Food and beverage (F&B) pop-ups
These ephemeral concepts can take various shapes and forms, from temporary venues to short-term events or festivals. They benefit from the 'scarcity value' economic concept: the less there is, the more people want it. With retail paving the way for other sectors, all types of pop-ups have sprung up around the world. In the Middle East, festivals and markets, such as the weekly Ripe Market in Dubai’s Zabeel Park or Beirut’s Souk El Akel, attract thousands of visitors. The food and beverage (F&B) industry has, of course, tapped into this trend, with popups available in all types of formats, from one-off events inside hotels, cafes or restaurants to small trucks.
On a regional level, Dubai is, as always, at the forefront: the eatery Tom&serg in Al Quoz regularly hosts pop-up concepts, such as the meat-lovers favourite, ‘Rule The Roast’, and the Hawaiian-style temporary menu, ‘Shaka King’. No.57 Cafe has been the talk of the town as well, benefiting from the success of the invitation-only dinners of ‘The Dinner Club 57’, showing there’s something for everyone, from low to high-end cuisine. Even the world-renowned Noma has embraced the trend, with pop-ups in Copenhagen and Mexico. And with summer around the corner, beach canteens and cafes are springing up across the region. In the Middle East, cultural and religious events also provide opportunities for temporary venues: Ramadan ‘khaymat’ (tents) are traditionally set up to welcome diners breaking their fast in the evening.
The flexibility of the ephemeral
The list of upsides to these temporary formats is endless, from requiring little in the way of investment when it comes to both time and money and short-term leases to enabling operators to test and try out a new concept. The format can provide brand exposure and also offers plenty of flexibility when it comes to location, easily set up at a beach, gallery, park, on a rooftop or even in someone's home. Charity and fundraising events favor this format to attract crowds. When it comes to restaurants, pop-ups can be a great opportunity for up and coming chefs to show the world, neighborhood and potential investors, their culinary skills. Newbies in the F&B world can turn to a short-lived concept to dip their toes in the business, while more seasoned ones may well use a temporary venue before deciding on a more permanent location.
Smaller scale doesn't mean less regulation
However, these ephemeral setups have downsides too, some of which are challenging. First, their format requires a specific and viable business plan. There are structural difficulties, too, with limited space for storage and cooking, while menus need to be created tailored to limited offerings. Stock management also needs to be a key focus. Hygiene regulations for pop-ups are similar to those governing regular establishments and need to be followed to the letter.
Moreover, communication should be thought through carefully since marketing and social media play a major role in advertising pop-ups. Spreading the word both at the right time and to the right people is key to success. Alternative PR ideas are beneficial, since customers going to pop-up venues are often looking for something new, or different, at least, from regular brickand-mortar restaurants.
And last, but not least, even though pop-up concepts seem less formal than well-established ones, they require licenses, insurances and permits whether temporary or not. Being too light-handed with legal matters could accelerate the already short life of your pop-up.
The last few years have shown us that pop-ups are an easy way to generate interest without the need for too much effort or long-term investment. Nagi
Morkos, managing partner at Hodema consulting services, explains
The Dinner Club 57, UAE (1,2,3)
Chef René Redzepi’s Noma Mexico pop-up now open in Tulum (4)
Ripe Market in Dubai’s Zabeel Park (5)