The pop-up restaurant trade has hit the business world by storm in recent years. Here, John McCaffery of accountancy firm Alexander & Co tells Business Advice readers how best to tap into the trend.
In every market and every high street, the smells of world cuisines pour out of shopfronts that once lay empty. Opening a pop-up restaurant has taken the cooking world by storm just as it has taken the business world by storm.
The minimal aesthetic of pop-up restaurants has become popular. It can be seen emulated in Wahaca on London’s Southbank operating out of stylised storage containers.
Countless other venues across the country have also looked to pop-up restaurants for style tips. Your own chance to catch the social media wave could be just around the corner.
When opening a pop-up restaurant and looking for a location, there are a few things to keep in mind. A shopfront or a space in a market offers heavy footfall. If you can find a more unique location like a boat or a warehouse then this can help set you apart from the competition, which are often well established in traditional locations. You don’t have this luxury and therefore need to work hard to define yourself.
Partnerships and social media
A key part of this is engaging with both local companies and various forms of media. Working with companies that already have a following can help get you off the ground and bring some of their customers to you.
Get in contact with local craft beer brewers or an artisan bakery and pair them with your theme or menu. You can team up on social media as well in order to share and drive exposure. This, alongside flyers handed out locally and features in local papers can all help make your opening night a roaring success.
Generating a buzz around your restaurant using hashtags and branding that is likely to resonate with your target market. Make your brand worth sharing using unique presentation of food or novel ideas that ride the hot topics of the time.
For example, The Diner chain released Brexit Burgers in the three months leading up to the vote. Being innovative and on the ball here can really help your brand gain traction and shares, which are key in the short time frames pop-ups work in.
Logistics and legislation
it’s also important to be aware of the laws surrounding restaurants, as pop-ups have to comply to the same standards as established restaurants. Health and safety is key when dealing with food and your venture is no exception.
Short-term leases might cover insurance but licences will need some paperwork and are one of the first things to look into. Make sure that your bookkeeping is accurate as well, nobody wants to short change the tax man. Hiring an accountant can help you understand your responsibilities and save you money in the long run.
The final thing to remember is to have fun. Being too uptight will restrict your ideas and your brand. Pop-up restaurants are dynamic and your branding should be too.
There are limitations and a small menu should cater to numerous diets, cutting off potential customers is no good. Be free to work with others and keep a smile on your face and your customers will be as open and happy as you.
John McCaffery is an associate at Alexander & Co