Restaurant Pop Ups....please splain to me!

Joined Jul 30, 2007
this new trend of the pop up restaurant is confusing me. what i understand is that chefs set up temporary digs in places that don't normally serve food, i.e. museums, galleries, bars, struggling restaurants etc. open for a short time, do 'their thing', then leave and do it all over again at a new location, for a short time. while appreciating the attraction of here today, gone tomorrow, get it while you can buzz, i don't understand how the money is made, or if there is enough money to be made to warrant all the effort. if a chef goes into a space that does not normally serve food and has to bring pots, pans, tables, chairs,employees, pay insurance, licences, some percentage of the profit to the space holder, how can that really be easier or more profitable than a conventional restauran? how long do they stay in one location? a few weeks/ a month? what then, pack it all up and find another location to do it in again...then in another month move again...whew, i get tired just thinking about all the moving! while chefs claim that they have more flexibility and creativity with the menu and less commitment or investment, i'm just not seeing the money side. anyone care to shed some light, i would be appreciative. in the end it sounds like its for the young and not as much about money as it is name building.

Joined Apr 4, 2011
The ones I've been to have mainly been testing ideas prior to an opening of a more permanent establishment.
Joined Jan 3, 2005
I am not sure about the finances, but I have eaten at one of them - Ludo Bites in LA.  It seems that he has a successful formula down, because when the popup is announced all of the resos for the several week period get snapped up on Opentable in a matter of minutes.

The menu was limited and the place was packed with the first seating.  I think in a city like LA where there are so many dining choices, if you hear about another good restaurant, you think to yourself "I should check that out sometime".  But when you have to commit right away or not have a chance to eat there, people like to brag about getting a seat and go ahead and make that commitment.

So if you can setup a restaurant in a low rent area and pack the tables on a Monday at 6pm, that is great.  But I don't think the formula would work without some name recognition behind it.
Joined Jan 5, 2007
I've eaten at a couple of pop-ups in Edinburgh and London.  They were not professional chefs, but like me are keen amateurs..  the food was great - in London I was charged 45 GBP and in Edinburgh 30 GBP.  The food was wonderful - in London 28 people, in Edinburgh, 20.

The London ones were in flats of enthusiastic amateurs - and the food was wonderful.  The Edinburgh ones?  One was absolutely amazing, two were 'so-so'.

It seems to me that chefs are jumping on the bandwagon of 'home cooks' in this type of 'restaurant'.
Joined Oct 15, 2010
Pop ups doesn't necessary take place only in spaces that doesn't normally serve food. In San Francisco, one of the pop up actually used a restaurant that does not open for dinner. At first it was a once a week thing, but I think it is permanent now.

I think this is a good way for people to test out the market. Yes, you will have to invest in equipments and such, but the cost is still less than establishing your own restaurant.

In this day and age, it's all about getting the word out to the right crowd. For example, if you get the right Yelper to like your food and spread the word, your pop up can become very popular and help you turn it into something permanent.
Joined Jan 5, 2007
I know that!

In the UK, many of the pop-up 'restaurants' are not very happy at the emergence of professional chefs and others using THEIR selling methods.

Surely  if a professional chef wants to open a restaurant, he./she should do so - the pop-up premise lets them test the waters before opening.

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