This guide for pop-up restaurants gives you the tips, tricks, rules, regulations, and ideas galore to open and operate your own pop-up restaurant. From initial opening tips to a cost breakdown of everything you can expect, read on to prepare for opening your pop-up restaurant.
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. 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
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 comes with practice. 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 suggestions include community markets, pop-ups in small businesses, and small business pop-ups in a monthly rental.
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 ongoing business in the same space.
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.
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 your first event.
4. Budget, Budget, Budget
Getting your budget situated 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.
3. Secure Funding
Whether you need funding depends on your upfront costs. It may also depend on 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.
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. These 10 tips are the place to start. From there, you should learn about the costs associated with starting a pop-up restaurant.
"Key Takeaway: A pop-up restaurant is a temporary food-serving space, designed to showcase your culinary and beverage skills."
How much does it cost to open a pop-up restaurant? The answer to that question is long, as it covers every part of owning and operating a successful pop-up restaurant. These 10 costs make up the foundation of your pop-up restaurant management and operations.
10. Web Design Costs
Your website design costs will depend on the type of website you want, and how much you want on it. Website design for restaurants often falls in the range of $3,000 to $15,000, depending on the complexity of your site.
9. POS System Costs
A restaurant POS platform is a must for a restaurant's operating costs. After you’ve learned what a POS system is, you’ll need to make a choice about which one is right for your business. Investing in the right POS system will help you manage expenses and profits going forward.
8. Cutlery and Dish Costs
Cutlery and dish costs are different for pop-up restaurants. You’ll likely be working with disposable dishes, utensils, and everything else you need, because you won’t have a space for used dishes. The importance of sustainability will come into play, with the option of eco-friendly disposable dishes and other items.
7. Business License Costs
Your business license costs will depend on your location, as the cost to open a business is different for every city, state, and locality. BinWise isn’t a legal advisor. Our official recommendation is that you review your local business license requirements, to make sure you have everything you need.
6. Staff Salaries
Staff salaries will be a startup and ongoing cost for your pop-up restaurant. Having a pop-up means you’ll likely have fewer staff than the average standard restaurant. That makes it easier to hire at the right pace for your business and pay a living wage to your employees.
5. Ingredients Cost
Your ingredients cost is another ongoing expense for your business. You’ll have a mix of types of ingredients you need to keep a stock of. There are items you can buy in bulk and fresh ingredients that will need to be replenished on a regular basis.
4. Cleaning Supplies
The cost of cleaning supplies will be a major item on your shopping list. A pop-up restaurant is a setup where you’ll need to be cleaning your space for preparation and for clearing away on a regular basis. Cleaning supplies will be needed from the beginning of your business.
3. Location Rental Costs
As a pop-up restaurant, one cost you’ll have that is structured differently from standard restaurants is the price for the space you use. Maybe you’ll rent a storefront for a set period of time. Perhaps you’ll set up at different booths around the city. Whatever your business model is, the rental costs will be a part of your startup plans.
2. Business Taxes
Your business taxes will come along with the legal aspects of opening a business. There will be a starting cost for taxes to get registered as a business, and then ongoing costs through the years. These will be consistent, although different depending on your location.
1. Marketing Costs
Marketing costs are another beginning and ongoing cost for your pop-up restaurant business. Branding and marketing, especially small business marketing, require a fair amount of time and effort. They don't, however, have to be a huge financial cost. Invest wisely in marketing from the start, and you’ll be set for a good future.
The Cost to Open a Pop-Up Restaurant: Keep An Eye For Costs Popping Up
When you’re learning how much it costs to open a pop-up restaurant, you’ll find yourself diving into your budget and business plans. Once you’ve started, the costs will keep coming, but having them figured out from the beginning will set you up for success. That same sentiment goes for the rules and regulations of running a pop-up restaurant.
Pop-up restaurant regulations are a major part of the things you need to learn about in how to open a pop-up restaurant. Your pop-up restaurant ideas will revolve around things like pop-up restaurant marketing and inspiration from the best pop-up restaurants.
