In the age of instant gratification and aesthetically pleasing storefronts, it can often feel as though the experience of dining out in 2020 is no longer about the food, but about the Instagram picture that can be taken of the food. This palpable shift in culture is easily identified in the pop-up restaurant trend. A pop-up restaurant is defined by SquareUp as “a provisional event designed to showcase culinary talents at a temporary location.”
Art Basel, an event people travel from around the globe to attend in Miami, is full of examples of “pop-ups.” The goal is to find them, attend them before the weekend is over, and capture the memory in a photo before the exhibit is broken down and never rebuilt. The elite vibe that these events give off makes each person who attends feel important.
This same feeling of exclusivity has translated into the Miami restaurant scene, with both Night Owl Cookies and Dior Cafe opening as pop-ups in the Miami Design District. Dior Cafe's luxury boutique garden terrace in their Design District store location was received so well they were extended as a permanent installation.
NYC's legendary Rao's Restaurant was brought to the W in South Beach as a fashionable pop-up restaurant for all Italian food connoisseurs. It seems as though every week there is a new food truck or hot spot to visit. The artist Pharrell Williams chose to bring his trendy clothing and sneaker store, Billionaire Boys Club, to Wynwood art district as a pop-up until May. Pop-ups have become rapidly successful in the past few years, and the public is asking: “Why?”
Pop-up restaurants are attractive to restaurant owners because they allow an owner to test a concept before signing a longer term, binding lease. The menu and décor can be adjusted, and the overhead cost is much less. The idea of pop-ups has become so attractive to owners that real estate brokerage F+B Hospitality Leasing has opened a pop-up division.
Piloting this new division is F+B Hospitality’s client Curio at the Faena Bazaar, a 4-story property part of the Faena district in Miami Beach that is entirely comprised of highly curated pop-up shops. F+B Hospitality recently signed pop-ups for the Faena Bazaar including Imperial Moto, Jojo Tea, Jason Perez Art and Rose Coloured Floral with talks of short-term activation for many more, including fitness-based partnerships like EightSpace for the new 4th floor Wellness Studio.
Felix Bendersky of F+B Hospitality says, “Temporary locations have become a great alternative for clients new to the Miami area and specifically Miami Beach. We can advise on short term trials that transition into long-term lease negotiations in nearby locations, all while the owners grow a local following and foster collaborations.” Another excellent example of this is the newly opened Chick’n Cone in Wynwood. The location offers grab-n-go and features a ghost kitchen, a set up designed perfectly for delivering and catering.
The success of pop-up restaurants is accredited to the customers that frequent them. Pop-up restaurants are the 6th most popular restaurant concept trend, according to SquareUp. As the attention span of each generation gets shorter, the idea of a restaurant that’s only open for a week or month at a time becomes more enticing, as theorized by Ryan Bradley’s GQ article.
On the other hand, the pop-up trend is just that: a trend. Once the masses have gone, they are not likely to go again. This makes longevity and profitability in the pop-up market difficult. In the words of Paul Qui, head chef of East Side King in Austin, Texas, “you want to do a pop-up that makes a good impression, you can't want to make money off of it.” Qui theorizes that pop-ups are more of a marketing ploy than they are a way to make money. Although a pop-up can be used to reduce overhead costs when planning to open a full-time brick and mortar restaurant, the margins of creating that restaurant are much larger over time.
Pop-ups are not going away any time soon. It’s no argument that it is stressful to find time in your schedule to hit up the next best hidden gem before it disappears. Trends like pop-ups are what gives Miami its vibrancy and unique culture, and that makes them worth it in the end.