Pop-up stores have become a multifaceted tool, used by restaurateurs for everything from breaking into the market to re-energizing existing brands. A look at three different approaches:
Deli Gets Off the Ground
Leo Beckerman and Evan Bloom opened up a pop-up version of their classic Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen in January 2011. Its success helped pave the way to a fixed location that opened last month.
Before starting the pop-up, the industry novices practiced, making about 20 batches of pastrami at home, brining beef brisket for a week, rubbing it with spices and smoking it in Mr. Beckerman’s home smoker.
Running the pop-up cost between $2,000 and $2,500 a week, which they funded themselves. Costs included about $500 a week for space in a commissary kitchen and $175 to $400 for rent at cafes and an outdoor space they used for their roving pop-up.
The once-a-week pop-up, which typically served 300 to 400 people, just broke even. A disadvantage, Mr. Beckerman said, is the fact that leftover food couldn’t be resold the following day. “We ate a lot of Jewish deli food,” he said.
The success of the pop-up helped convince friends and family to collectively invest $100,000 toward the fixed location in San Francisco’s Mission District. The partners put in an equivalent amount from their own savings.
Montreal-Style Bagels Secures a Business Loan
Inspired by the success of the Wise Sons pop-up, chef Blake Joffe and partner Amy Remsen began selling the Wise Sons partners Montreal-style bagels, which are sweeter and smaller than typical New York bagels. The pop-up experience helped Beauty’s Bagel Shop secure a loan for a new bakery and cafe in Oakland, Calif., which is slated to open this spring.
Mr. Joffe apprenticed for a week in a Montreal bagel shop, where he learned to slice and hand-roll 75 pounds of dough at a time.
The partners applied for a small business loan from the Oakland Business Development Corporation to finance a fixed location. Scott Lewis, the director of Business Development, recommended them for a $165,000 loan. Without the experience and market-testing the pop-up provided, “it would have been hard to do a deal like this,” Mr. Lewis said.
In late April, Beauty’s Bagels plans to open in a 2,400 square foot facility that can produce daily 3,000 bagels, which it plans to sell for $1.25 each.
A Young Audience
Faced with a temporarily empty restaurant space in late 2010, experienced restaurateur Bill Chait created a rotating schedule of pop-ups with some of the city’s top chefs that he calls “The Test Kitchen.”
Creativity flowered within the narrow framework: Mr. Chait gave chefs 30% of projected revenue for ingredients, allowing them to pocket any savings. Another 25% of the evening’s take went toward a salary for the chef and any assistants. Mr. Chait provided a dishwasher, bartender and host chef, who showed guests how the kitchen worked.
Chefs served prix fixe meals to between 175 and 200 guests a night, at between $45 and $80 a meal per person.
Test Kitchen generated press, buzz and a mailing list of young, social-media oriented diners who have energized Mr. Chait’s restaurants, he said. He plans to reopen Test Kitchen for a month this fall.
Published at WSJ.com