Many common pop-up restaurant regulations are similar–or the same–to regulations for other types of restaurants and food establishments. Pop-up restaurants have qualities of control in common with:
- Country clubs
- Cafes that work inhosting brunch
- Restaurant management for brick-and-mortar restaurants
- Casino food serving locations
- Ghost kitchens
- Bar business setups
The pop-up restaurant regulations we’ll dive into in this blog post can be seen across these various establishments. Some of them are uniquely situated for pop-ups when that is the restaurant you’re opening. All of them are vital for restaurant success.
Pop-Up Restaurant Standard Regulations
Our first round of three pop-up restaurant regulations is standard things pop-up restaurants should be aware of. These are a mix of legal requirements and general business-savvy rules to follow.
3. Risk Assessment
Risk assessment for a restaurant, including pop-up restaurants, is a vital internal restaurant regulation. You need to perform a risk assessment when you start your business and on a regular basis. We recommend a quarterly risk assessment review.
2. Location Hygiene Regulations
You’ll have a lot of hygiene regulations in terms of food safety. Part of your hygiene safety also comes in the form of protecting your employees. There are regulations about keeping your space clean and safe for everyone there.
1. Power and Electric Tests
Power and electric tests are some of the most important regulations to follow in terms of safety for you, your employees, and your customers. There are safety regulations about your electrical setup and power sources that can lead to dangerous situations if you’re not set up properly.
Pop-Up Restaurant Zoning Regulations
Pop-up restaurants are in a special situation when it comes to zoning regulations. Different places have varying rules about pop-up food locations and their zoning requirements. These three facets of zoning regulations will help you cover your bases for pop-up restaurant zoning regulations.
3. Local Laws
The first place you need to check in for pop-up restaurant regulations for zoning regulations is your local laws. Your state government website, and potentially any county sources, will tell you what you need to get started.
2. Business License Specifics
Business licenses can be fairly general, but yours, for a pop-up restaurant, will likely need some work in the zoning arena. BinWise isn’t a legal advisor, we can’t say exactly what your business license needs will be. We can, however, recommend that you dig in, and potentially hire a lawyer to make sure you’re checking all the right boxes.
1. Food Service Licensing
One extremely restaurant-specific part of potential zoning regulations is food service licensing requirements. Different places have their own rules around what you can serve. This most often applies to alcohol.
Pop-Up Restaurant Food Services Regulations
One feature pop-up restaurants share with all restaurants and other food establishments is the need for food safety regulations. These three regulations show up for every type of restaurant, bar, and food-service establishment.
3. Food Safety Regulations
Food safety regulations are an all-encompassing regulation for your food services. From keeping a clean kitchen to quality control of incoming ingredients, your food quality is critical in your restaurant.
2. Liquor Licensing
If you’re planning on serving alcoholic beverages, you’ll need to look into getting a liquor license. Whether you can have one may depend on your location, as different states have different rules around liquor, wine, and beer at temporary locations.
1. Food Storage Requirements
Your food storage requirements as a pop-up location will require regulations in place for the pop-up, or for a secondary location. This will depend on the space you have in each pop-up location.
Pop-Up Restaurant Rules and Regulations: Regulations on Wheels
Learning pop-up restaurant rules, regulations, and expectations will help you hit the ground running when it’s time to open for business. There are the official rules and regulations you need to follow. From there, learning ideas for the design and operations of your pop-up restaurant will also help you get off to a great start.
"Key Takeaway: A pop-up restaurant comes with all the same legal requirements as a standard, brick-and-mortar establishment, and a little bit more."
These 12 pop-up restaurant ideas will help you hit the ground running. They’ll also serve as a starting point for even more pop-up restaurant ideas that will come along as you operate your pop-up restaurant.
Maybe you’ll lean into emerging technologies in restaurants and incorporate unique restaurant tech. Perhaps you’ll find that fine dining and pop-ups pair perfectly with your style. Opening a pop-up restaurant gives you a unique take on how to develop a restaurant concept. Wherever you go, these pop-up restaurant ideas are the place to start.
12. Start Locally
If you’re looking for menu inspiration, starting with locally sourced ingredients is a great option. You can have fresh ingredients year-round, and know that you’re supporting the local business ecosystem.
11. Work with Seasonal Ingredients
Working with seasonal ingredients often goes hand in hand with sourcing local ingredients, but not always. You can source your seasonal ingredients from near and far. Working with seasonal ingredients means your menu items will always be fresh and unique.
