How to… open a pop-up

03 August 2012
How to… open a pop-up

Pop-up bars and restaurants are "of the moment" - in more ways than one. Referred to as "flash retailing" in other sectors, pop-ups crop up unexpectedly at previously empty or derelict locations - trading for anything from a few days to several months.

There are no grand openings or brash marketing campaigns involved in launching a pop-up. Their appeal lies in the fact that they have an air of secrecy, edge and underground. Mystic and exclusive appeal is fostered by allowing customers to discover the business' whereabouts for themselves.

First championed by small independent retailers, the recent pop-up craze has been accelerated by measures like Mary Portas's Government-backed campaign to rejuvenate the British high street. However, the enduring popularity of pop-ups is largely down to the range of benefits temporary commercial spaces can offer.

"Flash retailing" allows traders to take advantage of increased seasonal footfall, capitalise on events, like the Olympics, or "test the water" when considering opening up new premises.

In addition, landlords and local councils have every incentive to grant permissions to would-be pop-up traders who promise to occupy previously unlet commercial space.

In recent years, Harrods has brought us the French Laundry, Pierre Koffmann famously opened up a restaurant atop Selfridges, and Nuno Mendes's more permanent pop-up - the Loft Project - has now closed. One of the reasons these pop-ups have proven to be so marketable is that they appear uncontrived - they exude a sense of spontaneity.

Of course, the reality is that opening a temporary bar or restaurant of this type involves a great deal of planning and consideration. So, check out the tips to help you on the way to opening your very own pop-up.

Darren Hughes is a partner at law firm Gateley

Five steps to pop-up success

1 Assessing the market Pop-ups can be a very commercially attractive proposition, but it is important to ask yourself whether there is demand within your target area to support your offering. Is your brand unique enough to draw business away from competitors?

2 Find the right commercial property Speak to current occupants who may know of available premises, property shortly coming on to the market, or be able to provide you with letting agent and landlord recommendations. Local enterprise agencies can also provide guidance for business start-ups.

3 Securing a short-term lease Instruct a surveyor, who is aware of rental values in the area, to negotiate terms on your behalf. If your perfect property is not available on a short-term basis, try to negotiate a favourable lease break clause that fits in with your timescales. In addition, make a point to check that all the services and utilities are already connected.

4 Complying with licensing regulations Restaurateurs need to register with the Food Standard Agency within 28 days of opening and apply to the licensing authority for permission to serve alcohol or hot food between 11pm and 5am. Even when the application process goes smoothly, securing these licences can take several months, so make sure that your lease agreement is conditional on obtaining the relevant permissions.

5 Getting staff in order Check your current employment contracts if you're planning to move existing staff over to the pop-up site. If you do ask them to move temporarily, be sure to give sufficient notice of the proposed change and document any variations.

New staff should be employed on fixed-term contracts. The contracts need a clear end date and also need to include power to terminate early by giving a short period of notice. Unfair dismissal cases can only be brought by employees of more than two years' employment so this is not normally something pop-up employers need worry about.

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