Everything You Need to Know About Starting a Pop Up Restaurant

Diners at a Pop Up Restaurant

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There are many reasons to open a new restaurant, including career exposure, to test run a new restaurant concept, or as a charity event. Up and coming chefs may collaborate with other business and hospitality professionals to open a pop-up as a way to show off their culinary skills. Someone looking to open a new restaurant may opt to try a temporary pop up restaurant since it is far less of an investment than a traditional brick and mortar establishment. Many organizations use pop-ups as a way to raise money for charitable causes.

Where a Pop-Up Restaurant Can be Located

Deep underground pop-ups can be in someone’s house or apartment keep in mind that probably breaks a lot of your local health and safety codes). Part of the charm of a pop-up restaurant is its location. Possibilities include a city rooftop, an old barn in the country, an empty warehouse. If you can get the proper licensing and insurance, then it can be a pop-up restaurant.

Another option for a pop-up restaurant is an already existing restaurant space. For example, renting a diner that serves only breakfast and lunch. The owners of the diner receive a percent of the profits to cover water, sewer, electricity gas, and any other associated expenses. The benefit of hosting a pop up restaurant in your restaurant is the novelty that brings in extra customers.


Truly underground pop-up restaurants don’t usually bother with licenses or insurance. If you want to promote and advertise your pop up and use it as a building block toward a future permanent restaurant, make sure yours is legit. Check with your local town or state authorities about what types of temporary permits (like catering) you’ll need before you open.


Most people who go to a pop-up restaurant are looking for a food adventure- something new, unique, and creative and different from the local restaurant scene. Add to this a limited amount of space for storage and cooking, and most pop-up restaurants feature a prix fixe menu of some sort. Instead of a la carte menu, providing a prix fixe menu allows you to charge a set amount per person.

How to Set up a Pop-up Restaurant

Setting up a pop-up restaurant requires a certain degree of creativity, imagination, and flexibility. The most important factor is that you can prepare and serve food safely. That there is adequate space for coolers, heaters, ovens, and such. Your mobile restaurant kitchen design will depend on the space and if there are electricity and water available. Depending on how long your restaurant is going to run, you can rent tables, chairs, and linens.

If your pop-up is small enough, you may be able to purchase used seating relatively inexpensively. The design of a pop-up restaurant should be a balance between a welcoming ambiance and comfortable seating capacity. Unlike in a brick and mortar restaurant, where the goal is high customer turnover, a pop up allows for a more relaxed atmosphere. There is also room to play with different dining concepts, such as customer self-service.

How to Spread the Word

Decide if your pop-up will be open or closed to the public. Closed means it is open to only those people you personally invite. Like food trucks, many pop-up restaurants use social media as their primary means of advertising. Nightly specials are posted on sites like Facebook and Twitter. If you have the time, you can create a free website for your pop up at sites like Yola.