10. Use Traditional Meals
If you’re looking for ways to mix up your menu and make it extra unique, lean into whatever your culture may be. Using traditional meals from your culture gives your pop-up restaurant ideas something special and close to home.
9. Play to Your Strengths
Playing to your strengths means something different for everyone. Have you been crafting the best Mexican food appetizers for years? Are you a master of cocktail ingredients for the drinks every bartender should know? Whatever your strengths are, include them in your pop-up restaurant.
8. Include Vegan Options
Including vegan options in restaurants is becoming mainstream. When you start your pop-up restaurant, be ahead of the curve with a healthy amount of vegan options. You can also mix it up with options specific to different diet preferences.
7. Be Eco-Friendly
Eco-friendly restaurants are swiftly taking over the restaurant industry as some of the most popular restaurants out there. You can’t go wrong with pop-up restaurant ideas that focus on the importance of sustainability at every step.
6. Specialize Your Menu
You can have a plain, expected menu, and if you give it one special item, you’ll have something to work with. Specializing your menu can be just that, having one unique item. It could also be changing up that unique item–or items–every few months.
5. Offer a Tasting Menu
Depending on the structure of your pop-up, you might not be in the same type of space for every event. Offering a tasting menu with a few smaller menu items you can whip up anywhere is a good way to balance your business plan.
4. Use a Unique Space
Because of available space and legal reasons, you can’t always use an exceptionally unique physical location. You can, however, mix up your space with unique designs, artwork, and atmospheric choices.
3. Lean Into Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is one of the best ways to get information about your pop-up restaurant out to the people you want to visit. Using content marketing on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok gets your business in front of people searching for a great meal.
2. Make Some Merchandise
One of the key issues pop-up restaurants have is the difficulty in creating repeat customers. It’s hard to get people to come back if you don’t have a set location. One way to combat this is to sell merchandise and give out freebies like stickers. This gets your business in the minds of your customers for longer than the time they take to eat a meal.
1. Collaborate with Local Businesses
As a local business, collaborating with other local businesses is one of the best pop-up restaurant ideas to lean into. You can make meals together, or come together to create a themed night for customers.
Ideas for Pop-Up Restaurants: What Ideas Popped Into Your Plans?
These 12 pop-up restaurant ideas will get you started on creativity in business planning for your pop-up restaurant. From there, there’s always more to learn! Come back to the BinWise blog for more solutions for pop-up restaurants.
The best pop-up restaurants are a source of inspiration for your pop-up restaurant. These six best pop-up restaurants share several features, which play into creating a successful pop-up restaurant:
- Creative concepts: these can be extremely specific for different holidays and types of celebrations, or simply unique, out-of-the-box ideas. Whatever they are, the more creative and workable with a pop-up restaurant, the better.
- Classic recipes: when you’re opening a pop-up restaurant, your customers won’t know anything about you right off the bat. To remedy this, feature some classic recipes for drinks and menu types. This will give customers something they’ll recognize and want to try your version of.
- Exceptional marketing: as a pop-up, the best marketing plans are an integral part of your business model. You need to get the word out about your business in general. You also need to promote information about every event and pop-up moment you’ll be available for customers to enjoy.
These six best pop-up restaurants share these features, and if you lean into them you’ll have a good pop-up restaurant on your hands.
Notice: Due to the nature of pop-up restaurants, these six restaurants won’t necessarily stick around forever. The amazing thing about the best pop-up restaurants is, with the fluidity of the business model, there's room for new pop-ups on the scene. You can join these six amazing businesses at any time, and make the list of the best pop-up restaurants even longer!
6. Christmas Club Pop-Up Bar in Chicago, IL
The Christmas Club Pop-Up Bar in Chicago, Illinois, is a fine example of a pop-up restaurant that leans into a specific theme. Their holiday cheer permeates the atmosphere at this pop-up. It gives people something easy to remember whenever they’re looking for some holiday cheer.
5. The Inventing Room Dessert Shop in Denver, CO
The Inventing Room Dessert Shop in Denver, Colorado, is a delightful pop-up that has leaned into a dessert menu as their go-to customer experience. They have a main location and do pop-up events as well. That’s an option many pop-up restaurants go with.
