Pop-up restaurants are becoming ever more popular. And the reason why is clear: they don’t cost much to put together, they can be located anywhere and the opportunities for culinary creativity are endless.
Whether you’re setting up in a field to catch the attention of festival-goers in the hopes of boosting your brand recognition or whether you’re opening in a big-city car-park to test out a new market before committing to a proper restaurant, pop-ups can cater to your needs.
But setting up one of these short-term ventures can cause long-term headaches if you don’t plan them right.
One of the biggest factors you’ll want to plan properly is the equipment you’ll be using: the appliances and, most importantly, the refrigerators.
Luckily, we’re here to help. Let’s look at how you can keep your head and your ingredients cool as you embark on your next experiment.
Starting with Size
Commercial refrigeration is generally larger with more generous capacity than domestic alternatives. Your pop-up is a commercial enterprise, all be it on a smaller scale, so commercial refrigeration is the only way to go. Unfortunately, endless space is not usually forthcoming in pop-up locations with cramped conditions common. It’s unlikely you’ll have space for a cumbersome upright fridge and freezer.
So, choose versatility and maximize your prep space: opt for under-counter fridges and freezers, with a few cupboards for utensils thrown in. Refrigerated drawers are also a clever space-saving option, many having dual temperature operation, however, they will come with a higher price tag.
The ratio of fridges to freezers to cupboard space depends on the type of food you’ll be preparing - how much of your ingredients will need to be fresh on the day and how much of your meals you can pre-prepare and freeze - and how many portions you’re hoping to serve.
It’s always a good idea to simplify your pop-up menu to around three specialities, to get the most out of your fridge and freezer space.
Commercial Fridges for the Experimental Pop-Up
If you’re looking to branch out into the restaurant business, but don’t yet have the bricks and mortar, setting up a pop-up to test the water and see if the biz is right for you may be a good idea.
But, if you’re just starting out, it’s unlikely that you’ll have endless pots of money floating around for brand new equipment.
There are a few options for you.
You may be able to snag a bargain and find some pre-loved refrigeration units or graded pieces – if you do, ensure they are up to scratch: that they’re clean and keep food cool and safely below the 8 degrees C which the Food Standard Agency (FSA) recommends.
Alternatively, renting may be the way to go.
Some pop-ups pop-up in already established kitchens: if you want all of the appliances and equipment ready and waiting for you, this may be the option for you – but it will come at a cost.
But, beware that that rent may be more pricey than renting some cheap unfurnished premises (or a food truck) and the appliances separately. Some companies offer relatively cheap rates on rented fridge freezers and these may do for you.
Whichever way you go keep in mind that, if you want to go full-time with your food business, permanence is the name of the game: save up what you can and buy your own appliances ASAP.
The more money you give away to your landlords, the less money you’ll have to spend on setting up that first full-sized restaurant.
Refrigeration for Pop-Ups to Boost Popularity
If you’re looking to build your brand – to get a new audience tasting your food in the hopes that they’ll walk right through the doors of your ready and waiting restaurant – pop-ups can certainly help.
Pop-ups can become a very profitable arm of your business and can call for you to invest in a set of equipment and appliances which are easily portable and compact – easy to pack into a truck and transport around to allow you to cater at as many events and locations as possible.
You’ll want to invest a sizeable sum in this set of pop-up appliances as they’ll need to be durable enough to withstand the travelling that they’ll be doing, bumping around in the back of a van.
But you won’t want to spend too much: keep the total costs within the budget of what you will easily re-coup – so that, if something does get damaged, you won’t have to think too much before ordering the replacement.
Fridges For the Pre-Restaurant Pop-Up
If you’re looking to use your pop-up to test a new market for your food – to see if a particular area attracts the kind of people who will love your lasagnes or go crazy for your quesadillas – before setting up a new branch of your restaurant, you may want to invest a little more.
Pop-ups can come with their own limits – such as a lack of the three phase electrical supply which large appliances and restaurant-grade refrigerators need to operate. However, within these limits, it is possible to make your pre-restaurant pop-up that little more cost-effective.
Look to outfit your temporary kitchen with as much of the equipment and appliances which you will be taking in-house when you set up somewhere more permanent.
Though we’d still advise keeping your pop-up menu simple – to keep your cramped kitchen running smoothly – it’s a good idea to invest in equipment which can do a little more, and could one day support the diversity of your full menu.
Besides reducing the money wasted on appliances and commercial fridges which are only going to be used a couple of times, being able to simply take your pop-up appliances in-house will allow you to put a little more money aside to prepare for the unforeseen costs which are so often involved with a permanent restaurant opening day.
Whether you’re planning your first step into restauranteering or whether you’re an old hand looking to inject some freshness into your brand, remember to prop up your pop-up on the secure foundation of good quality commercial refrigeration.