A pop-up restaurant is a temporary dining establishment that operates for a limited timeframe, usually ranging from one day to a few weeks. Pop-ups allow entrepreneurs to experiment with menus, themes, and service styles on a small scale before deciding to open a permanent restaurant. They also create buzz and allow you to build a customer base.
Opening a pop-up restaurant can be an exciting and rewarding venture for aspiring restaurateurs looking to test out their concept without the major financial commitment of a permanent brick-and-mortar location. However, like any new business, having a solid business plan is crucial for success.
This article will walk through each section of a comprehensive pop-up restaurant business plan, including the executive summary, company description, market analysis, operations plan, and financial plan.
Following this business plan template will help you analyze the feasibility of your pop-up concept, anticipate challenges, and ultimately launch a successful event. It will also include at the end a fully completed business plan as an example to get you started.
The executive summary is a high-level overview of your entire business plan, summarizing your pop-up restaurant concept and key details. It should briefly cover:
- Objectives: What do you hope to achieve with this pop-up? This may include goals like testing a concept, building buzz, or proving out a location.
- Concept summary: Provide a paragraph explaining your pop-up’s culinary theme or cuisine style, pricing, service style, atmosphere, and ambiance.
- Location: Where will your pop-up be located? Include expected foot traffic and parking.
- Timeline: How long will you operate the pop-up for? One day, a weekend, or a few weeks?
- Management team: Highlight key team members, especially your head chef and front-of-house lead.
- Financial snapshot: Provide an overview of expected start-up costs, operating expenses, and projected revenue.
The executive summary should be around one page and get investors or lenders excited about your pop-up concept. It comes first in your plan but should be written last.
The company description provides details on your pop-up’s concept, brand, and team. Include:
- Cuisine type and any themes or gimmicks that make your pop-up unique.
- Target customer – who is your ideal diner?
- Price point -low, moderate, or high end dining?
- Service style – counter service, full service, or buffet?
- Will your pop-up have its own distinct branding and logo?
- Fun name that fits the concept.
- Brand colors and fonts that will be used for marketing materials.
- Overall tone and personality of your brand.
- Short bios on key team members like the head chef, sous chefs, front-of-house manager, and yourself.
- Experience and qualifications for running a pop-up.
This section provides essential context on your pop-up’s unique concept and brand identity.
A thorough market analysis will demonstrate a need for your pop-up restaurant concept in the area. Include:
- Research pop-up industry growth, statistics, size, forecasts, and trends.
- What makes the pop-up model desirable for new food entrepreneurs?
- Analyze direct and indirect competitors like other pop-ups, food trucks, and restaurants in your area.
- What existing establishments are similar or could draw away your customers?
- What will make you stand apart? Unique cuisine, theme, or experience?
- Define your target customer demographic based on location and concept. Age, income level, education, etc.
- Cite local market research, area demographics, foot traffic estimates, and analytics for comparable concepts.
- Why will your concept appeal to this audience specifically?
- Provide an overview of your pop-up location – foot traffic, parking, events, office density.
- How will you tap into the existing flow at your location?
Conducting in-depth market research will demonstrate an attractive opportunity exists for your pop-up restaurant.
Your operations plan will cover the logistics of how your pop-up restaurant will actually run. Go into detail on:
- Address, size, features, and any rental fees for your selected space.
- Required permits and licenses needed for a temporary food establishment.
- Zoning regulations – can a restaurant operate here short-term?
Schedule & Staffing
- Days and hours you’ll operate. Will you be open late night or weekends?
- Number of shifts per day and staff needed for each front and back of house role.
- Hiring process and wages for all staff.
- Sourcing ingredients from suppliers and managing orders.
- Safe ingredient storage given your likely limited space.
- Process for minimizing food waste given your short operating timeframe.
- Projected menu and price points per item that match your concept’s brand.
- Estimate food costs per menu item.
- Process for menu creation, testing, and finalizing dishes.
- Commercial kitchen equipment needed and projected rental costs.
- Detailed kitchen layout maximizing workflow between stations.
- Food safety standards, protocols, and record keeping.
Covering the operational logistics in detail will instill confidence you can execute this pop-up smoothly and safely.
A marketing plan is essential for building buzz and driving traffic to your temporary restaurant. Tactics may include:
- Logo, colors, and font for all branding.