4. Capri in Los Angeles, CA
Capri in Los Angeles, California, has been noted as one of the best pop-up restaurants in Los Angeles. At this point, the restaurant is fairly established but still has popularity as a pop-up location. Capri is an example of how a restaurant can embody the carefree and exclusive nature of a pop-up restaurant.
3. Bagel Bunny, NYC
Bagel Bunny, in New York City, is another great example of a pop-up restaurant that has embraced a specific food for its menu. You can’t go wrong with bagels. Bagel Bunny has been sharing their passion for great bagels in NYC in different residencies around the city. That’s one popular way for pop-ups to have a consistent location for a limited time.
2. Good Morning Tacos in Seattle, WA
Good Morning Tacos in Seattle, Washington, is part of the food truck world of the best pop-up restaurants. Food trucks have their main food truck as a primary location. They’re a pop-up in the sense that they can be anywhere that food trucks are operating.
1. Cassava & Tea in Los Angeles, CA
Cassava & Tea in Los Angeles, California, takes the number one spot on our list. They’ve taken the concept of a pop-up restaurant and leaned into a specialization in boba tea. They’re a community-focused pop-up, with a variety of pop-up locations at climbing gyms and markets around Los Angeles.
Inspirational Pop-Up Restaurants: What Will Your Pop-Up Look Like?
The best pop-up restaurants are a source of inspiration, and proof that a pop-up restaurant is a good business idea. If you’re planning to open a pop-up restaurant, looking at these successful spots will give you ideas. It will also provide assurance that you’re headed in a good direction for your business plan.
"Key Takeaway: The amazing thing about the best pop-up restaurants is that, with the fluidity of the business model, there is always room for new pop-ups to break onto the scene."
This pop-up restaurant marketing checklist is a mix of your different marketing targets. From the importance of branding to restaurant marketing ideas, this list covers everything. Your marketing checklist for pop-up restaurants includes menu marketing, location marketing, and branding needs.
Marketing for Menus
5. Featured Dishes
Focusing some marketing on featured dishes that represent your restaurant will draw in customers. It’s a way to interest people in your food before they even taste it.
4. Ingredient Deep-Dives
If your menu has items with unique ingredients, marketing efforts about those ingredients will draw interest. This is particularly applicable for menus with items that are environmentally friendly or difficult to get.
3. Plated Food Content
If you’re looking for something quick to share in your social media marketing, plated food content is the way to go. Take photos of your best dishes and share them to entice new customers.
2. Drink Specials
Your restaurant isn’t just about the food you make. It’s important to give attention to your drinks menu as well. Create content with artfully crafted cocktails and other drinks to showcase the full extent of your menu.
1. Themed Menus
Themed menus are great for any restaurant, at any time. As a pop-up restaurant, one of the best ways to choose a theme is to match it to your current location.
Marketing for Locations
One of the trickier parts of the business of pop-up restaurant marketing is the lack of a consistent location. You can’t tie your marketing to one place. You do, however, need to always relate your marketing to location so that people know how to find you. These tips will help.
5. Evergreen Content
Since you can’t tie your marketing to one constant location, one of the best things you can focus on is evergreen content. Focus on parts of your business that will remain no matter your location.
4. Location Tags In Social Media
When it comes to social media marketing for your pop-up locations, make use of location tags on posts, reels, and stories. That will help optimize your social content to let people know when you’ll be in their area.
3. Neighborhood Inspiration
One of the benefits of being a pop-up restaurant is you can market your business with spins from each location you’re at. Draw inspiration from the areas you’re in to mix up your marketing.
2. Clear Address Information
Of all the information you should prioritize in your marketing, the address you’ll be at is the most important. Make it clear, with a limited amount of other information around it, to make it easy to remember.
1. Prepared Marketing Timelines
Your marketing needs will be a little more chaotic than a standard restaurant. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to set up your marketing timelines.
Marketing for Brand
Marketing for your brand is part of small business marketing no matter the industry. The focus you put on your pop-up restaurant brand will help customers recognize you, even in different locations.
5. Strong Brand Identity
Having a strong brand identity is a foundational part of your marketing strategy. You need customers to recognize your brand, no matter where you’re located.
