The Promise and Perils of Running a Pop-Up Restaurant

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In some cases, the landlord might not have enough knowledge to be an effective partner. The ones who do the work know more than anyone about the intricacies of running a temporary raw fish bar such as Crudo e Nudo. It is important to have open discussions upfront and clearly define the terms. Bornemann states that some hosts wanted complete control. Bornemann says that some hosts wanted all the control, including the pricing and the size of dishes and the ability to criticize dishes. Culhane and Bornemann decided to end their partnership rather than risking a contentious one. They also kept a complete calendar of events to ensure that they were covered in the event of a loss. “If something went wrong, we knew that we had another pop up booked in a few .”

Food stands are useful because they are similar as host and vendor partnerships and because the best practices of a restaurant don’t always align with those required for running a stall. Vinod Kalathil and Margaret Pak started Thattu, a South Indian pop-up in Chicago’s Politan Row. Although the gig was great for branding, the work involved wasn’t worth the results. Pak and Kalathil had to work the stall every day, even though most of their sales were done at lunch and dinner. The same menu was also required, which provided consistency for customers but was restrictive. The experience was a great motivator for a pop-up business model. They have now earned nearly the same amount in just nine events as they did during 10 full-time food hall vending. Kalathil states, “It’s more than being successful. It’s about being able to do this at our pace in terms life balance.”

Managing liability is an important aspect of running a popup. This includes planning for the worst-case scenario, such as personal injury or property damage. Michael Farhi, a partner in the law firm Kates Nussman Ellis Farhi & Earle LLP who practices business law, says that there are always financial risks associated with any startup business. Although it is best to have the terms of the partnership in writing at the beginning, many pop-up partnerships are formed through handshake agreements. Pak and Kalathil did everything verbally. However, working with industry friends was the best way to reduce the chance of bad deals. Bornemann, Culhane and others made up the difference by bringing a valid food handler license and general liability insurance to each event.

Pop-ups are fast and easy to set up, but contracts can be difficult to enforce and take time and money. Yana Gilbuena began her career as a pop up vendor in 2013. She hosted 50 Filipino kamayan meals in 50 state for the SALO Series. Gilbuena is recalled as recalling having to pay out of her own pocket for unexpected costs such as payment processing fees and food costs for unplanned guests at one dinner. Unexpected charges were against Gilbuena’s contract for the event. However, rather than hiring a lawyer to represent her, Gilbuena decided to move on. “I had the option to either expend the time and energy or focus on learning from my errors.” In the end, she lost more money than she earned., BonAppetit
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