Book Review: How to Run a Pop-Up Restaurant or Supper Club

Abigail and William Alldis on how to take advantage of a profitable trend.

Thinking of expanding into a new neighborhood? Want to field test a new menu? Have you ever considered collaborating with another restaurant or chef for special events? Setting up a pop-up restaurant could be a low-risk, low-cost way to test new waters while creating additional buzz for your main venue. “How To Run A Pop-Up Restaurant or Supper Club: Turn Your Passion for Food and Drink Into Profit” provides a step-by-step guide to making it happen.

Husband-and-wife co-authors Abigail and William Alldis started out as food bloggers before setting up their first pop-up in the quaint-but-cramped living room of their 16th century cottage in Essex, England. Now, tapping into their own experiences (and mistakes), along with those of a host of other pop-up operators and restaurateurs, the couple delivers valuable insights and creative ideas for anyone interested in this dining niche.

While geared toward U.K.-based amateur chefs, this book sheds light on important differences between planning, marketing and operating a traditional eatery vs. a pop-up restaurant that might be overlooked. For example, a brick-and-mortar restaurant can weather a few slow nights, but one slow night at a pop-up, and you’re in trouble. That’s why most successful pop-ups sell tickets in advance.

Some benefits of pre-payment are obvious. You know exactly how many people you’re cooking for, and you don’t have to deal with collecting money at the end of the evening. The less obvious advantage of pre-selling is that it helps create a buzz and provides a sense of scarcity and exclusivity that fuels foodies’ appetites for discovering something new.

Another important difference is customer expectations. The focus of a traditional restaurant, from fine dining to quick serve, is on the food, says Victoria Stewart, food editor of the Evening Standard in London. Yes, ambiance and service are important, but people come to your establishment for a meal.

Pop-ups are events, requiring the perfect balance of great food, an interesting venue and just the right level of entertainment, Stewart says. “How to Open a Pop-Up” can help you find that balance, with tips on everything from finding the perfect location, to designing a unique experience, to using social media and other creative marketing ideas to pull in a crowd.

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