4. Consistent Color Schemes
Using consistent color schemes will feed into creating a strong brand identity. Pick your restaurant brand colors and stick with them, working with complimentary colors to build out your content.
3. Identifiable Merchandise
If you’re going to have merchandise available–be it hats, cups, or shirts–make it a bold brand statement. Your merchandise can work for your brand and marketing if you create the right look.
2. Regular Posting on Social Media
The most important part of social media marketing is consistent posting. For your brand, set up a schedule that works for you, and stick with it to grow your business on social media.
1. Focus on Community Interactions
In everything you do for your brand marketing, focus on building your community. That includes diving into customer experience and customer satisfaction. You can work with customer data, and talk with your customers to learn what they love about your restaurant.
Marketing for Pop-Up Restaurants: Make Your Marketing Pop
These tips for pop-up restaurant marketing will help you get your pop-up restaurant running smoothly and bringing in customers. They can even be helpful when you’re just starting out, and still running the restaurant from your home kitchen.
Learning how to start a pop-up restaurant at home is one great option for your pop-up restaurant ideas. It comes with much of the work of starting a pop-up restaurant with a food truck or storefront option from the beginning. You’ll have the home-field advantage, so to speak, as you work on this from your kitchen.
Learning how to start a pop-up restaurant at home can be similar to how to start a food truck business or how to start a restaurant. You’ll need a restaurant business plan. You’ll need to focus on customer experience and customer satisfaction. These 10 key tips will help you along.
10. Have a Dedicated Workspace
When you’re doing any sort of work from home, a dedicated workspace is crucial. For your pop-up restaurant starting at home, this may be your kitchen, office, and storage space.
9. Look Into Licensing
If you’re serving food out of your home without a set location, your licensing needs will be different. There will, however, still be licenses and permits you need. Check out your local regulations to see what those needs are.
8. Invest In Your Kitchen
Your kitchen will become one of the most important areas of your home and business. You need to invest in your kitchen in the form of appliances that will be able to accommodate all the work you’ll be doing for your pop-up restaurant.
7. Practice Your Menu
Since you’re working from your own kitchen, and getting used to menu items, practice is important. You can practice your menu with family and friends, to get opinions and find interesting tweaks for recipes.
6. Focus on Advertising
As you start out at home you’ll need to work to get the word out about your pop-up restaurant twice as hard as a restaurant with a storefront. You won’t have a location to share, but you can create content around your menu items, brand, and customer reviews.
5. Track Your Expenses
Tracking your expenses is important at every step of your restaurant business journey. It’s especially important to start tracking expenses from the beginning. The earlier you start will help you avoid having to play catch-up with tracking and accounting.
4. Practice Through Hosting
You can practice more than just your menu items by hosting parties. When you’re practicing hosting, you can practice the presentation of your business in every way. That includes answering questions, developing an experience, and working on guest satisfaction.
3. Take Time With Your Business Plan
One thing you can and should focus some time on while you’re still at home is your restaurant business plan. You can take time while you’re still getting started, to make sure you have all your ducks in a row.
2. Check Your Housing Situation Rules
Your licensing requirements will have a lot of specifications to do with restaurant licensing. You should also look into any rules around running a business out of your residence. If you’re in an apartment, your lease will likely have information to help. If you own a home within a homeowner’s association, you’ll want to check in there.
1. Look Into Storage Spaces
You’re going to need storage for ingredients, marketing materials, and much more. Your home may have space for those items. If not, a storage space like a storage locker will help you start to expand your pop-up restaurant while you run it from your home.
Starting a Pop-Up Restaurant At Home: Home Is Where the Work Begins
Learning how to start a pop-up restaurant at home can be your final point of starting your business or the beginning of kicking off your pop-up location. Whatever the case may be, this guide will always be here to help you along the way.
"Key Takeaway: Starting a pop-up restaurant at home takes all the work of starting any other type of restaurant. It also has the unique aspect of being a business taking place, in part, in your home."
Pop-Up Restaurants Guide: Guiding You Through the Pop-Up Restaurant Industry
These seven areas of focus for opening a pop-up restaurant will get you started. As you run your business, you’ll learn more along the way. Come back to this BinWise guide whenever you need, to keep your business running smoothly.