Pop-Ups Keep The Purple Parrot Spirit Alive

Mississippi restaurateur Robert St. John of the New South Restaurant Group has taken a twist on the adage "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade." In his case it's  more like "when your restaurant closes due to the pandemic, host pop-ups." 

St. John's The Purple Parrot had been a community stalwart in Hattiesburg for 33 years. The fine-dining concept specialized in thoughtfully curated experiences and he and his team weren't convinced they could find a post-pandemic audience. They chose to follow a the pop-up trend and hosted several sold-out dinners.

"We had a great 33-year run," St. John told Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine. "When I decided to re-concept the space, I took another part of the building and remodeled it to look exactly like the Purple Parrot dining room. So, the Purple Parrot never officially went away. We do the pop-ups now on the first Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of every month."

Each month has offered a new coursed menu and wine pairings that speaks to the current season and a bit of nostalgia featuring Purple Parrot classics such as Smoked Duck Spring Rolls, Lobster & Brie Bisque, and the Sweet Potato Blondie. 

Manager and Event Coordinator of the New South Restaurant Group Jessica Oliver, says the events have been received extremely well by the community, as many were upset by the concept’s closing where they had made so many memories with loved ones—engagements, anniversaries, birthdays and more. Now, they are the first to sign up as soon as word of an upcoming pop-up is announced.

Oliver also notes another benefit of these pop-ups is a great way to get through wine inventory, as they do wine pairings with the dinner from the stock they had at the original restaurant. Most of the wines paired with the meal are not recent vintages, so they have been able to reach peak maturity.   


After some trial and error during the first evenings, St. John now believes in some ways the pop-up version of the restaurant is better than the original.  

"As it pertains to the Purple Parrot pop-ups, we get to plan the menu a month in advance. We must pay close attention to service. Our pop-ups are of the fine-dining variety, and we use servers from our casual concept in the same building. The training is different but, in the end, it allows us to raise the level of service in each and offer opportunities for employees to learn about serving in different environments."

His advice for others interesting in trying out pop-ups?

"Do what you know. If it’s not your space, make sure you have the physical plan to execute at 100 percent."

While he doesn't rule out reopening, St. John has learned that he never wants to be too far away from his fine-dining roots. 

"We will probably get back into fine dining again, one day. For now, we’ll keep doing these Purple Parrot pop-ups as long as people are excited and supporting them. They are grateful that their favorite restaurant has returned, even if it’s only three nights a month."