-up restaurant is a temporary food-serving space, designed to showcase your culinary and beverage skills."

Frequently Asked Questions About Opening Pop-Up Restaurants

Opening a pop-up restaurant is a time-intensive project, with plenty you need to know upfront, and even more you’ll learn along the way. Our answers to these frequently asked questions will help you get started. From there, read along with the series on pop-ups on the BinWise blog. Pay attention each step of the way to figure out what you need for your pop-up restaurant.

Do Pop-Up Restaurants Make Money?

Yes, pop-up restaurants make money if they plan for their space and capacity. The main issue pop-ups have with profits is the ability to provide customer service for lots of people. Bring in plenty of people, give them high-quality service, and provide seating or a place to spend time to turn a profit with a pop-up.

What are the Cons of Pop-Ups?

The cons of pop-up restaurants range from difficulty to maintain repeat customers to hiring issues. Retaining customers is something you will need to work on consistently with advertising. Email marketing, content marketing, and small business marketing tactics will be helpful. 

As for hiring issues, you will struggle to find wait staff for pop-up events. The best solution to this issue is to have a small, dedicated team from the start. With a small pop-up, a small team number will work, and you won’t have to worry about hiring for each event. You can hire as needed as your business grows beyond those means, but a small team is the way to start.

How Do I Attract People to My Pop-Up Restaurant?

You can attract people to your pop-up restaurant through great marketing campaigns, great food and drinks–including mocktails, and a welcoming atmosphere. Business branding, and branding and marketing in general, is something you should focus on from the start. 

Your great food and drinks are a key part of your business plan. As for the atmosphere, work on that with your team, your menu design, and the energy you bring. 

Do Millennials Like Pop-Up Restaurants?

Yes, Millennials like pop-up restaurants. Millennials, Zoomers, and Gen Alpha are in the age range that is suited for pop-up restaurants. These younger generations have a focus, more so than any other generation before them, on the importance of sustainability. Pop-up restaurants fit in among eco-friendly restaurants in many ways, and fit these demographics perfectly. 

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Opening a Pop-Up Restaurant: Put Some Pop In Your Business Plan 

Opening a pop-up restaurant is a great opportunity for any restaurant business owner, whether they’re current or coming onto the scene. The 10 tips outlined in this blog post will help you get started on your pop-up restaurant. Come back to the BinWise blog for more in this series about pop-up restaurants.

When you’re ready to open your pop-up, reach out to BinWise and BlueCart. The BinWise Pro inventory program, paired with the BinScan mobile app, will give you peace of mind while you take pop-up inventory. BlueCart’s order management software eases your order management system, giving you more time to wow your customers without worrying about restaurant tech

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