It's no surprise that pop-up restaurants are taking the industry by storm. They allow chefs to get creative with their dishes and collaborate with one another. These events are also great to raise money for charities, community groups, or restaurants you're planning to open. Whether you're looking to host a pop-up dinner event for several hours or several months, these are all the essentials you'll need to run a successful event.

1. Choose A Location

"How to start a pop-up restaurant?" is a question many chefs ask themselves because they are not sure where to begin. Finding the perfect location is the first step. The beauty of pop-ups is that they don't have to take place at an existing restaurant. They can occur at parks, festivals, rooftops, parking lots, and any other location that meets your standards.

When checking out different sites, take the size of the venue into consideration. You should ask yourself, "does this location have enough space for me to set up the kitchen and dining area I want?" Choose a place that allows you to work comfortably and seat the number of customers you'd like.

Once you've found a location, ensure that it's a safe location to cook and serve meals. The venue should have access to electricity, sewers, running water, and meet all the food safety guidelines for the area.

2. Apply For Licenses & Permits

Similar to restaurants, pop-up restaurants must have the proper documentation to operate. Although a pop-up may only be open for a few hours, licenses and permits are required to avoid any legal trouble. The documentation required to manage a pop-up restaurant varies from state to state.

Licenses and Permits You'll Likely Need

  • Business License
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Food Service License
  • Sign Permit
  • Liquor License
  • Seller's Permit
  • Resale Permit
  • Building Health Permit
  • Employee Health Permit

3. Create A Limited Menu

Remember, the goal of any pop-up restaurant is to serve a unique, fun, high-quality menu. The last thing you want to do is to overwhelm yourself and your staff with a large menu and not have the proper equipment to store or prepare the additional food. Creating a prix fixe menu for guests to choose from is a great option to limit the number of ingredients you'll need to have and to streamline the ordering and prep process.

4. Set Up For The Event

Now that you have a location and all the proper documentation for a pop-up restaurant, it's time to set up for the event. While preparing for any off-site event is challenging, there a few tips you can follow to make setting up for a pop-up dinner easier.

If You're Setting Up A Mobile Kitchen

There are some venues that already have a full kitchen available to use. However, some chefs are forced to set up their own. When putting together a mobile kitchen, it's important to consider the size of the kitchen area and the number of hot or cold dishes that will be prepared. You want to try and avoid installing equipment that you won't use or takes up too much space. Instead, use kitchen equipment that is light and portable to easily set up a makeshift kitchen for the event.

If You'll Be At A Venue Without A Dining Room

If the location of your pop-up doesn't already have a dining room, you can rent tables, chairs, and benches to create a dining area. Just be sure they don't take up too much space so that your guests can comfortably enjoy their food and waiters are able to quickly serve meals.

Creating The Right Ambiance

Don't forget to decorate! While patrons are at a food pop-up to enjoy delicious food, they're also there for the experience. Often times, what attracts them to an event is the way it looks. For instance, if individuals are searching for a spot to grab a bite, what draws them to a restaurant is the look of the establishment. To create an alluring ambiance, these are the things you'll want to consider:

  • Lighting: the right lighting will attract customers to your establishment, such as string lights or accent, ambient, and pendant lighting
  • Art: personalized photographs, graffiti, paintings, sculptures, and local art installments are what gives pop-ups a standout look
  • Table decor: candles, flowers, plants, and other centerpieces are all great ways to set the tone of your guests' dining experience
  • Embrace your style: If you're going for a rustic, modern, or holiday theme, use decor that complements your look

5. Advertise Your Pop-Up Restaurant

Once everything is set, it's time to advertise the food pop-up. Social media is the cheapest and most effective way to promote your event. Post photos of the venue, food, drinks, and information on the date and time the pop-up is open. This allows potential customers to know what you have to offer and where they can find your restaurant.

Websites are another great way to advertise a pop-up establishment. Guests will be able to find all the details about a restaurant in an instant. A website should include information about the menu, prices, specials, location, and photos of the event.

You're Officially Ready!

You now have all the information needed to host a successful pop-up restaurant. Just find a location, get all the proper documentation, and set up for the event. And of course, don't forget to get creative with your menu!