How To Start A Pop Up Restaurant

The advantage of a pop-up restaurant lies in the reduced risks born out of its temporary life. A pop-up restaurant can be an effective means to start or rejuvenate your business, and a less expensive one at that. Whether you want to raise capital for a new restaurant, expand an existing brand, test a new concept, generate extra income, or build a foodservice career, you’d be surprised at how valuable it can be when done right.

Whatever your reason is for learning how to start a pop-up restaurant and what it can do for you, the first step is to really think about whether or not it makes sense for you. A lot of restaurants use POS systems, and if you need one you can find it here. Once you determine it is the way to go, here’s what the rest of the journey will look like.

How to Start A Pop Up Restaurant – Step 1:

Develop a business plan

Like a brick-and-mortar foodservice establishment or any business for that matter, writing a business plan is, well, the first order of business. Set your goals, develop realistic profit projections, outline expenses, identify your target market, plan out marketing strategies as well as staff hiring and training, and detail concrete efforts on how to make it all profitable. From here, you will determine the schedule and the length of the run of your pop-up. The longest a pop-up restaurant usually operates is three months.

How to Start A Pop Up Restaurant – Step 2

Get funding

Part of learning how to start a pop-up restaurant is securing funding. When calculating the costs, take everything into account–the lease, the kitchen equipment, cost of labor, licenses and permits, construction, furniture and decor, and any other expenses that your specific concept might incur.

If you are a newcomer with no cash flow or industry experience, you can try getting a personal loan if you have a favorable credit score. Online lenders are also great because of the quick application and approval, but the catch is that interest rates are generally higher. If both aren’t options for you, look into the following for financial assistance:

How to Start A Pop Up Restaurant – Step 3:

Find the perfect location

The beauty of a pop-up restaurant is that you can operate from spaces that a fully-fledged restaurant won’t be able to. In fact, you can set up shop in one as there are restaurants that actually host pop-ups. You can even use former restaurant spaces or empty storefronts. Most of these already have access to utilities, so you can hit the ground running. Don’t forget to take into account the parking or public transport situation in your chosen location.

How to Start A Pop Up Restaurant – Step 4:

Obtain necessary permits and licenses

When it comes to the process of how to start a pop-up restaurant, it isn’t really that much different from a traditional restaurant as far as licenses go. You need a business license and foodservice license to legally operate your pop-up as well as a health permit from the local health department. Visit your local town or state government to find out all the permits and licenses you will need to obtain.

How to Start A Pop Up Restaurant – Step 5:

Set up your kitchen

If you choose to operate from an existing restaurant, you, of course, have the benefit of instant access to a fully-furnished kitchen. You can even develop a menu based on what’s available so you won’t have to dip further into your pocket.

Sometimes, however, you might have to provide your own. The theme of your pop up restaurant will dictate a specific set of equipment necessary for the operation.

Since you have a limited space to work with, the key is to make sure that every single piece of equipment contributes to the overall productivity, speed, and quality of your service. For example, ice will always be necessary for restaurants so investing in a high-quality but easy-to-operate ice maker like a Manitowoc ice machine will be very useful.

When shopping for equipment, look for reputable brands that minimize maintenance and servicing needs such as Manitowoc Ice, check Since your pop-up restaurant will be around for only a short period of time, you can’t afford to have equipment stalling.

How to Start A Pop Up Restaurant – Step 6:

Build your pop-up restaurant

Needless to say, your pop-up restaurant should be designed with the safety and comfort of your customers and staff in mind. With greater location leeway comes a unique set of challenges. For example, if you set up your restaurant in a field, you need to think about the potential problem that insects may pose in your would-be dining area.

Whether you’re setting up on a shipping container or an existing restaurant, here are other major considerations:

  • Determine the resulting location capacity after dedicating adequate space for equipment and cookline/kitchen
  • Consider a pre-fixed menu or a pre-sale to accurately manage demand and avoid overstocking
  • Use security and a point-of-sale system that is flexible and easy to install and remove
  • Add rolling security gates or glass break monitors for extra security
  • Weather-proof your pop-up restaurant

How to Start A Pop Up Restaurant – Step 8:

Pricing your menu

Now that you have everything you need to start your pop-up restaurant, you now have an idea of every little thing that goes into making it all possible. The time, equipment, lease, ingredients, labor, marketing, supplies, and everything in between should all be considered when pricing your menu items. The common food markup is 300%. The important thing is to walk the line between competitiveness and profitability.

How to Start A Pop Up Restaurant – Step 9:

Get the word out

Part of how to start a pop-up restaurant that will actually take off is advertising through social media. Focusing on a single theme, a specific niche, or trend makes pop-up restaurants a little easier to promote. If your concept is based on something already popular, gaining traction becomes organic so long as you do it well.

A pop-up restaurant that will last

While it is only meant to be fleeting, your pop-up restaurant can grow into a permanent restaurant, and with that, it is important to think long-term when making your decisions about some of the most important parts of your business such as the pricing, the kitchen equipment, and the location.