How To Pop-Up Like The Pros

pop-up food

With the rise of e-commerce, more brands are forgoing traditional real estate in favor of web-based tools for selling their products. But real-life shopping certainly isn’t dead, and a physical space can be a great way to introduce your product to potential customers. That’s why many brands are now taking the pop-up approaching, using temporary real estate to introduce their brands IRL without the expensive build-out and retail maintenance costs. Thinking about your own pop-up food or beverage event? Here’s what you need to know.

Love the blog? Get our best content delivered to your inbox weekly!

Why pop-up?

If you’re still not sold on the concept, we don’t blame you! Pop-ups are a relatively new retail concept. But their popularity is growing for a reason. Temporary retail spaces are far cheaper than building out a traditional location, And they can help you achieve certain goals, like gathering audience data and building brand awareness, that are key to a successful business strategy.

Here are some reasons why a pop-up might be perfect for you:

  • Lower overhead costs
  • Creates buzz for new product launches
  • Builds brand awareness and goodwill
  • Unique partnership opportunities

Finding a Space & Budgeting

If you’ve never dabbled in commercial real estate, don’t be overwhelmed by the thought of finding a pop-up space. There are plenty of companies designed to help you find traditional temporary retail space, like Storefront, Uppercase, Appear Here, and PeerSpace.

Need a space for a ready-to-eat pop-up? Then you know a retail space isn’t going to cut it. This is when the food entrepreneur has to get creative. Finding spare kitchen and serving space together isn’t easy, and even the nicest friend may not be likely to give you their restaurant for the night. That’s when non-traditional spaces like food halls, specialty grocers, delis, or a hot-held setup can come in handy. Can you rent a cart to sell scoops of ice cream out of, and set up inside a partner storefront? Can you utilize a galley kitchen inside of an existing food business for a creative limited menu?

While the cost of your pop-up is highly dependent on the location, type of space, and richness of experience, you can count on the following expenses:

  • Rent / utilities / deposit / licensing fees / insurance
  • POS / processing fees
  • Furniture / merchandising fixtures (which are rentable!)
  • COGS
  • Marketing (paid and organic social media, physical assets, influencer or event partnerships, advertising)

Marketing

Your pop-up isn’t going to sell itself, unfortunately. But with the right marketing strategy, you can entice customers both existing and new. Here are a few methods to start with:

  • A PR push! Let local news outlets know about your pop-up (as far in advance as you can!). Give them a clear set of reasons why their readers will be interested, and create a press release if needed.
  • Social media. Utilize your existing accounts to promote your pop-up food event, but if it makes sense, you can even create brand-new accounts that will make your pop-up feel special and unique. A great recent example is Popup Grocer in NYC – their feed is well branded, informative, and buzz-y.
  • Work with influencers. Even the smallest town has a food blogger these days, and you should make sure you’ve personally invited anyone who has a prominent following that includes your audience.
  • Maximize your foot traffic. Put up posters in the area in advance of your event, and create great signage that will direct potential customers to your spot. Many entrepreneurs neglect physical marketing because they are an online-focused brand, but foot traffic is one perk of physical space that you absolutely must optimize.

Execution

If executed poorly, a pop-up food event is a great way to waste a lot of time and money. But if your objectives are clear and your team is on the same page, you’ll be set up for success. Here are a few tips:

  • Create and share goals. Is your pop-up designed to drive sales, or build brand awareness? Even if you have multiple goals, your team should be operating with a shared understand of what you want out of the event – and how to measure whether you obtained it. Use metrics like visitors, social media shares, sales, and media hits to determine whether you’ve succeeded.
  • Create a run-of-show. Even if your pop-up is just a few hours long, you should know how long everything will take: setup, breakdown, product execution, line time, and more.
  • Do a dry run. Utilize friends and family for a dry run of your event that will allow you to visualize bottlenecks and other challenges. Don’t get stuck on game day with endless wait times because you didn’t realize you were missing a key piece of equipment.

A pop-up food space can be a perfect way to showcase your brand and increase your sales. Now that you’ve read up on best practices for your next pop-up, go get started. And let us know how it goes – we love to hear about foodpreneurs in the field!

For more industry resources, food business news, and expert interviews delivered to your inbox weekly, check out our newsletter!

Get the Newsletter

Our weekly newsletter contains everything a food entrepreneur needs to stay current, share connections, and succeed in the business. Sign up for interviews with experts, insights from peers, and all the most relevant industry news. Don’t get caught without the resource every foodpreneur is talking about. Subscribe now!