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Aug 7, 2012 09:37 AM

Pop Up Restaurants

On Bizarre Foods America last night, Andrew Zimmern put together a pop-up restaurant. I really enjoyed this episode, but it seemed like a helluva lot of work for a one-night stand.

Watching it also raised some questions for someone who doesn't live in The Big City.

Is this just an LA thing or other cities doing it?

During the conversation AZ mentioned another LA chef was planning his own pop-up a week later. AZ also noted the wait staff was going to be provided by someone whose business was to supply pop-ups.

How often do they "pop up?"

Is there a whole mini-industry set up to cater to these places? (Wait staff, kitchen staff, equipment rental, etc.)

I assume it is a single option dinner. (One ap, one main, one dessert, etc.)

Do they have one-night liquor licenses, or do they rent a place that has one?

I assume the word gets out via various social media to fill the seats.

Lastly, do they make money? I don't see how, but some of you who are or were in the business would know better than me. If not, why do they do it? I realize AZ's was a TV stunt, but what about the others?

Any/all insights are welcomed.

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  1. Pop-ups seem to be a growing business. Often run by established restaurants or, at least, established industry professionals of one sort or another. As far as I can see they are not one-night stands (although it might be one night per week).

    I suspect the Next Big Thing will be for the "underground" supper clubs to morph into pop-ups - already done by the best known supper club in my neck of the woods, which took over a empty restaurant building for 2 weekends

    1. Not just a California thing, happening regularly in NY, occasionally in CT, Too. There have even been two recent threads about this on the Kosher Board.

      Liqour laws/licensing varies state to state. Here in CT (I am an attorney) I have been to two popups that operated with a caterer's liquor license. This allows a licensed caterer to serve liquor at any venue in the state (if the town is not dry), BUT the caterer can not sell by the drink, the liquor must be included in the cost of the meal.

      I have also attended a Popup BBQ where it was BYOB in a town that permits BYOB in an unlicensed venue.

      As to the length of a popup, I have seen one night stands, and chefs who rent a location for a month or so.

      Do they make money? Yes and No. Some do it to make money, some to advertise and attract new customers. I know several venues that have hosted Popups to showcase available caterers. In those instances, the hope is to book future events, not profit on the popup.

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