- Branded t-shirts, caps, or merch to identify staff.
- Design for menus, posters, signage, and other collateral.
- Create intriguing social media accounts 1-2 months prior to opening.
- Posts highlighting concept, location, opening date, and sneak peek food photos.
- Paid ads on Facebook, Instagram to boost impressions.
- Identify local food influencers, bloggers, photographers to visit your pop-up pre-opening for exposure.
- Create special invites for your opening night with exclusive dishes.
- Pitch your pop-up concept to local media and reporters pre-opening.
- Host a press preview day showcasing dishes and cocktails.
- Collaborate with nearby businesses to cross-promote your pop-up.
- Offer discounts at your pop-up when customers show a receipt from a nearby business.
Driving word-of-mouth excitement both online and through local media is critical to fill your pop-up each day with eager diners.
Mapping out the financials will give you clarity on start-up costs, operating expenses, and the sales volume needed to break even or turn a profit.
- One-time expenses like equipment purchases or rentals, permits, custom branding assets, marketing expenses, insurance, and initial ingredient inventory.
- Ongoing costs like rent, payroll, ingredients, utilities, maintenance, credit card fees, and other overhead per month.
- Projected sales per day factoring in number of covers and average spend per check. This must exceed your operating expenses.
- Conservative, moderate, and aggressive sales scenarios.
- Desired minimum average spend per person to meet income goals. Factor in food costs when setting menu prices.
- Dynamic pricing models – specials, happy hour, weekend premiums.
Break Even Analysis
- The daily sales volume needed to cover operating expenses with no profit.
- Evaluate if this is achievable based on market research and capacity.
Crunching the numbers will give you full clarity on the sales you need to viability operate your pop-up restaurant.
Business Plan Conclusion
Summarise the above and pull out the salient points (positive and negative). The aim is to give a balanced view on how and when the pop-up restaurant will become profitable (assuming that is the aim).
Example Business Plan
The following is an example, completed business plan based upon the above template.
Our pop-up restaurant will be called Greenhouse Pop-Up and will operate for a 3 week period in July in downtown San Francisco. Greenhouse will serve fresh, seasonal new American cuisine in a relaxed greenhouse patio setting. Our pop-up objectives are to:
- Test out menu items and culinary styles for a future brick-and-mortar restaurant
- Build brand awareness and create buzz within San Francisco’s food scene
- Gather customer feedback on concept, menu options, and service
- Gain operational experience running a full-service restaurant
- Assess the viability of a permanent restaurant in this neighborhood
The pop-up will be led by Chef Amanda Wilson who has over 15 years of experience and most recently served as sous chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant Local. We have secured a vacant greenhouse patio space behind the popular coffee shop The Perch which sees heavy foot traffic.
Greenhouse will serve dinner Tuesday through Saturday and brunch on Sundays featuring seasonally inspired dishes like grilled peach salad, soy maple glazed salmon, and basil panna cotta for dessert. The atmosphere will be relaxed and family-friendly with mid-range pricing of $15-$30 per entree.
With a total start-up budget of $55,000 for initial expenses and operating capital, we aim to host 80-100 covers per day and generate up to $60,000 in revenue over the 3 week pop-up period with strategic marketing and events. This pop-up will help prove out the Greenhouse concept and lay the foundation for securing investors for a permanent restaurant.
Greenhouse Pop-Up is a new American restaurant featuring globally inspired dishes made with fresh, seasonal ingredients from local farms. The Greenhouse brand centers around a casual, family-friendly atmosphere with reasonable prices.
Our menu will be seasonal new American cuisine with global influences. Dishes will be technique-focused with complex layers of flavors. The dinner menu will feature appetizers ($8-$12), fresh salads ($6-$15), artisanal pizzas ($12-$16), and mains like braised short ribs, seared scallops, and risotto ($22-$30). The Sunday brunch menu will offer items like homemade granola, frittata, and waffles. The bar will serve craft cocktails along with a curated wine list and local beer.
The atmosphere will match the menu with a comfortable, laidback patio setting under open air greenhouses. Servers will provide polished but relaxed service. With 60 seats indoors and 40 on the outdoor patio, the restaurant will accommodate around 100 covers per day.
