Why Events and Pop-Ups Are an Awesome Retail Strategy Restaurants Need to Steal

The retail industry is constantly thinking up new and innovative ways to sell more. Challenged by the rise of ecommerce, retail knows it needs to generate buzz and excitement in order to get more customers to part with their cash. And some of the latest trends to take off in a huge way are events and pop-ups.

These are proving to be a big hit in the retail sector, so much so that other industries are taking notice— including the food industry. 

Here’s why restaurants should definitely steal a few tips from the retail sector when it comes to events and pop-ups.

What are Events and Pop-Ups?

Events and pop-ups are relatively new, but they have really taken off recently, as more retailers start to experiment with them.

Pop-ups used to be used for marketing stunts more than anything. A store would set up a one-day event in a different location as part of a guerrilla marketing campaign to get publicity, and it was more for the PR benefits than to actually sell anything. Events can be for specific reasons like a product launch. The retailer will host their own event in the store and provide visitors with an amazing experience and get some good press at the same time. 

A unique event around a product launch or time of year is a great way to get attention. An event can also be where the store actually visits a larger event like a festival or gig and sells products there for a short period of time.

Why Retailers Use These (And Why Your Restaurant Should)

There are a lot of reasons why events and pop-ups are popular for retailers. Here are some of the main reasons that should inspire you to host your own pop-up or event:

  • They allow you to connect with your target audience in a creative and unique way
  • No large commitments like lengthy leases because most last just a day or two
  • The perfect opportunity to experiment and try new things without investing too much time and money
  • Show a personal side to your brand, a more human side that helps to connect on a different level
  • Go to where there is demand rather than attract the demand to you, opening up new sales opportunities and reaching customers you would otherwise not be able to
  • A great option for customer engagement
  • Create an exclusive feel that customers will love
  • It can be a great way to show off your culinary talents to more people
  • You could use it to build buzz around a new restaurant you are opening

Clearly, there are many reasons why your restaurant should get involved in events and pop-ups. But how should you get started? There are a few options you might want to look at.

Use Large Events to Increase Business

Find out about upcoming events in your area, like sports events, gigs, and festivals, then create a promotion around them. One simple option is to provide a small discount to diners holding tickets to the event, or to provide a discount on a meal before the event starts.


Use this to drive business and get more awareness from people who would not usually visit your restaurant.

Choose an Exciting Location for a Pop-Up Restaurant

Find a location that is sure to get more people interested in your pop-up restaurant —  somewhere a bit different like a roof terrace of a warehouse. It could be in a disused factory, a mansion, or in the middle of a field— anywhere that is a bit unusual to generate more buzz. You want everyone in your local foodie scene to be talking about the cool new pop-up that’s happening soon.

In online retail terms, this is just like buying an online store and flipping it— that is, taking a struggling store (in this case, an unusual or perhaps drab location) and turning it into something successful and amazing (in your case, an exciting foodie pop-up that everyone raves about). See, retail and restaurants aren’t so different after all.

As long as there is room to host people and you can get it to meet health & safety standards, you can use it.

Raise Funds and Awareness at the Same Time

Pop-ups aren’t just good for getting people talking about your restaurant. You can also use a pop-up to raise funds for a good cause. 


This is a great option whether you’re taking part in a large event in town or doing your own pop-up event; either way, it can help you to get more publicity and cash.

Pop-ups are an innovative way to raise money if you’re thinking of starting up a second restaurant or foodie venture. You can charge a set amount for a ticket for the night, and put the money towards your end goal. You might even end up with some investors at the end of it, if people are impressed with your food and innovation.

Whether you’re raising money for a charity or your next big venture, set up a crowdfunding campaign to accompany your event. Sites like  Kickstarter or GoFundMe allow you to easily set up a profile where people can donate at the click of a people, and which you can link out to on social media.

Create a Simple Menu

When you host a pop-up restaurant, getting the menu right is essential. So use a set menu with a theme. 

People are not looking for the same experience as in your restaurant: they want to try new things and have an adventure. Besides, you will usually have limited space available.

Charge a set amount for your menu, and this will be much easier to arrange. It also makes it easier to change the menu so you could even offer a different one every night of the week.

Do Something Unique

Make sure you make your pop-up or event special and provide amazing value. This will usually mean providing something different and offering incredible culinary experiences at affordable prices. Give it a theme, something that will get noticed and will get the word out to build more hype.

Don’t do the same as all the other restaurants are doing. You want to provide something they cannot get anywhere else, so be as creative as you can.

Use Social Media to Get the Word Out

Once you have planned your event or pop-up, you will need to make sure it is worthwhile by ensuring enough people turn up. Effective promotion is key, and that is where social media comes in.


There are a few different ways you can treat your event promotion. Maybe you want to market your event as a top-secret, exclusive pop-up for people in the know? People love learning about secrets and passing them onto their friends, so you can market it like this. Let your customers do the talking for you: send a few invites via social media, and then let them help you get the word out.

Alternatively, you can shout about your event on social to get everyone hyped and talking about it. You want the foodie scene to join in and get excited about your pop-up, so post regular updates and include ‘behind-the-scenes’ photos of you getting your location or van ready for the big day (or week). 

If you want to know more, check out this post, 10 social media marketing tips for restaurants.

Keep it Safe and Legal

Don’t be tempted to go underground with your pop-up. You still need all the legal things in place. This means getting insurance, a temporary liquor license, taking safety precautions, and making sure you have access to water and electricity.

Plan the logistics involved in transporting your supplies, keeping food warm, food safety, and everything else that goes into it— the last thing you want is a food poisoning outbreak.

Restaurants have a lot to gain by following innovative retail marketing strategies. When it comes to events and pop-ups, there are some huge opportunities.  Take a look at what retailers are doing in your area, and think about how you can follow their example to get more buzz around your restaurant and drive more sales.