The in’s and out’s of organizing a pop-up dining event

words Alexa Wang

pop-up dining event

Pop-ups have become one of the biggest trending experiences to hit the entertainment and foodie scene over the last ten years. There is a great variety of pop-up types, from pop-up shops to events, to full dining experiences, and the trend is just growing. The pop-up industry has grown to become a $10 billion industry and has reached all corners of the globe with its popularity. 

Consumers are being drawn to the true uniqueness of the experience, and the pop-up, whether it be a store or event is expected to offer something a traditional brick and mortar cannot. Pop-ups offer unique products and experiences, local-based pricing and mix of a unique and fun experience for the customer. One of the biggest selling elements of a pop-up is playing on the customers’ fear of missing out. They are aware that if they miss out this time, they probably will not get to experience it again.

Pop up events like pop-up dining have become a huge income generator for chefs and organizers all over the world. These are bespoke events created and hosted in a chosen location with a very select amount of attendees. They have had great success with their direct customer base and have created enough marketing buzz to drive traffic to their established restaurants. So, if you are looking to tailor-make your own pop-up dining experience, look no further as we took a look at the guidelines you will need to create a great pop-up dining experience.

Pick a Theme and Stick to it

Many chefs go about this the wrong way and center a theme around the venue or even around a particular dish. However, experienced chefs and organizers advise to rather map out your concept first and make sure everything fits in around that. Once you have your basic idea of what you want to create, start developing everything around that. Choose your venue based on what you are picturing. Complete your menu based on the concept. If something seems like it won’t fit in, keep the idea for your next one.

Remember that your brand is on display, so every element needs to be carefully considered when you are creating them. This is the perfect opportunity for the public to get to know your unique offering, and if you want to leave them talking about the event for a long time to come every single element will need to fit in perfectly.

Dining chairs, dining benches, cutlery, plates, and glassware may not seem important at first glance but they are all an integral part of the dining experience. A good plan is to source these items first, and then work around them with the rest of your elements. This will ensure that everything ties in together seamlessly and creates a memorable experience for your guests.

pop up dining

Simplify Where Possible

You will need to keep in mind that you could be cooking in an unfamiliar place and kitchen. Simplify the elements of your dishes where you can and try and do as much prep as you can beforehand to avoid any nasty surprises. Tell guests that there will not be an opportunity for substitutions or special requests. Not only does this drastically slow down service, but it also creates a potential opportunity for something going wrong. Allow guests access to the menu beforehand in order for them to know whether it is something they are satisfied with being involved in.

As much as you do want to show off your extraordinary skills, over-complicating elements in your menu is going to leave you worse for wear. Scrutinize your menu and identify where things could potentially go wrong. Be prepared for things to go wrong. An oven might not work, there could be limited resources, certain equipment could be missing. Map out and practice the menu several times to make sure you have a firm handle if things do get a bit too hot in the kitchen.

Seek Out Partnerships

Not only is this a great opportunity to punt your brand, but so it is for other brands. Reach out to partners who will complement your brand and your event and invite them to be a part of the event. Experiential marketing is one of the most effective ways of marketing and if two or more brands combine their budgets and marketing, they can have far more reach and ROI success.

In order to get those partners on, whether it be an exclusive wine estate, the latest gin company, a local artist or musician, make sure you have your full plan ready. Your concept should be properly structured, your marketing plan drawn up, and a short document on why and how you want them to participate should already be prepped. It’s all in the details.

Be Savvy With Your Post-Event Marketing

You might not be worried about filling the seats if you are hosting a more intimate event, but the other side of marketing your event is the amount of attention and traffic you can drive to yourself and your brand. This is a great opportunity for content, so don’t waste it. If possible, invite an influencer or blogger along to the event to extend the amount of awareness your brand is getting. There are huge audiences that you might not be able to reach by yourself, and if the influencer raves about you, posting decadent images and write-ups, it will pique the interest of their followers.

If you can afford it, hire a professional photographer and videographer for the event. Brief them thoroughly before the event so that they have a good idea about the theme and how you are wanting the footage to look when you post it post-event. Ask for specific moments to be captured and schedule that content to be posted strategically over a period of time.

Last Thoughts

This is your opportunity to connect with your customers intimately and build a loyal fan base. It is also the ideal opportunity for you to flaunt your brand and generate a lot more traffic and attention to all of your hard work. Be as creative as you can to create an unforgettable experience for your guests, and to generate some great content for your social media and marketing. Keep the simple rules in mind, however. Budget right down to the last clove of garlic. In fact, over budget. There are always going to be unexpected expenses and surprise costs. Choose your staff and help carefully. The servers are the points of contact for your guests and will need to emulate your concept and brand. Pick people who will be a good fit. Lastly, take the time to interact and get to know your guests. This will be the personal touch they are looking for to fully connect with you and your brand. 



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