The Greenhouse brand will emphasize fresh, seasonal ingredients through a green color palette and logo with leaf accents. The restaurant’s voice will be casual and conversational across marketing materials and social media. Staff uniforms will include Greenhouse branded t-shirts and aprons.
Greenhouse Pop-Up will be led by head chef Amanda Wilson who previously spent 5 years as sous chef at Local Restaurant, which earned a Michelin star last year. She will be supported by sous chef Fatima Soto and pastry chef navigation Ali Weiss. Front of house will be led by general manager Naomi Singer who has 10 years experience in restaurant management. The pop-up will have a staff of 12 serving both front and back of house roles.
Recent industry reports showed pop-up restaurants increased by 15% last year as new chefs seek low-risk ways to launch concepts. Our downtown San Francisco location has seen three other pop-ups open in the last 18 months, indicating a growing appetite for temporary dining experiences.
There are no direct competitors in a one block radius of our location. Nearby restaurants like Farm Table Kitchen and Sage offer mostly vegetarian and vegan fare contrasting with our meat and seafood focused concept. Upscale new American restaurant Terra is located 3 blocks away but is fine dining with entrees from $35-$55, compared to Greenhouse’s mid-range pricing. The neighborhood lacks a casual, polished restaurant like Greenhouse making our concept unique.
Our target demographic is young professionals 25-45 and families living in the downtown area. Within a 2 mile radius, the population is over 150,000 with a median income of $92,000. 62% of residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher indicating a well educated audience open to creative, globally influenced cuisine. Locals are also health conscious based on area gym density and number of juice bars and salad shops.
We have partnered with coffee shop The Perch to take over their greenhouse patio space behind the building. This address sees over 2,500 daily visitors according to credit card transaction data. Our concept will complement The Perch’s daytime café business and become a dinner time destination, benefiting from the already strong neighborhood traffic. The greenhouse patio is also a unique space unseen at other restaurants nearby.
Greenhouse Pop-Up will operate out of the 1,500 square foot greenhouse patio space attached to The Perch coffee shop at 400 Hayes Street, San Francisco. The space features retractable glass ceilings to allow for indoor/outdoor seating. We will pay $6,000 rent for the 3 week period plus utilities and waste fees, estimated at $1,500 total. As a pop-up under 2 months, zoning laws allow us to bypass the usual permitting process.
Schedule & Staffing
The pop-up will operate Tuesday through Saturday 5pm-10pm for dinner service plus Sunday 10am-2pm for brunch. We will be closed Mondays. The core staffing will be:
- Head chef
- 2 sous chefs
- 1 pastry chef
- Front of house manager
- 1 bartender
- 2 servers
- 3 hosts
Total staffing needs are 12. The kitchen will be staffed with at least 3 people per shift, with servers and hosts overlapping as well during opening and peak hours. We will hold a 2 week training period to prepare staff. Wages range from $15-$24 per hour based on experience and position.
Ingredient inventory will be planned 1 week in advance with local vendors like Pacific Gourmet, Monterey Fish Company, and Royal Produce. The chefs will place orders 2 days in advance of each service day. All inventory will be stored properly on site taking into account refrigeration, freezer, and dry storage needs.
The head chef has developed a seasonal dinner and brunch menu including 25+ options focused around locally sourced produce, seafood, and meats. Dishes draw inspiration from American, French, Italian and Asian cuisines. The menu will be tested over 2 weeks during staff training and finalized one week prior to opening.
All commercial kitchen equipment including ranges, refrigeration, food processors, and more will be rented from American Event Rentals for the 3 week term at an estimated cost of $8,000. The kitchen will contain 2 prep stations, a sauté station, grill, pizza oven, and plating area with enough equipment to accommodate 3-4 cooks at once. The chef will design the kitchen layout focused on smooth service operations. Checklists will track sanitation, temperature logs, and expiration dates.
To drive buzz and awareness for Greenhouse Pop-Up, we will focus marketing efforts on social media engagement, local media outreach, and partnerships starting 4 weeks before opening day.
Branding & Collateral
A logo, color palette, and font have been developed to represent the Greenhouse brand. Menus, signage, t-shirts, and other assets will follow this brand guide. A professional photographer will document interior and exterior spaces, food shots, and atmosphere.
