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The Proliferation of Pop-ups in London

In 2015, a restaurant landscape without pop-ups in London would be inconceivable. Now, pop-ups mean big business, generating £2.1 billion in 2014, and consumer spending in pop-ups in the UK set to double, increasing by 8.4% in 2015. Pop-ups, then, are exploding across the UK, and successful restaurateurs will benefit from investing in them. Here are some of the most successful pop-up concepts in London, and how you can replicate that success.

Pop-ups mean big business, generating £2.1 billion in 2014.

Bringing pop ups together: The world’s first pop up mall

Many claim that 2012 was really the year that pop-ups “popped up” in London, but Roger Wade’s BOXPARK, Shoreditch’s trendy shipping container mall, opened its doors in 2011.

A hefty rotation of restaurateurs and bar owners now make BOXPARK their (temporary) home, from Bukowski to the soon-to-open Voodoo Ray’s. With the recently announced expansion of BOXPARK to Croyden, an area undergoing urban regeneration, it’s clear that the pop-up formula works. If you are looking at opening a pop-up, assess the local pop up scene: the more pop-ups, locally, the larger potential customer base you’ll have access to.


Claridge’s up-market pop-up success

While it is generally the case that pop-ups offer restaurant goers food at an affordable price, well-established hotels like Claridge’s in London have delved into the luxury pop up space with a great deal of success. This suggests that restaurateurs could benefit greatly from expanding into the blossoming luxury pop up space.

When Copenhagens star chef Rene Redzepi closed his restaurant Noma for renovation, he launched the immensely successful A Taste of Noma. All 3,400 available tickets sold within two and a half hours – A Taste of Noma coincided with the Summer Olympics, bringing thousands of potential new customers in the capital.


Breakfast around the clock

Another significant movement in the pop-up market has been to run a limited offering, as this enables logistical streamlining and keeps costs down. A great example of this is 2014’s media sensation Cereal Killer Cafe, and more recently, Porridge opened for a short stint in East London selling various forms of porridge and risotto.

By keeping the variety of produce low, and ingredients, sourcing, and cooking costs are kept small and a dedicated marketing effort can turn the fact that the pop up specialises on one unique ingredient into its selling point.


Experiential marketing: A taste of childhood

Experiential marketing is exploding. Customers across every vertical are looking to be offered an experience outside of their usual scope. One excellent way to do this is to offer diners food that reminds them of their childhood.

A perfect example of that is the world’s first crisp sandwich café in Belfast, Simply Crispy, which sells out every day. Owner Andrew McMenamin claims they are ready to stay open past its 4-week initial pop up period.


Rounding up…

Looking through the pop-ups above, it’s easy to identify a number of clear points that can be used to ensure your pop up is successful:

  • Pop-ups attract pop-ups: while isolated pop-ups aren’t doomed to fail, pop-ups found in close proximity to one-another – as in BOXPARK – will benefit from the collective pool of each of pop up’s customers.
  • A gimmick attracts social media attention: cafes filled with cats will likely attract animal lovers – and perhaps animal activists alike – which is free publicity. Ensure your gimmick or theme is unique, however.
  • Educate and entertain: Going to a pop up doesn’t have to be pure entertainment. Give your eatery or bar a simple educational message, and perhaps embed other charitable elements, and encourage the loyalty of a socially conscious clientele.
  • One dish, 24 hours a day: Historically, pop-ups charge inexpensive prices for their food, meaning margins must be protected by serving only one type of food. Like the porridge café or the crisp sandwich café, there’s plenty of opportunities to pick a simple dish and serve it up to waiting customers – for breakfast, dinner and tea. Your pop up’s simple menu becomes its selling point on social media.
  • -An emotional play: one reason the cereal café works is because it offers customers an experience from their childhood – experiential marketing is booming and the best pop up operators take advantage.

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