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How to Start a Pop-Up Restaurant in Your Home

April 03, 2020

Want to show off your culinary chops and establish yourself in the food industry before renting a storefront? Join the growing pop-up trend and start your own restaurant from your home. 

The Lowdown on Pop-Up Restaurants


Do you dream of one day running your own restaurant, but want to test out your culinary concept before committing to a brick-and-mortar? A pop-up restaurant is a great place to start. 

To keep overhead costs manageable, while still showing off your epicurean expertise, consider starting a pop-up out of your home. Not sure where to start? Here we share some tips and advice. 

What is a Pop-Up Restaurant?

Pop-ups have a rich dining history dating back to the 1960s. Originally called “supper clubs,” pop-up restaurants get their name for “popping up” in unexpected places, from home basements, to outdoor venues, to inside established restaurants. 

Aside from the exciting locations that entice diners, pop-ups also allow chefs to experiment with their vision while keeping food costs predictable.

Benefits of a Home-Based Pop-Up

Home-based pop-ups have a lot of advantages over permanent restaurants:

  • They allow aspiring chefs and first-time restaurant owners to build a reputation before committing to a permanent establishment.
  • Pop-ups have lower operating costs. Restaurant start up costs can be steep, especially in the first year. While pop-ups do require some sort of initial capital investment, it’s not as involved as owning a storefront.
  • The limited nature of a pop-up appeals to foodies and inspires them to tell their friends, and come back for more. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool and having a foodie client base can help increase traffic and create buzz. 

Logistics for Your First Pop-Up Restaurant

Much like having an established restaurant, operating a pop-up out of your home requires some logistics and licensing. Here are a few items you’ll need to plan for to make your pop-up launch a success.

1. Apply for Insurance, Permits, and Licenses

Licenses and permits are required for restaurants to legally operate, and the same is true for pop-ups. While the original supper clubs might not have adhered to license and insurance requirements, it’s in your best interest to make sure you comply with all legal parameters. To avoid any potential legal trouble, check with your local city and state authorities about any temporary permits you need to operate. 

2. Nail Down Your Menu and Concept

Having a clear concept and finalized menu before opening your doors for the first time is crucial to your pop-up’s success. 

What style of service are you going for? Family style? Plated? Will you be offering a la carte items or prix fixe only? Will your menu feature elevated fusion cuisine or homestyle comfort food?

Once you have these types of questions answered, write and price out your menu. Work with your local restaurant and bulk food supplier to get all the products you need, including any beverages and kitchen essentials. 

Pro Tip: Prix fixe menus allow you to charge a set amount per guest, helping to keep payment easy. They also give chefs the ability to cost and prep out each dish more accurately. If all your guests will be enjoying the same menu, it is easier to price out the dishes and reduce food waste.

3. Outfit Your Kitchen

Once you have your menu finalized, take an inventory of your current kitchen equipment. What might you need to properly execute your menu? Will you need to set-up a mobile kitchen outside to accommodate your cooking needs? Do you have all the proper cutting boards, utensils, and cleaners necessary to maintain a hygienic kitchen? Make a list of all the equipment needed to prepare, cook, and store all food items. Then you can purchase any professional kitchen essentials you might not have in your home. 

4. Advertise

Now that you’ve taken care of the main logistics, it’s time to pick a date for your first pop-up meal and spread the word! Social media tools like creating a Facebook event, or posting teaser stories on Instagram, are easy ways to advertise your pop-up. Don’t be shy to borrow some marketing tips from some brick-and-mortars in your area. 

Or, why not embrace the mysterious and keep the location a secret, letting guests know an hour or two before service starts? Get creative and stir up some buzz. 

Get Your Pop-Up Restaurant Started with Smart Foodservice


Let Smart Foodservice help you achieve your culinary dreams. We offer fresh, high quality ingredients for all your menu needs. You can also find a selection of kitchen and catering supplies, beverages, and cleaning essentials. Come browse our selection of products at one of our many locations

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