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From Ceviche to London’s Yum Bun, it seems that almost every restaurant has either started life as a pop-up or has decided to take their restaurant on tour by popping up around the country.

But what are some of the practical considerations, and what sort of catering equipment will you need to take with you?

What’s the allure of pop-up restaurants and bars? It could be the fact that diners feel like they have to catch it while they can, before it moves on. And today’s restaurant-goer is also a lot more open-minded.

Going out for a meal doesn’t just mean booking a table for a three course menu at a restaurant on a  Saturday night. People demand good food everywhere, at all hours and in more relaxed settings — which explains the popularity of the street food and supper club movements. The word ‘restaurant’ can mean many things these days.

The pop-up trend has become so widespread that even established restaurants and bars with a permanent spot are hitting the road and popping up around the country, while successful pop-ups like the Dolls House are finding a more long-term home.

Location, location, location

Whether it’s a food van on a busy street or a temporary kitchen, your location will affect what you should bring you. If you’re considering a location in a new city, try to visit it yourself and scope out the sort of people who live or work there. The Pudding Shop (an upscale dessert van) in St Albans may be popular because of their sticky toffee pudding, but their prime spot outside a busy train station also helps them catch hungry commuters on their way home.

While you can be creative when it comes to choosing your location, don’t forget the basics: make sure that the chefs will actually have enough kitchen space to work and that the water and electricity services are set up well in advance. It may be easier to take over a space which has been previously been used as a kitchen.

And to stay on the right side of the law, you’ll also have to sort out your own insurance and may have to apply for a permit.

Top tip: If you’re looking for temporary retail space for a pop-up food shop, get in touch with Pop-Up Britain, who help UK businesses pop up all over the country.

Health and safety

Even if you’re just taking over the kitchen temporarily, it’s your responsibility to meet the law’s health and safety requirements. Make sure that you’re fully stocked with cleaning products and health and safety must-haves like a first aid kit, colour-coded chopping boards, oven gloves and a carbon monoxide alarm and create a health and safety policy which everyone can consult.

What to bring

You can’t take your entire kitchen with you, so the chefs will have to adapt to cooking in an alien environment and using a different oven. Do trial runs before opening your doors until everyone feels comfortable.

Scope out what the kitchen does have, and what you’ll need. Oven temperatures can vary, so get used to how long things take and what temperatures they’ll need in your pop-up kitchen.

If your chefs are used to using certain knives, gadgets and pots and pans, it’s easier to bring them along than to get used to brand new equipment

The menu

If sourcing local ingredients is important to you, you may have to start from scratch if your pop-up venue is in another part of the country. Find out what’s available nearby, then plan your menu (rather than the other way around).

People look for something a bit different from a pop-up or an underground dining experience, so try to offer something innovative, whether it’s serving food tapas-style or picking a theme like the Fishy Business pop-up, which turned the rooftop of the Roundhouse music venue into a pop-up beach, complete with real sand, to complement their seafood menu.

On a practical note, you don’t want to have a food or drinks menu that’s too diverse, or you’ll need to bring a huge variety of serving dishes and glassware. Focus on a few key areas and keep things simple.

Get the word out

It takes a while for a restaurant to build up a following, so you’ll have to work extra hard to get the word out about your pop-up if you’re only open for a limited time.

Make sure that you build up anticipation about your opening day in advance using social media and PR so that people know where you are. And consider inviting restaurant reviewers or food bloggers in for a sneak peak to they can help you get some positive word of mouth.

Have you tried becoming a pop-up restaurant or bar? Why not tell us about your experience by leaving a comment for us below or tweeting us @BunzlLockhart?


Lockhart Catering on 2 October 2013 10:16 AM

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