We will launch Greenhouse social media accounts on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter 2 months before opening. Organic social content and $500 in paid Facebook and Instagram ads will target local foodies. Content will feature behind-the-scenes prep, exclusive menu reveals, and promotions.
One month out, we will pitch the Greenhouse Pop-Up concept to local publications like the San Francisco Chronicle, Eater SF, San Francisco Magazine, and more. We will also invite select media for an exclusive pre-opening tasting event to experience the food, cocktails, and atmosphere.
We will collaborate with neighboring businesses like The Perch, Felix’s Coffee Shop, Hayes Valley Yoga, and boutiques to cross-promote through discounts for customers, package deals, and co-hosted events. These partnerships aim to drive traffic between our businesses.
Grand Opening Event
On opening night we will host an invite-only VIP event with special menus, gift bags, and appearances by local influencers. This will generate buzz before the official public opening the next day.
Based on out projected costs and sales estimates, the pop-up will require $55,000 in start-up capital. Conservative sales forecasts put revenue at $48,000 over 3 weeks while aggressive projections based on marketing buzz predict up to $72,000 in sales.
- Legal/permitting: $2,000
- Rent and deposit: $7,500
- Equipment rentals: $8,000
- Insurance: $1,000
- Initial food inventory: $5,000
- Packaging/menus: $3,000
- Marketing assets: $4,000
- Opening event: $2,500
- Contingency fund: $5,000
- Total: $55,000
Operating Expenses (3 week estimate)
- Rent: $6,000
- Equipment rental: $8,000
- Payroll: $18,000
- Packaging: $3,000
- Utilities: $1,500
- Food costs: $8,000
- Marketing: $500
- Credit card fees: $1,500
- Total: $46,500
Assuming we average 80-100 diners per day at an average spend of $40, we forecast:
- Conservative: $32,000 revenue
- Moderate: $48,000 revenue
- Aggressive: $72,000 revenue
Dinner entrees will range from $18 for pizzas up to $32 for steak frites, with the average around $26. Appetizers and desserts will be $8-12. Brunch entrees will range from $12-$18 with drinks at $3-$5. The average per person spend target is $40.
Break Even Analysis
Our fixed operating costs are approximately $46,500 for the 3 weeks. To break even with no profit, at our average spend Target of $40, we need to serve 1,162 diners over 21 days. This equates to 55 covers per day which is very achievable based on location capacity and market demand.
Business Plan Conclusion
This three week pop-up restaurant will allow us to validate the Greenhouse concept, menu offering, and brand experience with minimal risk. Our detailed business plan covering marketing, operations, staffing, and financials puts us in position for a smoothly executed pop-up serving over 1,500 meals throughout the term. This will provide invaluable insights as we analyze the potential for a permanent Greenhouse establishment in San Francisco.
Wrapping It Up
Opening a successful pop-up restaurant is no small feat. It requires thorough planning and preparation across all aspects of your temporary business – from crafting the concept to projecting costs and cash flow. While the pop-up model carries less risk than a full brick-and-mortar location, it is still crucial to do your homework.
This comprehensive business plan template covers the core components needed to properly evaluate and plan your pop-up restaurant venture. Walking through the key sections of the executive summary, company description, market analysis, operations, marketing, and financial plan will shed light on the feasibility and profit potential of your pop-up idea.
Carefully researching your target market and local competitive landscape is key to curating a unique concept and menu that will stand out. Mapping out costs, hiring staff, securing equipment rentals, and establishing vendors takes savvy operational planning to pull off smoothly. And promoting the pop-up through social media, PR outreach, and events lays the brand awareness groundwork that any future restaurant would need.
Most importantly, thoroughly building out the financial projections—from start-up costs to operating budget to sales forecasts—is imperative. This will clarify how much capital you need, what volume of covers is required daily, and if your pop-up can realistically break even or turn a profit.
With pop-ups growing in popularity, the competition is fierce for diners’ attention. A creative concept and excellent execution will be make or break. Following this detailed sample plan and customizing it for your own pop-up needs can set you up for success.
Done right, a temporary pop-up restaurant event can be an invaluable experience, allowing you to hone operations, gain customer insights, and build buzz for a potential brick-and-mortar spot down the road. Use this business plan template as a blueprint for launching your own memorable pop-up dining experience.