How to pull off a Pop-Up Restaurant in 1 Month
On Sunday 22nd July, we managed to successfully pull off our third pop-up restaurant at Lees Eco Park in Oldham. We served a plant-based, Meditteranean-inspired three-course meal to 35 guests, without any major hiccups! In fact, it went very well indeed, with rave reviews for the food and comments on the relaxed and friendly atmosphere. We couldn’t have asked for much more!
Planning a Pop-Up Restaurant
Pop-up restaurants are a fun way to bring people together at unusual locations around great food. It’s a bit more of a special occasion compared to just going for a regular meal out.
At 4Lunch, we deliver the Recipe for Success course, teaching people all they need to know to start a food business. So there is no better way to put knowledge into practice than doing a pop-up event!
Having gone through the motions of planning a pop-up restaurant from start to finish, it’s time to share with you what we’ve learned along the way…
A Step by Step Guide
1. Find a suitable venue and decide a date and time.
The first step is to choose a suitable venue and do a reccy of the venue. Think about how many guests can be accommodated in the dining area. Are there enough tables and chairs? What are the kitchen facilities like? How will this affect what we can cook at the pop-up?
Once you know the answers to these questions, you can start putting together a list of all the things you need to bring to the venue.
Decide the date and time for your event based on when the venue is available and what suits your schedule. Avoid major events and bank holidays!
2. Decide a menu and price per head. Test your recipes and write up any allergen information.
This is the fun part! Decide a concept for your menu and brainstorm the types of dishes you’d ideally like to serve.
To narrow the options down, think carefully about what can be achieved with the kitchen facilities available (based on what you know from the reccy). Think also about the time and skill level it would take to pull it off, as well as the cost of ingredients involved.
Tickets to 4Lunch pop-up restaurants tend to be very good value, between £10 to £15 per person for a 3-course meal. This is because we want our events to be accessible to many people. This also means we have to keep a close eye on food costs in order to make a profit!
Once you’ve decided on your menu, make sure you test your recipes, take photos (to use for promotional material) and write up any allergen information. You can then make any adjustments and feel confident about how the food will turn out on the day.
3. Write a Facebook and Eventbrite event page.
Now it’s time to create an event page on these two platforms, with information on the date, time, location, menu and price of your pop-up restaurant.
Sync your Eventbrite event with the Facebook event, so that people who see your event on Facebook can automatically click to buy tickets on Eventbrite.
Eventbrite is an easy to use ticketing platform for planning events like pop-up restaurants. They do charge a small fee per ticket sold, so you can also take payments via Paypal, by bank transfer or by good old cash.
4. Create promotional materials and promote your pop-up restaurant
You can make attractive and professional-looking promotional images, menus and posters using an online platform like Canva. And you don’t need any previous graphic design knowledge! This image was made using Canva in about 5 minutes:
Once you have made a bank of promotional images, start sharing them on social media and on the Facebook event page. You can also invite people personally through email, WhatsApp or phone, as well as send event information via an e-newsletter on Mailchimp.
Always make sure you include clear information on how to book whenever you promote your event.
5. Manage the Guest List.
Once the bookings start to roll in, you should keep track of guest names, menu choices, any dietary requirements and how they’ve paid for their ticket in a spreadsheet. Each time you get a new booking, update the guestlist and personally confirm the booking with the guest.
6. Write an Equipment List
Your pop-up restaurant is fast approaching and you now have a good idea of how many people to cater for. It’s now time to write up a list of all the equipment you need on the day.
Walk through in your mind what will happen at your pop-up restaurant, from setting up, to prepping food, to cooking, to serving, to clearing up.
You will need different items for each stage of the process. Write up all these items into a spreadsheet and decide who in your team is bringing each item on the day. If you don’t have certain items, find out if you borrow them or purchase them.
7. Write up timings for the day and a table plan
A timed plan for the day will help you keep on schedule.
A table plan will make sure you get the right meals out to the right people.
Look at your table sizes and think about how many people can fit around each one. Look at your guest list and group people together around tables. Draw up a sketch of the table plan and assign table numbers.
At each table, list how many of each course needs to be prepared for the table and if there are any dietary requirements.
For example, if I have 4 people sitting at Table 1 and they have ordered 3 soups and 1 salad for starters, I write this down. When it comes to plating up the food for Table 1, I know to make 3 soups and 1 salad, and this gets brought out before moving onto Table 2.
8. Setting Up
Arrive with enough time on the day to set up the kitchen, arrange tables and chairs and decorate the venue. This might take a couple of hours before you’ve even started cooking!
Draft in help from friends and family to help you set up so that you can focus on the food.
You’ve already tested your recipes, so making the food, plating up and taking the plates to your guests should run smoothly, as long as you have a table plan!
Guests might turn up late, so have someone assigned to ‘front of house’ to greet guests when they arrive, check them off the guest list and show them to their seat using the table plan.
Prepare the food for each course using the table plan and keep an eye out on when guests are finished eating, as you clear up and get ready for the next course!
10. Enjoy the Event!
It’s a huge achievement to be able to plan a pop-up restaurant and execute it on the day. Once your last plate has left the kitchen, join your guests and relax! The washing-up can wait a while.
Learning from Pop-Ups
You learn a lot from planning and pulling off an event of this kind, especially if you’ve never done anything like it before. The thrill of food service in a make-shift kitchen and the feeling of pride seeing empty plates come back is unbeatable!
It’s intense work for only a couple hours of service, but it is an invaluable learning experience for our Recipe for Success students. They learn how to work under pressure, cost and price their food items and for all 4Lunch pop-up restaurants, there is a share of profits.